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These Terms of Use ("Terms of Use") are made between the undersigned user ("you") and Lord, Abbett & Co. ("we" or "us"). They become effective on the date that you electronically execute these Terms of Use ("Effective Date").

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Retirement Perspectives

Variable annuities can help provide those lucky enough to live a long life the peace of mind that they will not outlive their nest eggs.

Variable annuities may be the least understood investment option in an individual's retirement arsenal. Yet, by enabling individuals to accumulate tax-deferred savings toward a regular stream of income at retirement, VAs may provide investors some reassurance that they will not outlive their nest eggs. Brian Dobbis, Retirement Analyst—Lord Abbett Institutional Investor Services, answers some frequently asked questions about them.

Q: Let's start with the basics. What exactly is a variable annuity (VA), and why should investors consider this investment option?
A: A variable annuity is a retirement vehicle that allows individuals to save money on a tax-deferred basis and protect those assets in the event of an untimely death. Newer VAs allow individuals not only to protect their assets in the case of death but also to provide different forms of guaranteed accumulation and income during retirement. More specifically, a VA is an insurance agreement that can help provide those lucky enough to live a long life the peace of mind that they will not run out of money. A VA does this, first, by helping investors accumulate money for retirement through tax-deferred savings (often with no investment limitations) and, second, by providing them with monthly income that can be guaranteed to last as long as they live.

Q: Let's talk about some of the distinctive features of VAs, namely their tax advantages and potential for tax-free growth. What are some of these advantages, and how do they work?
A: As with a 401(k) plan, earnings and gains on assets held in a VA are not taxed until they are withdrawn, which allows the assets to compound and grow more rapidly than if they were regularly reduced by taxes. Moreover, nonqualified VAs have no limit on how much one can invest. In essence, they are a limitless 401(k).

Q: What about qualified VAs—why would they be advantageous to anyone?
A: Qualified VAs, which are products offered within defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, are gaining popularity because of the need for retirement income. Some might question the value of including a VA within another vehicle that already is tax-deferred, such as a 401(k) or IRA. However, many people desire a guarantee that they will have a certain amount of income throughout their retirement. Other types of retirement-plan investments, such as mutual funds, don’t offer such predictability.

Q: What happens when the owner of an annuity dies?
A: The impact of death on a VA will depend on the type of VA and the type of options—called "riders"—that the owner purchased. Typically, if the annuity holder dies before receiving any lifetime income or other annuity payout option, his or her beneficiaries will receive at least the amount originally invested, minus an adjustment for any withdrawals—regardless of how the underlying investments have performed.

Q: How much should an individual contribute to a VA?
A: Investors should always consult with an investment professional when making financial decisions, including those concerning individual retirement income needs. Variable annuities often are used to fund and insure the fixed costs that people will have in retirement. Increasingly, VAs are being viewed as another piece of an asset-allocation puzzle that can help people plan their overall retirement income needs, including both essential and lifestyle expenses.

Q: At what age should clients start thinking about investing in a VA?
A: It is never too early to start planning for retirement; however, the appropriate age to first invest in a VA should be discussed between a client and his or her financial advisor. If purchased early enough, a VA can help increase an individual's odds of success in retirement and can protect the VA owner against longevity risk—that is, the possibility of an individual outliving his or her money. People should be aware that withdrawing money from certain VAs before specified age or time limits are reached could result in surrender charges and potential tax implications.

Q: Is there a minimum investment to buy a VA?
A: Insurance companies typically have minimums for initial investments, as well as for additional investments. As there are many VA providers, an individual should consult a specific provider for any minimum requirements.

Q: Do clients have access to their money at any time?
A: If a VA is purchased within a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k), access will be limited by retirement or service separation guidelines. If a VA is purchased on a nonqualified basis, access to the principal amount paid for the annuity often will depend on the type of annuity purchased. Generally, deferred annuity contracts allow for complete or partial withdrawals during the accumulation phase, although withdrawal penalties and/or tax ramifications might apply.

Q: Variable annuities can offer loss protection and the ability to capture market advances while not participating in market declines. That sounds too good to be true. What's the catch?
A: You get what you pay for. An individual purchases an insurance contract to protect his or her nest egg, the same way that someone would insure a life, a house, or a car. To get certain benefits from a VA, the account owner might be required to purchase benefit-specific riders, which would entail an additional expense. In any case, the purchaser has options.

Q: Individuals can create income streams by setting up a systematic withdrawal plan (SWP)1 from their 401(k) balance or a laddered bond portfolio;2 so why would anyone need a VA?
A: Although SWPs and laddered bond portfolios can distribute income, they cannot guarantee a lifetime income. It's important to note that such income-distribution schemes are subject to sequence-of-returns pressures on the underlying portfolios. Sequence of returns addresses the order in which investment returns occur, and negative market returns—particularly early in retirement—can greatly decrease an individual's retirement assets and reduce his or her income. With people living longer in retirement, the margin of error is continually narrowing, which puts greater stress on nonguaranteed income programs. With a VA, the potential sequence-of-returns impact to a portfolio can be muted, thereby increasing an individual’s odds of not running out of money in retirement.

Q: Investors unfamiliar with VAs may have the perception that VAs offer only limited choices. What sorts of investment options are commonly available within VAs today?
A: Variable annuities provide essentially the same investment choices that investors can purchase through retail investments; however, purchasing those same investments in a VA allows an investor to do so in a tax-deferred vehicle with an option that can also guarantee an income stream.

Q: Variable annuities offer a unique level of certainty for retirement and, potentially, some peace of mind. Yet VAs are seen as extremely complex, which puts off some investors. How can advisors help clients overcome this hurdle?
A: The VA story is rather simple: tax-deferred growth and the option to receive guaranteed, lifetime income. It is true that the features and benefits offered by different providers can be confusing; however, we have seen that advisors who use VAs the most tend to keep the industry jargon to a minimum and instead focus on what these investment solutions do rather than what they are or are not. It also would help advisors to look at VAs not as stand-alone investment solutions but as essential parts of a well-planned retirement income strategy. Every individual needs some level of retirement income, and VAs are suited uniquely to guarantee some or all of that income need.

Q: How can Lord Abbett help?
A: While we don’t sell annuities, Lord Abbett has multiple ways to support advisors, including strategies geared to helping advisors build their VA business, such as a powerful, web-based data-mining tool called Insights and Intelligence, which can help advisors locate investible assets, and offers tips on how to capture them. Advisors may also glean useful information and guidance from our video tutorial, "Ideas into Income," which is our prospecting program that gives advisors all they need to identify and connect with annuity candidates, as well as to close the sale.


1 A systematic withdrawal plan (SWP) is a service typically offered by a mutual fund or set up through a financial advisor that provides a specific payout amount to a shareholder at predetermined intervals, typically monthly, quarterly, semiannually, or annually. The three main reasons for using SWPs are to meet income needs (usually after retirement), for tax-planning purposes, or to comply with mandatory retirement plan withdrawal rules after reaching age 70½.
2 Bond laddering is a strategy for managing fixed-income investments by which the investor builds a ladder by dividing his or her investment dollars evenly among bonds or CDs that mature at regular intervals such as every six months or once a year. This method can provide consistent returns, relatively low risk, and ongoing liquidity as a result of the continually expiring securities. Since maturities are staggered, it is unlikely that all bonds in one portfolio will be called at the same time. Therefore, the bond portfolio is generally protected from call risk. [The value of an investment in bonds will change as interest rates fluctuate in response to market movements. When interest rates rise, the prices of debt securities tend to decline, and when interest rates fall, the prices of debt securities tend to rise. A CD guarantees your principal, offers a fixed rate of return, and is FDIC-insured, typically up to $250,000.]

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