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Thursday July 27th, 2017 

News Archive - December 2008

Interest rates and annuity rates

04/12/2008

Interest rates fell again today. The Bank of England base rate now stands at 2% which is its lowest level for over 50 years.

This latest fall is likely to lead to reductions in the rates that cash savers can expect from banks and building societies. But how will if affect annuity rates for people looking to take their personal pension benefits?

Annuity rates are determined by several factors. One important one is predicted mortality rates. Due to improvements in diet and medical science, we are likely to live longer now than we would have if we had been born 20 years earlier, and this trend seems likely to continue. The average remaining length of our life is taken into account by the actuaries when they decide how much they can afford to pay out as an income in exchange for a lump sum when an annuity is purchased. One important concept when looking at annuities is 'cross-subsidy'. Some people think that annuities represent poor value for money because if the annuitant is unlucky enough to die prematurely then their remaining 'pot' is lost to them. However, this factor is taken into account by the insurance company when calculating the annuity rates, because that 'surplus' cash is used to help fund those annuitants who live longer than average. One problem with the recent trend for 'enhanced' or' impaired' annuities is that it will drive down the annuity rates for those who do not have any health problems. This is because the people who purchase enhanced annuities (who by definition are likely to have a shorter average lifespan) will no longer be within the standard annuity 'pool' - this means that the average health of those buying a standard annuity should be better, so their life expectancy will be higher and thus the rates offered will be worse.(Get that? phew).

Another major determining factor of annuity rates is long-term gilt yields. Long gilts (those with around 15 years until their maturity date) are the investments used by annuity providers to guarantee the income from annuities.The current trend of falling interest rates acts to push down the yield on gilts meaning that annuity rates should fall in sympathy. All the drivers seem to be pointing to lower annuity rates in the future.

So what does this mean in practice? Well, if you are planning to buy an annuity within the next 12 months you may well get a better annuity rate now than if you delay. With no real end in sight to global stock market woes, and returns on cash likely to be poor in the short term, it might be a case of 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush'. By buying your annuity now you would at leasty benefit from a year's extra income.

Your Income Tax position will be relevant to the decision, so you should always seek professional advice from a pension specialist IFA like Mulberry Financial before making such a big decision.

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The material here is for general information only and is not intended to be relied upon for individual investment decisions. Appropriate independent advice should be obtained before making any such decisions. Mulberry Financial Ltd does not accept any liability for any loss suffered by any user as a result of any such decision.
The information is based on our understanding of current HMRC rules and practices (as at the news article date) which are always subject to change. Taxation and trust advice and Cash ISAs are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. This site is aimed at UK residents only.
Please remember that the prices of shares and other investments can fall sharply. You may not get back the money you originally invested. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to the future.


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