The Investment Scientist

Archive for February 2023

Two months ago I wrote about the top ten reasons that Equity Index Annuities are ripoffs, but apparently I did not exhaust all possible ways an insurance company can get at your money. Recently, a client of mine asked me to review an EIA he bought two years ago. Oh my goodness! I have had my eyes opened and my heart disgusted once again!

The contract I looked at for my client put his money in a so-called “1 Year Average Participation Index Account” with an initial participation rate of 30% and a minimum participation rate of 10%.

Injury #1: With all EIAs, you give up the dividend, which is about 2% a year. So you need to plan to give up 20% in ten years and 40% in 20 years.

Injury #2: This injury stems from the word “average.” Let’s say in a given year, the market goes up 10%, you are not getting this 10% growth, you are getting the “average” growth. You have to read the whole contract to understand what a ripoff this term is. Let’s assume that in January, the market goes down 1%, and in subsequent months, the market goes up 1%. So adding all the gains together, for the whole year the market goes up 10%. The way they do the average is this: for every month, they will calculate the Year to Month Return, and then average them. The effect of this is to cut the annual return number by half. In a year the annual return of the market is 10%, after the insurance company applies their “average”, the return becomes 5%. See the table below for an illustration.

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Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.

Twitter: @mzhuang

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