Living benefits were always controversial in the variable annuity market, but the SEC warns that insurers hurting for cash have been trying to make these contracts worse for investors.
Eileen Rominger at the SEC recently noted that carriers have started restricting the investment choices on annuities that carry "living benefit" riders.
Since these riders are sold as a way to guarantee a minimum benefit -- in effect, creating a sort of fixed annuity "base" -- and still get exposure to potential market upside, cutting back on the volatile options compresses the range of outcomes further.
And since a "living benefit" can be fairly expensive in terms of basis points per year, Rominger's team continues to look closely at the sales language and disclosure surrounding these already-complicated instrumens.
This is a classic example of how taking a look at assets your clients hold away from your firm can help everyone at the table.
If you discover that your clients have gotten themselves into this type of contract, make sure to explain it to them -- it might be the first time anyone ever walked them through the costs and potential benefits.
If the language in the contract changes, alert them immediately. These riders can be hard to cancel, but if their costs start outweighing their benefits, it may make sense to try.
You're not the one getting the commission on the sale, but you add a lot of value by proving that you're concerned with all aspects of your client's financial life, not just the assets under your supervision.