Annuities: What is an Annuity, and What are the Best Annuities for Your Retirement Strategy in 2020?

What is an annuity

What is an Annuity?

An annuity is most easily understood as a contract between an individual (annuitant) and a life insurance company who agrees to make equal payments to the individual over a specified period of time. Sometimes that time is a certain number of years, and other times it can be for the lifetime of the annuitant and/or their spouse. There are a few different variations of annuities that will be discussed later on in the article.

Retirement Strategy

Knowing that an annuity is a contract with a life insurance company that guarantees to pay you equal amounts over a specified period of time why should they be a part of your retirement strategy in 2020? Westfall Insurance is a big believer in diversification of assets in retirement. When we make that shift to retirement and are past our best working years, many of us are dependent on certain investments and/or entities to provide us our income.

Social Security, for example, is something we are taxed for our entire working lives. In exchange we are promised a monthly payment from the government for as long as we live. It was announced today that President Donald Trump’s bill to cut payroll taxes could deplete the social security fund as soon as 2023. While that could all just be hearsay, the Social Security program is always a hot topic of discussion and the future of it is uncertain. 

Annuities are the closest product on the market that mimics Social Security’s structure as guaranteed payments in monthly or annual intervals to the annuitant over their lifetimes. 

While the effectiveness and value of an Annuity is dependent on the structure and fees associated with it and is up for debate amongst many “financial gurus” Westfall Insurance believes the concept of a program guaranteed to pay you monthly over your lifetime is ALWAYS worth a closer look, and we are here to solve the question of “What are the best annuities in Portland for my retirement strategy?

Best Annuities

Shopping for Annuities in Portland is different than shopping for Annuities in another city and/or state. Every insurance company has regulations on what and where they are able to market and offer their products. Outside of location, there are a few factors to consider when shopping for the best annuities for your retirement strategy. These factors are: Structure and Fees.

  1. Structure

There are two to three different factors contributing to the structure of an annuity that need to be carefully considered. These factors are: Accumulation Structure, Annuitization Structure, and Riders.

Accumulation of Annuities:

The accumulation of annuities depends on how long the accumulation phase is and how the interest is credited to the cash value. 

The accumulation phase length is referring to how the policy is funded. Here are the ways it can be funded:

  • Accumulation: Equal payments over a period of time 
  • Immediate: A one-time payment that can begin paying out immediately, or can be deferred and allowed to accumulate more interest before being annuitized (Turned into monthly payments)

There are Three Different Ways to Accumulate Interest and Cash Value in an annuity. These are:

  1. Fixed Annuities  are the safest annuities  that guarantee an annual or monthly interest rate that the insurance company guarantees to credit the policy, usually 3-5%.
  2. Fixed Indexed Annuities (FIAs) are considered to be the best of both worlds. In an FIA, insurance company will credit the policy with a minimum guaranteed interest rate, usually 0-3% with the potential to credit the policy up to a certain percentage, usually 8-15% depending on the performance of the markets the annuity mirrors. The big benefit here is that we love at Westfall Insurance, is that the cash value NEVER LOSES money. 
  3. Variable Annuities carry the most risk, but they yield the biggest return potential. In a variable annuity, the cash value of the policy is dependent on the market it performs in and can lose money during a down economy. These are very similar to Mutual Funds.

To summarize, annuities can either be funded by equal payments made over a certain amount of time, or they can be funded with one single lump-sum payment. The cash value of the annuities can either be guaranteed, indexed, or invested directly into the stock market. 

Annuitization Phase

The annuitization phase of an annuity is when the insurance company begins to make payments to the annuitant. The annuitization phase is classified by how long the payments will go for. Annuities come with any one of these annuitization types:

  • Life Option: This means the insurance company agrees to make payments to the annuitant for as long as the annuitant lives. This structure is typically used in the retirement strategy of many as it is designed to defend against outliving your income.
  • Joint-Life Option: This is an annuity purchased by a married couple. The payout of these plans is dependent on the life expectancy of both spouses. When one spouse dies, the benefit amount paid to the remaining spouse will be less.
  • Life with Period Certain: Opting for the life or joint life option leave the risk of the annuitant dying too early and the money being kept by the insurance company. A period certain option guarantees that even if the annuitant passes during the period certain window, the insurance company will continue to pay a named beneficiary until the end of the period certain.
  • Lump-Sum: Annuities can be paid out in one lump sum. We don’t go over these too much because these are not plans that are a defense to outliving your income.

Essentially, annuities are most often paid out over the lifetime of the annuitant. Obviously this is not a great deal if the annuitant dies early and the money invested into the annuity is kept by the insurance company. To hedge against this, an annuitant would structure their policy with a period certain option that would guarantee payments would be paid to a beneficiary if the annuitant dies early. And of course, annuities can be paid in a lump-sum amount as well. 

Riders

Riders are additional benefits that can be added onto policies for an additional cost. The riders that Westfall Insurance thinks should be considered are: long term care riders and inflation riders.

Long Term Care Rider

One of the biggest fears of retirement is getting sick/injured and ending up in long term care. Long term care is very expensive and forces many Americans to run out of their retirements exceptionally fast. There are long term care insurance policies available, but the one downside to them is that they do not accumulate any cash value. That means that if you acquire long term care insurance, but you never end up having to use it, the insurance company keeps the money. A long term care rider on an annuity provides protection if needed, but if not, it builds more cash value.  

This is why the long term care rider should be considered when purchasing an annuity. This retirement strategy hedges against two of the three biggest fears of retirement which are living too long and going into long term care. While it won’t provide as comprehensive protection as a full long term care policy, it still provides solid protection. Another retirement strategy we recommend is using the monthly payment from the annuity to fund the monthly premium of the long term care policy. 

Inflation Rider

Inflation is the decreasing purchasing power of money. Essentially, inflation means that your money is losing value. The inflation rate is higher than the interest in checking, money market accounts and Certificates of Deposits offered by banks. Imagine that, money sitting in a bank account not being touched is losing its value. If you own a CD or have money sitting in an account at the bank and are not happy with your interest rates, please contact us! 

It’s important that you consider the benefits of having an inflation rider on your annuity, because, most annuities are structured to pay out equal amounts throughout the lifetime of the annuity. If the payout you get NOW vs 20 years from now is the same, then you are in trouble. We strongly recommend finding a policy with an inflation rider. 

2) Fees

Fees are VERY important to understand when shopping for an annuity. Every percentage point counts when we look at the magic of compound interest and its effects. Some annuities will perform amazingly in the market an yield very high returns, but the fees charged to the plans can significantly wipe those gains away. 

Another disappointing fact to accept when it comes to fees are that regardless of the performance of the annuity, the fees are typically the same percentage. This means that if the fees were 5%, they would be 5% whether the policy gained 15%, gained 0%, or lost 15%. To further illustrate, go check out the Compound Interest Calculator and change the percentage of compound interest around and you will see for yourself how just one percentage point can significantly alter the gains of the policy.

When shopping for the best annuities, it is important that you are able to see honest and transparent illustrations of the fees and structures of an annuity that will show multiple outcomes of the annuity based on the performance and the fees. 

Our Recommendation:

While we agree that everyone is unique and there is no such thing a one size fits all solution when it comes to a person’s retirement, Westfall Insurance is a huge fan of Fixed Indexed Annuities. The key here is that the money is guaranteed some sort of interest rate even if the market tanks. The important thing here is that it didn’t lose. 

If an investment loses 50%, it takes 100% in gains to gain it all back. (Example: Lose 50% of $100, you now have $50. You need to gain $50 back to be back to having $100. $50 is 100% of $50)

Aside from not only losing money, these policies have caps on them that allow the annuitant to partake in the gains of a bull market up to a certain percentage. These percentages vary, but one could expect anywhere from 8 to 15%.

Annuity Laddering is another alternative strategy to annuities that we think deserves its spotlight. Annuity laddering is simply the process of buying multiple annuity plans to diversify. An individual may have more money to play with and a higher risk tolerance and wants to protect some of his/her money so they would get a fixed or fixed index annuity, but they may also risk a portion of their money  into something like a variable annuity that has the potential to offer much higher returns. 

Why Else Do We Love Annuities?

We love annuities because of their tax favor ability. As we get older and our time horizon for growth on our portfolios begins to shrink, it is strongly encouraged to move money into safer investment vehicles to avoid living too long and outliving our money. Qualified retirement accounts like 401ks and/or IRAs are great ways to accumulate wealth during our working years. The one down-side of many of these plans is that they are taxed heavily during their distribution phase. IRAs have a minimum age requirement to draw money off of them and enforce a strong penalty of 10% if that age requirement is broken. 

Annuities are great because they can be used as a vehicle to roll money into from an IRA or 401k account tax-free! Instead of getting taxed on withdrawing your money from one of these accounts, you can roll it into an annuity and continue to gain tax free interest. We like to compare this to a 1031 real estate exchange where the capital gains made from a property are not taxed if that money is rolled into the purchase of another property.

Annuities are great because they can be used as a vehicle to roll money into from an IRA or 401k account tax-free! Instead of getting taxed on withdrawing your money from one of these accounts, you can roll it into an annuity and continue to gain tax free interest. We like to compare this to a 1031 real estate exchange where the capital gains made from a property are not taxed if that money is rolled into the purchase of another property.

Annuities are great because they can be used as a vehicle to roll money into from an IRA or 401k account tax-free! Instead of getting taxed on withdrawing your money from one of these accounts, you can roll it into an annuity and continue to gain tax free interest. We like to compare this to a 1031 real estate exchange where the capital gains made from a property are not taxed if that money is rolled into the purchase of another property. 

So, let’s summarize what we’ve discussed and did we answer all questions?

What is an Annuity?

Annuities are a contract between a life insurance company and an individual (annuitant) or spouses (joint-annuitants) that guarantees to pay the annuitant a lump-sum, monthly/annual specified amount either for a certain period of time or throughout the entire lifetime.

What are the Best Annuities to get?

There is no single answer to what the best annuities are. The best annuities are ones that meet your goal of not outliving your income. Aside from meeting the bare minimum requirements of not outliving your income, the best annuities also provide things like protection against inflation and the fear of going into long term care. The best annuities in Portland, or any place for that matter will vary based on which companies are allowed to market and offer their annuities geographically.

Why are Annuities a Good Retirement Strategy?

We believe annuities are an excellent addition to a retirement strategy in 2020 for a number of reasons. Annuities can be used to provide income for life. This is especially important to note given the uncertainty that is currently plaguing the world. Social Security has always been that one thing Americans could count on, and the threat of it going away is very real. Annuities are an excellent alternative retirement strategy to combat the risk of losing social security.

As mentioned earlier, the best annuities provide additional benefits like protection against inflation and long term care protection. This addresses 2 of the 3 biggest fears of retirement experienced by many Americans.

Annuities suit the needs of anyone looking to put money away into another retirement strategy vehicle. Fixed, Indexed and Variable annuities all carry some risk and reward potential.

Lastly, annuities can be funded from rolling over retirement account money without paying the taxes on the transfer. This allows the money that was rolled over to not lose any of its value and to continue growing interest tax-free.

Where Can You Find Annuities in Portland? 

Well, the most obvious answer is, Westfall Insurance! With that being said, there are many qualified individuals and brokerages in the Portland area qualified to assist. If you are looking for the best annuities and want to know more about options available, fill out a form here, book an appointment with us HERE, or call us directly at 1 (866) 985-0204.

Medicare Portland Oregon in 2020 and 2021: The Popular Trends vs. Doing What is Best for You.

medicare portland oregon

Medicare Portland Oregon

About Westfall Insurance

Westfall insurance is physically located in Portland Oregon. However, I turned Westfall Insurance into a company that operates virtually in many different states around the country. As of right now these states include: Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. 

Early in 2019 I decided to move the business to a remote model because of the growing Trend to do things online and over the phone. When coronavirus hit early this year, it was the move online that kept the business alive, and I am so grateful for that. I published my first book at the end of 2019 which became a major hit when agents and brokers were forced to innovate to keep their practice alive,  How to be a Digital Insurance Agent: Join the New Era of Life and Health Insurance Agents Working Remotely became a best seller on Amazon and climbed all the way up to number 2 just behind Suze Orman. 

Westfall Insurance specializes in retirement planning. our slogan that we have adopted is “Retire Fearlessly”. One thing that seniors are very very afraid of, is running out of money during retirement. Medicare plays a huge role in Saving seniors money on health-related expenses. Health emergencies are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Along with providing Medicare education and Enrollment Services, Westfall insurance also specializes in annuities, long term care and life insurance.

Even though I moved the business to an online remote model, I have had a change of heart and the Corona virus taught me that I actually miss meeting clients face to face because I am a social creature just like the rest of us whether we like to admit it or not. I do provide face-to-face meetings for clients and prospective clients located in the Portland metro area. As Westfall Insurance continues to expand into more States and hire more retirement specialists, we will be able to provide virtual meetings and more face-to-face meetings.

Medicare Oregon vs Medicare Portland Oregon

Oregon as a whole, has one of the highest Medicare Advantage enrollment rates in the entire United States. One reason for this is because the bulk of Oregon residents live in the Portland metro area. The common Trend in most urban areas is for people to enroll in Medicare Advantage. As of 2019, 46% of Medicare enrollees in the state of Oregon where enrolled in Medicare Advantage, And the percentage is climbing every year. We typically see people with lower incomes enrolling in Medicare Advantage plans as opposed to the original Medicare and Medicare supplement package.

The general advice most agents will give around the United States is to enroll in a Medicare supplement and a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan. There are a few reasons for this.

  1. Medicare supplement plans when used in combination with original Medicare, allow  beneficiaries to get medical treatment without network restrictions. 
  2. Many of these agents are not licensed to educate and enroll beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans.

Medicare Oregon Providers

Medicare Advantage plans are very competitive in the Medicare Portland Oregon landscape. This state has just about all of the top carriers available. These carriers include: United Health Care, Regence Blue Cross, Humana, Aetna, Kaiser, and Providence.

Looking through the plans that are available at a $0 Premium cost to many Oregonians,, it is not hard to understand why the trend of Medicare Advantage enrollments is increasing every year. Many of these plants have huge Networks, basic dental and vision coverage, and even gym memberships. 

There are areas of Oregon  that do not even have any Medicare Advantage plans available, so the beneficiaries must enroll in original Medicare and it would be wise to pick up a Medicare Supplement Plan with a stand-alone prescription drug plan. I have also noticed that the cost of Medicare supplement plans in Oregon is very high when compared to more rural States like Iowa and Oklahoma. This is probably another reason why many Oregonians are signing up for Medicare Advantage. 

I do not see the trend of more Advantage enrollments for Medicare Portland Oregon Slowing down as the plans continue to get more and more competitive, and the supplement plans continue to get more and more expensive. Rural areas for Medicare Oregon may not see much of an increase in Medicare Advantage enrollments simply because the network and access to doctors are limited due to geography reasons.

To book and appointment with us, give us a call at 866-985-0204, or book a meeting on our calendar HERE. If you are located in the Portland, Oregon area and would like to know more about your options for Medicare Portland Oregon, we may be able to book an in person appointment. Just make sure you call ahead!

Medicare for Travelers 2020: Important Things to Know

Medicare for Travelers

Medicare for Travelers

Medicare for travelers is a very important topic to consider for those medicare beneficiaries who spend their retired life traveling the world. If you’re travelling within the United States, as I’ve mentioned in previous content, your Medicare is good anywhere in the United States as long as it’s not through a Medicare doctor who accepts Medicare for payments.


So that’s not a problem. Now, travelling outside the country is different. Medicare for travelers leaving the United States and it’s neighboring countries is often very limited. Seniors do have the option to have a Medicare supplement plan, which end up being better for out-of country kind of deals. They will cover 80 percent of the billed charges after you meet a $250 deductible. This isn’t a whole lot to meet, but always, always a good idea to look into extra coverage if you’re going to travel, especially outside the country.


Right now, I don’t think anybody’s traveling just because of the current state of affairs the country is in. But when we do get back to “normal”, Medicare for Travelers is pretty limited as far as what it can cover. When you’re overseas now, there are some U.S. territories that you are eligible for some coverage in.


Another thing to know is that Plan D, the Medicare prescription drug plan, does not work overseas. If you are needing a prescription refill, you unfortunately, are not going to be covered by your Medicare prescription drug plan. Ok, but what if you have Medicare Advantage?

By law, Medicare Advantage has to cover what original Medicare does as well. Some of these advantage plans will also cover some medical costs that occurred overseas. This is obviously dependent on who your carrier is and your plan specifics. There are some carriers out there that offer really great coverage as these plans continue to become more and more competitive.


I wouldn’t expect an extensive advantage plan that has great out of country coverage to have to be a $0 premium advantage plan. But it is something to note that there are some advantage plans out there that do have some foreign travel coverage. So if traveling is something you are considering in retirement and you want to make the best decision on your Medicare coverage, book an appointment with us! We would be happy to look into coverage options.



Thanks, guys.

Increased Medicare Telehealth 2020 Availability For Seniors During Covid-19 Crisis

Medicare Telehealth 2020

Medicare Telehealth 2020 will be made available to all beneficiaries! As of March 6, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services CMS, have lifted the limitations on Telehealth services for Seniors in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that is plaguing the entire planet. This was all made possible after President Donald Trump declared the United States was in a state of emergency under the 1135 Waiver Authority and the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act.

Up until just recently, Telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries were typically limited to beneficiaries living in rural areas. In order for the services to be covered by original Medicare, these beneficiaries typically had to drive to a medical facility miles away from their homes, just to speak with a doctor over the phone or video call. This is in the best interest of the senior population who are the most susceptible to death by the Coronavirus.

This is not to be mistaken with Medicare Advantage plans, ,the private alternative to Original Medicare which you can learn more about here: https://westfallinsurance.com/MAPD Nearly all Medicare Advantage plans have some form of Telehealth services for their beneficiaries. Telehealth services currently come in three different options: Telehealth visits, virtual check-ins, and E- visits and part B of original Medicare assists with the cost-sharing of these specific services.

 

3 Medicare Telehealth 2020 Options

Telehealth visits are for routine doctor and other medical professional visits that are non life-threatening, and typically done in person.

Virtual check-ins were designed for already established Medicare beneficiaries who need to quickly communicate with their medical professional through text messaging, picture messaging, video messaging Etc.

E-visits, are the one type of Telehealth option that do not require any type of face-to-face or spoken communication with a medical professional. Patients can access their portal and receive the basic care they are looking for.

 

What Does Medicare Telehealth 2020 Expansion Mean?

There is no telling when the Covid-19 virus will subside, and I believe we are getting a very real glimpse into the future of what will begin to be the new norm in modern healthcare. Not only will we see change in this industry, but in many different Industries. Bars and restaurants seem to be shifting towards more delivery, cars are self driving, and e-sports are the only thing people can get together for. Insurance agents like myself, working in Medicare, will have to adapt and operate on a remote basis. Virtual Doctor visits are is by no means a brand new thing.

Americans working at medium and larger sized companies usually have some sort of phone-a-doctor program in their benefits package that hardly anyone uses, but that could change very soon because it is sounding a lot better than being around sick people and I think the popularity of it will only go up! These days you can’t even sneeze in public without people looking at you funny! In 2019 people used to just say, “Bless You.”

Initially, we will not be happy with these changes that are coming because we are human and we want to be comfortable. With all the chaos going on, I am predicting that Medicare Telehealth 2020 participation skyrockets. It certainly feels like the shifts we are seeing across a number of industries and in our own lifestyles was inevitable. It would also appear that the Corona Virus is the catalyst for this change in more ways than one.

If you or someone you know is looking for some options and consulting on Medicare from the comfort of your own home and computer. Go check out this site that will list many of the top Medicare supplement plans, Prescription Drug Plans, and Medicare Advantage plans available in your area. https://medicareful.com/westfallinsurance or just go straight to the government website at : https://www.medicare.gov/