Home Money How much does an inflation-linked annuity cost and is it a good investment?

How much does an inflation-linked annuity cost and is it a good investment?

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Retirement income: Annuities provide a guaranteed income until you die, and offerings have improved thanks to higher interest rates.

Retirement income: Annuities provide a guaranteed income until you die, and offerings have improved thanks to higher interest rates.

Annuity offerings have increased in value in recent years, but the best rates are on single life annuities, not indexed for inflation.

For £100,000, a healthy 65-year-old can earn an income of more than £7,270 a year, according to data from Best Buy (see below).

You can deduct £2,000 a year or even more than that amount if you want an annuity that grows by 3 per cent a year or in line with the rate of inflation of the retail price index.

A level annuity may therefore seem tempting now that inflation is back to 2 per cent, but recent history has shown the dangers of securing a lifetime income without protection against a sudden rise in the cost of living.

The headline inflation rate exceeded 11 percent in October 2022, the highest level in 41 years.

If you’re interested in purchasing an annuity, how can you determine if an inflation-protected annuity is the best option for you? Financial experts crunch the numbers and offer advice on how to make the decision below.

Inflation protection with an annuity: how much more does it cost?

A 65-year-old with a £100,000 pension pot can currently get up to £7,220 a year from a single annuity with a five-year guarantee, says Helen Morrissey, head of retirement research at Hargreaves Lansdown.

A warranty period protects against the loss of all or most of your purchase money if you die shortly afterward.

The top rate is more than £2,000 more a year than you would have received three years ago, Morrissey says.

But he warns: “The level of income you get from such an annuity does not change over time, and what may seem like a healthy income today may look downright mediocre 20 years from now.

‘An RPI-linked annuity currently offers up to £4,540 per year for a 65-year-old with a £100,000 pension.

“If the rate increases by 3 per cent per year, the initial price will be up to £5,157.” Both tariffs also come with a five-year guarantee.

Morrissey says the latter two offers may be much lower than what you would get with a fixed annuity, but the longer you live, the more any kind of link to inflation will be valued. This is illustrated in the table below.

Source: Hargreaves Lansdown annuity figures

Source: Hargreaves Lansdown annuity figures

“When deciding which is your best option, you’ll need to try to estimate how long it will take for your growing annuity income to reach the initial tier one income,” Morrissey says.

‘If you were to go for the RPI-linked product and it rose by 5 per cent a year, then it would take you 10 years to make up for lost ground and around 20 years before you could achieve the same amount of income overall as you would have earned from the flat product.

“Of course, if RPI inflation was higher it would recover ground more quickly, but lower inflation means it could take longer.”

She says that with the annuity increasing at 3 percent a year, it would take 12 years to catch up, so you would be 77 before you get the same income.

And it would take around 21 years for you to earn the same total amount of income of around £144,000 as you would have earned from the levelised product.

Helen Morrissey: The longer you live, the more you value any kind of link to inflation

Helen Morrissey: The longer you live, the more you value any kind of link to inflation

Morrissey says: ‘You have to think carefully about how long you are likely to live to make the best decision for yourself.’

Unless you have an existing health condition or family health history that you think might affect you, the answer to this is unknown.

But at least running the numbers will give you a better idea of ​​the risks you’re taking by purchasing an annuity with or without inflation protection.

Morrissey warns: ‘The beast of inflation may have been tamed, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a key factor in planning for your retirement income.

‘You could be retired for 20 years or more and even the most benign inflationary environment can erode your purchasing power during that time.

‘A period of double-digit inflation like we’ve seen recently can throw a wrench into your plans, so it pays to be prepared.’

She says you may want to consider other options, such as not annuitizing your entire pension at once.

‘Instead, you could rent out in chunks over time, securing a guaranteed income as you need it and keeping the rest invested where it can hopefully grow.

‘This way, you also have the benefit of locking in higher annuity rates as you age, and if you develop a condition that qualifies you for an enhanced annuity, you could get an additional boost in income that can help you combat the impact of inflation over time.’

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Why are annuities becoming better value again?

Many people are considering annuities again. Last year, sales hit the highest level since pension freedom reforms in 2015 led to most retirees starting to live off invested funds in their old age.

Annuities provide a guaranteed income until you die.

But they were shunned for years because of low rates and restrictive conditions, and then gained a bad reputation due to annuity mis-selling scandals.

The reforms to provide pension freedom encouraged most savers to keep their funds invested and live off their withdrawals, despite the financial market risk that this entails.

However, the recent spate of interest rate hikes to combat inflation means annuity providers can afford to fund much more attractive deals, fueling a resurgence in sales.

The next move in interest rates is likely to be downward, meaning annuity agreements would again lose value.

That doesn’t mean you should rush into a decision on how best to fund your retirement. Scroll down to find our advice on what to consider before buying an annuity, and check out the guides below.

> Read a 12-step guide to investing your pension

> Find out how to combine investment drawdown with an annuity

Source: Hargreaves Lansdown Best Buy Industry Figures, June 13

Source: Hargreaves Lansdown Best Buy Industry Figures, June 13

Fixed-rate annuities versus inflation-linked annuities: How to decide

Nick Flynn: Understand how the annuity provider defines and measures inflation and consider your overall tax position

Nick Flynn: Understand how the annuity provider defines and measures inflation and consider your overall tax position

Nick Flynn, director of retirement income at Canada Life, offers the following advice.

1. Consider how your annuity income may change in the future

Inflation-linked annuities will generally have a lower initial income than a fixed-rate annuity, however this can change over time.

Some simple assumptions about the future direction of inflation will allow you to model how your inflation-linked annuity may grow in the future, at what age your income may catch up with your fixed annuity rate, and at what age you are likely to have received more income than you originally paid for it.

2. Check how the provider applies inflation to the annuity rate

If you are considering an inflation-linked annuity, it is important to understand how the provider defines and measures inflation and how it will apply changes to your income.

3. Consider your tax situation

Be sure to consider your overall tax position and evaluate any tax impact of your annuity along with any other income you may be receiving.

An inflation-linked annuity that grows over time may suit some people’s current tax situation, while others may prefer the higher initial income that comes with a fixed-rate annuity.

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4. Consider a combined approach

Unless you have a very small pension fund, you will usually have more than one option available.

A blended approach (for example, a mix of fixed and inflation-linked annuities, or incorporating a retirement element) may give you the best chance of achieving your retirement goals.

5. Do your research and speak to a regulated financial advisor

Compare prices and get quotes from more than one supplier, and do initial research to better understand your options.

Then speak to a regulated financial adviser who can help you make the decision that best suits your situation and needs.

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What should you consider when purchasing a life annuity?

  • You may be able to get an “improved” rate if you wait until you are older and your health has worsened to buy an annuity.
  • You can rethink your investment and retirement strategy and buy an annuity altogether or as a replacement source of income later, but you can’t exit an annuity once you’ve bought it.
  • If you are healthy, the best rates are on individual life insurance, not “level” annuities linked to inflation, but recent cost-of-living pressures highlight how important it is to get some protection against rising prices.
  • If you take out an individual, rather than joint, annuity, there will be nothing for your spouse if you die first, so you need to consider what you will have to live on and discuss this with them before making a decision. Many widows and widowers find that their partner’s annuity choice has left them with no income after their loss, forcing them to live on meagre state benefits.
  • Consider purchasing an annuity with a “guarantee period,” which protects you against losing all or most of your purchase money if you die soon afterward.

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