Innovations in the Annuities Market

Jul 29, 2019
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In this month’s newsletter cover article about annuities, we mentioned several companies where you can purchase annuities without going through a commissioned salesperson.

But there are some new players in this space—companies that are trying to disrupt the annuities market, mostly by further simplifying the purchase experience. Here are some such companies that I ran across while researching the cover article. Founded by former Goldman Sachs managing director Ramsey Smith, this company’s mission is to “help you secure guaranteed income for life,” and to improve the process of doing so. Described as a “digital life insurance agency” that works with a “curated” list of Insurance companies, a key way aims to improve the annuity-buying experience is to focus exclusively on income annuities, which is the simplest type. You put some money in and receive a guaranteed amount of income, either right away or at some point in the future.

The company does not sell variable annuities, whose income is tied to the performance of its underlying investments. Alex.fjy says it typically earns a 3-4% commission from the various annuity providers it represents, vs 8-12% when working with an agent.

Blueprint Income. This company, which was mentioned in the newsletter article, is worth mentioning again because it has one of the better online calculators, which gives prospective buyers a sense as to how much income they could expect before applying for an annuity. Serving as a broker with access to many insurance companies, and claiming to take “lower commissions…to provide you with the best value,” Blueprint Income sells three different types of fixed annuities: those that provide income for life, those that provide income for a specific amount of time, and a unique annuity the company calls a “personal pension.”

That last type is a fixed annuity that you purchase a little at a time, month by month. It isn’t a variable annuity because there aren’t investment sub-accounts. Instead, the company says it searches for the best fixed annuities and your money buys bits of these different annuities, resulting in a fixed guaranteed income from a “multi-insurer annuity.”

Saturday Insurance. In addition to annuities, this company sells life, disability, and long-term care insurance. However, the only type of annuities it offers is income annuities. Like the other companies mentioned in this post, it is trying to add simplicity and transparency to the annuity purchasing process. It has prospective customers answer four questions to help determine whether an annuity make sense for them and then facilitates a quick application process for getting quotes from any of five annuity providers.

Relay. This is the most unusual annuity provider I’ve come across. You decide on the amount of recurring expenses you’d like to cover with income from a fixed annuity. Then Relay will tell you how much such an annuity (issued in partnership with Guggenheim Life and Annuity Company) will cost. The annuity then pays out via a monthly prepaid card loaded with that amount of money. Using the card gives you some additional cash back, much like a cash-back credit card.

We don’t have any first-hand experience with any of these companies, so buyer beware. But if you’re considering an annuity, you may want to explore some of these options in addition to the companies mentioned in the August cover article.

Written by

Matt Bell

Matt Bell

Matt Bell is Sound Mind Investing's Managing Editor. He is the author of five biblical money management books and the teacher or co-teacher on three video-based small group resources. His latest book, Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money Management, was published by Focus on the Family in 2023. Matt has spoken at churches, universities, and conferences throughout the country and has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News & World Report, and many other media outlets.

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