What is an annuity? It is a transfer of risk contract that life insurance companies issue. Not all annuities are the same. The type of annuity you own will dictate what it contractually solves for. Some solve for lifetime income. Some solve for principal protection.
Carriers are introducing new annuity products every day. Because of this, you might be pitched by a salesman to transfer your old annuity to their “favorite” annuity. Before you sign that transfer paperwork, know specific details to ensure that you are making an informed decision.
Not all annuity types are transferable. For instance, annuities that have been “annuitized” (i.e. creating payments) cannot be transferred at all. Some people call them an income annuity or retirement income annuity, but the best way to describe “annuitization” is it’s like ripping the knob off of a water faucet. Once that knob is gone, the water is going to flow. Once you have “annuitized,” the income stream is going to flow.
The types of annuities that are not transferable are Single Premium Immediate Annuities (SPIAs), Deferred Income Annuities (DIAs), and Qualified Longevity Annuity Contracts (QLACs). These are all “annuitized” strategies.
When I receive questions like “Can I transfer my retirement annuity?” or “Can I transfer an annuity from one company to another?” that usually means that someone has recommended that they initiate a transfer.
On the surface, transferring from one annuity to another makes sense. It’s a tax-free event. No income taxes are triggered. So, do you “pay tax” on an annuity transfer? The answer is no.
However, just because you can transfer an annuity to another annuity doesn’t mean you should. The only way it would make sense to is if the transfer is mathematically in your favor.
If you own an annuity inside of a Traditional IRA, the transfer is from one retirement account IRA to another retirement account IRA. It is a non-taxable event.
Even though any money coming out of an IRA will be taxed as ordinary income levels, transferring an annuity from one IRA to another will NOT trigger any taxes at all.
I recently received this question, “Can a fixed annuity be rolled into an IRA?” The answer is if that fixed annuity is also inside of an IRA, then it can be transferred to another annuity inside of an IRA. To break it down, it must be IRA to IRA.
It’s important to note that you can’t transfer a non-qualified (non-IRA) annuity to an annuity inside of an IRA...or vice versa.
When you want to transfer a non-IRA annuity (aka: non-qualified annuity) to another non-IRA annuity, this is a non-taxable event that is called a 1035 exchange.
The number 1035 refers to the IRS Code number that explains this type of annuity to annuity transfer. Something to note, 1031 refers to real estate transfers and 1035 refers to life insurance and annuity transfers.
Tax-deferred annuities like Variable Annuities (VAs) or Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs) can be purchased with attached benefit riders to the policy. Most of these riders are for future lifetime income needs. When you attach a rider to a policy, that rider valuation is a separate calculation from the accumulation value.
Whether it’s an IRA or non-IRA transfer, Income Rider valuations do not transfer to the new annuity. Only the accumulation value of the policy is transferable.
You should never use an upfront bonus on a new annuity product to justify transferring from your current annuity…in my opinion. If an agent or advisor is making this recommendation to justify taking surrender charges or having you pay a surrender penalty (aka early withdrawal penalty), that person is not a good match for you.
There are no philanthropists running annuity companies, and no one is giving away free money. Upfront bonuses are just part of the overall contractual guarantees of the policy. Nothing special.
The industry takes annuity transfers seriously. They don’t want agents “twisting,” “churning,” or “flipping” from one annuity to another just to create new commission payments.
Part of the required paperwork during the application process to transfer from one annuity to another is a side by side comparison of both old and new annuities. Every contractual detail of these 2 annuity contracts from a death benefit to income benefit….and every other contractual guarantee are examined to make sure that mathematically the annuity you are going to is better than the one you are transferring from.
When deciding to transfer from one annuity to another, it has to be better for you…not the person selling it.