Buying Annuities in Your 401(k) – Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Despite the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of workers continued to contribute to their retirement plans in 2021, according to the Investment Company Institute. All told, Americans have more than $11 trillion stashed in plans offered through their jobs.

But even though workers get a lot of advice and encouragement on their journey to retirement, they are often left on the tarmac when they reach their destination. Historically, employers have provided little guidance on what retirees should do with the big pile of money they’ve accumulated over the past 40 or 50 years. 

Now, a growing number of companies are providing workers with a way to turn a slice of their savings into a monthly paycheck in retirement. In addition to the usual choices of mutual funds and other investments, they’re offering workers the option of investing in an annuity that can be converted into guaranteed income after they retire. 

Retirees can already purchase annuities from a variety of insurance companies, of course, but few do, even though many retirement experts believe that annuitizing a portion of your savings reduces the risk that you’ll run out of money in retirement. In large part, that’s because the security that annuities provide comes with some caveats: In exchange for guaranteed payments, you must hand over a large lump sum to an insurance company, and you usually can’t get that money back. In addition, some types of annuities are loaded with fees and restrictions that are often hard to decipher without professional help.

In the past, companies resisted offering annuities in their retirement plans because they feared they would be sued if the insurer went out of business. The 2019 Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act sought to address those concerns by providing employers that offer in-plan annuities a safe harbor from such lawsuits. To avoid liability, employers must still vet annuity providers to ensure that they’ve complied with state laws and have maintained healthy financial reserves. 

Annuity Offerings on the Menu 

Several companies that have added annuities to their lineups are offering them in their target-date funds. Target-date funds, which are owned by more than half of participants in 401(k) plans, provide a set-it-and-forget-it portfolio that gradually shifts to more-conservative assets as you near retirement. 

For example, TIAA-CREF’s Secure Income Account, a deferred fixed annuity, replaces a portion of the fixed-income holdings in a target-date fund and accounts for 40% to 60% of the individual’s assets by the time the 401(k) owner retires, says Philip Maffei, managing director for corporate income products for TIAA-CREF. Upon retiring, the participant would have a choice of annuitizing all of the money in the account, annuitizing …….


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