The internet has become the primary channel for consumers to obtain goods and services over the past twenty years, with the population as a whole becoming increasingly comfortable shopping online. You can now just as easily buy a car or your groceries via the internet as you can a bestselling book.
The convenience of e-commerce is what draws many of us in, allowing for a seemingly endless selection of goods while saving valuable time and money. The internet has even developed into the channel of choice for purchasing financial products, including stocks, bonds, and life insurance. And there has been growing demand by investors to buy annuities online.
And it’s no wonder that consumers look online for income planning products like annuities. Most savvy investors are well aware of their benefits, but many advisors fail to include them as a significant aspect of financial and retirement plans. According to one survey, 72 percent of advisors did not mention annuities with lifetime income as a strategy for retirement planning, showcasing not only why an investor may turn to their own online research for guidance, but also why individuals must find a trusted financial advisor that specializes in wealth concepts beyond stocks and bonds.
However, one thing that we’ve learned about the convenience of shopping online is that just because you can buy it online, doesn’t mean that you should. The more significant the purchase, the more difficult it is to guarantee you are making the right choice with your hard earned money. If you consider the complexity of a financial solution like an annuity, the question to consider is not, “Can I buy an annuity online without an agent?” but whether or not you should buy online as the most appropriate avenue for purchase. Let’s explore the many things a wise investor should first consider.
Can I Successfully Buy an Annuity Online or Without an Agent?
While you may see ads for online brokerage accounts, you’re less likely to find annuities advertised online. Annuities have not yet become commoditized in the way that brokerage accounts have, so there will be more work in finding a product that meets your needs without the guidance of a qualified insurance advisor.
So, yes, you can buy annuities online without the help of an insurance agent, but you’ll have to spend a significant amount of time on research. And, there are only two channels for direct annuity sales online:
- Life insurance companies: Life insurances companies selling direct-to-consumer, which include the many household name insurers, will be among the top results in your search, but not all of them sell directly online. You may find a familiar name, click on a link and maneuver your way through a complicated online form only to land on a page that still requires you to speak to an agent in order to make your purchase. This is not only frustrating, it is misleading.
- Online marketplaces: Online marketplaces that sell investment products, including annuities, will also be among your search results. But how do you choose from these providers? Are they legitimate? Will you still have to speak to an agent? Do they have the breadth of products to meet your particular needs? There are many questions to be asked before investing with these sometimes unknown sources—and you may find that answers are hard to come by.
Trust is a crucial element when selecting a financial provider. What started out as a search to purchase an annuity online can easily turn into a mission to ensure that you can trust the provider. If you find yourself searching the Better Business Bureau website for complaints, perhaps you should trust your instincts and reconsider whether a licensed and well-respected financial advisor that you can build a relationship with is the most reliable means to secure your retirement, as opposed to trying to tackle the job on your own.
How to Buy the Right Annuity (and Why Having an Advisor Matters)
As with any financial or retirement product, you must take the time to fully understand what it is that you are buying. A survey by the Insured Retirement Institute found that 75% of investors claimed to be familiar with annuities, but only 46% knew that annuities can provide lifetime income.
Annuities are designed to meet your long-term needs for retirement income and to help ensure that you don’t outlive your savings. There are two types of annuities: variable and fixed. Variable annuities place your investment in stocks and bonds, making them subject to market volatility. This means that your account could be worth more or less than your initial investment when you retire. Variable annuities require special securities licenses and put your principal at risk. They also have high fees. Fixed annuities, in contrast, can offer a guaranteed rate of return and are best when seeking a fixed or increasing income at retirement without the risk of market loss. Besides variable and fixed annuities, there are also subcategories of annuities that can add up to hundreds of options that may or may not be appropriate for you, your long-term goals, and your particular financial situation.
As you can clearly see, annuities are among the more complex financial products that you can purchase; the do-it-yourself route is definitely not recommended. The stakes are just too high! While you certainly can purchase an annuity online, choosing to do so will limit you to very few choices. Whatever time or upfront cost you believe to be saving in the short-term may end up costing you your financial security in retirement. Having a trusted advisor that can match you with an annuity based on your specific financial picture is essential. It is the only reliable option to help you navigate through the myriad of annuity choices on the market.
The annuity and insurance advisors at Howard Kaye Insurance work with more than 50 highly-rated and trusted insurance carriers. Helping you meet your retirement goal with individualized attention is our primary objective. Call us at 800-DIE-RICH or reach out online. We can work with you to create a plan that ensures you don’t outlive your retirement savings.