Retired Money: The case for early partial annuitization

Fred Vettese and Rona Birenbaum in YouTube video

If you lack what finance professor and author Moshe Milevky calls a “real” pension (i.e. an employer-sponsored Defined Benefit plan), then you’re a likely candidate for annuitization or at least partial annuitization of your RRSP and/or RRIF.

My latest MoneySense Retired Money column revisits Fred Vettese’s excellent new book, Retirement Income for Life, and in particular his third “enhancement” suggestion for maximizing retirement income. We  formally reviewed Vettese’s book in the MoneySense column before that, and commented on it further here at the Hub. 

You can find the new piece drilling down on the partial annuitization enhancement by clicking on the highlighted headline: RRIF or Annuity? How about Both.

One of the main sources in the piece is fee-only planner Rona Birenbaum (pictured above with Fred Vettese), who has some useful videos on YouTube about annuities, including an interview with Vettese about the partial annuitization strategy described in the new MoneySense column. See Is it time for annuities?

Expect an annuity wave from retiring boomers without DB pensions

Certainly you’re going to hear a lot more about annuities as the baby boomers move seriously from Wealth accumulation mode to de-accumulation, aka “decumulation.” Coincidentally both Vettese and I are 1953 babies with April birthdays. In an interview with Fred, he told me he bought some annuities a year ago and that he believes that those who plan to retire at age 65 (and who lack a traditional employer-sponsored Defined Benefit pension) should consider at least partly annualizing at 65, to the tune of roughly 30% of the value of their nest egg (typically in an RRSP or RRIF). That means registered annuities.

Certainly, in light of the 10% “correction” in stocks that occurred in the last few weeks, the possibility of a more severe stock market retrenchment has to be upper most in the minds of soon-to-retire baby boomers. I note in his recent G&M column, Ian McGugan (in his early 60s) confessed he was slowly starting to take some profits from stocks and move them to safer fixed-income investments like GICs. See The Market’s gone mad: Here’s how to protect yourself. See also Graham Bodel’s article earlier this week: Response to an investor who frets the market is going to crash.

Annuities are one way to hedge against market risk, since you’re in effect transferring some of the market risk inherent in an RRSP or a RRIF to the shoulders of the insurance company offering the annuity. That’s one reason in the YouTube video above, Vettese talks about partly annuitizing as soon as you retire, whether that be age 65, or sooner or later than that traditional retirement date.

Financial advisors may not agree with all of Vettese’s five “enhancements.”

The earlier column reviewing the book mentioned that not many of Vettese’s “enhancements” to retirement income may be endorsed by the average commission-compensated financial advisor. Even so, as the Royal Bank argued earlier this year here at the Hub, annuities can help fund a full lifestyle in retirement. It observed that 62% of Canadians aged 55 to 75 are worried they’ll outlive their retirement savings but only 10% use or plan to use an annuity to ensure they’ll have a viable lifestyle in retirement.

Regular Hub contributor Robb Engen — a fee-only financial planner who also runs the Boomer & Echo website — wrote recently (on both sites) that annuities are one way retirees or would-be retirees without traditional DB pensions can Create their own personal pension in retirement.

As I note in the MoneySense column, while I’m certainly approaching the age when partial annuitization may make sense, I’ll probably wait a year or two. But in preparation for that possibility, as well as for the column, I asked Birenbaum to prepare three quotes for a $100,000 registered annuity, starting at ages 65, 70 and 75. As you might expect, the longer you wait to begin receiving payments, the higher the payout, but it’s not such a massive rise that you could rule out early payments if you really needed them to live on.

The mechanics of buying an annuity

And should you be ready to take the step, it’s not all that complicated. In the above case, you would liquidate $100,000 worth of investments in your RRSP so the cash is available to transfer, then complete an annuity purchase application and fill out and submit a T2033 RRSP transfer form. That form is sent to your RRSP administrator, and they transfer the cash to the insurance company without triggering tax. Once all these preliminary steps have been taken, payments begin the month following the annuity purchase.

Oh, and one last step, Birenbaum adds: Start relaxing!

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