2022 was a record year for annuities, with total sales at $310.6 billion, a 22% increase from the previous calendar year and 17% higher than the previous record set in 2008. The industry shows no signs of slowing down. Sales in Q4 22 were $87.2 billion, a 39% increase from Q4 21 and the third consecutive quarter in which annuity sales set a new record. Within this barnstorming environment, annuity providers are well positioned to capitalize on renewed consumer appetite for the guarantees that annuities provide account owners, specifically when it comes to popularity of fixed-indexed products.

Still, areas of opportunities remain. Firms hoping to encourage retirement planners to pursue annuity solutions—rather than simply help them increase retirement savings—via a retirement income calculator experience should ensure that users can visualize a precise reflection of their retirement income outlook using intuitive calculator inputs. Excellent retirement income calculators expand prospects’ annuity awareness by channeling them to annuity-specific resources, illustrate how annuities can fill a retirement income gap and offer sophisticated recommendations powered by a robust information gathering process.

Given annuities’ surge in popularity, surprisingly few firms in our Annuity Monitor coverage group recommend annuities within their retirement income calculators. Further, we found that retirement income calculators generally produce a narrow range of predetermined results regardless of user inputs.

  • About a third (31%) of firms recommend an annuity solution
  • Fewer (15%) suggest a specific product or product type
  • Only one firm’s results meaningfully vary based on user inputs

When it comes to furthering consumers’ annuity knowledge, retirement income calculators perform better, but significant improvement opportunities remain.

  • Under half (46%) of tools direct users to annuity education
  • Fewer (38%) prompt users to contact a financial professional with annuity questions
  • About a third (31%) allow users to include annuities as an input, while individual retirement savings (77%), pension (54%) and Social Security (69%) appear far more frequently

The lack of focus on annuities within retirement income calculators is especially confusing given recent research from LIMRA that delves into the minds of annuity buyers. The unifying thread among the differing rationales for an annuity purchase is the security of guaranteed income in retirement. When asked what was the most important factor contributing to their annuity purchase:

  • 25% said guaranteed lifetime income that allows them to retain access to the account value
  • 15% said interest rate or projected return
  • 15% said ability to annuitize the contract and receive guaranteed lifetime income
  • 13% said protection of principal

Similarly, when asked about their intended uses for an annuity:

  • 49% said to supplement social security or pension income in retirement
  • 36% said to accumulate assets in retirement
  • 29% said receive guaranteed income payments for life by converting into income stream
  • 24% said cover basic living expenses in retirement

Further, according to financial professionals, most of their clients are interested in learning about retirement income protection solutions and other benefits offered by annuity products—even if they don’t ask for “annuities” by name. Therefore, within retirement income calculators, firms need to adapt and adjust the tools’ structures to better position annuities as part of a well-rounded retirement income solution. Three techniques to do so include:

Feature annuity specific resources to expand users’ annuity knowledge

Once a user views their results from a retirement income calculator, the firm must ensure that they channel the user to actionable next steps that increase the likelihood of the user exploring an annuity purchase. Firms that place easily findable next steps leading to annuity-specific resources and firm/financial professional contact information ensure that more calculator users closely consider these options.

Brighthouse Financial delivers a dedicated page for annuity education next steps as the final step of its calculator.

This screenshot shows Brighthouse Financial's page on Annuities
Brighthouse Financial Annuity Income Calculator – Annuity Summary Page

Illustrate how annuities can fill a retirement income gap

Retirement income gap visuals can be highly useful since Americans notoriously underestimate their retirement income needs. Results from a 2022 survey of over 10,000 adults found that the median amount current workers estimate they will need for retirement is just $350,000, only $14,000 annually. To ensure that retirement calculator users understand the actual size of their retirement income gap, visual aids that express the size of the gap over the user’s lifetime can offer needed perspective.

On USAA’s tool, the user clicks through steps to add different income and expense inputs to the line/bar combination graph and generate the income gap visual, which has customizable annuity purchase amount and market condition assumptions.

This screenshot shows USAA's retirement income calculator page
USAA Retirement Income Calculator – Result Page

Offer sophisticated recommendations powered by a robust information gathering process

CI’s user experience testing confirms that consumers prioritize the accuracy and personalization of a tool’s recommendations over the speed to results or ease of use. Annuity providers should therefore feel comfortable requiring numerous inputs from users in order to put together a complete financial picture so they can then deliver more meaningful recommendations. Retirement readiness levels involve more than just income and contribution rates, so tools must account for a variety of complex variables, such as healthcare costs, retirement lifestyles and income risk factors. Beyond basic inputs, firms can provide more unique optional inputs and incorporate contextual support to help users enter data more accurately and efficiently. Of the Annuity Monitor coverage group firms, only two prompt users to input itemized retirement expenses, and two require users to estimate their overall retirement expenses without any structured guidance.

CI’s Retirement Plan Monitor team praises Empower’s Retirement Planner tool, which allows participants to add new Income Events and Spending Goals, both of which include a variety of options. This tool incorporates more detailed retirement expense inputs than any calculator in the Annuity Monitor coverage group, meaning users of this tool will be able to generate a more precise retirement outlook.

This screenshot shows the new education lightbox within the context of Empower's retirement planner tool
Empower Retirement Planner – New Education Goal Lightbox

Drive to Annuities Webinar

Join us February 28 for a webinar detailing more research into retirement income calculators and their efficacy for promoting annuity products as potential solutions to the retirement income gap. The live webinar covers these tools in depth, including user inputs, income gap calculation and visual aids that best convey key information. A live Q&A follows with our industry experts. Register for the webinar here.