What is a Mortality Credit?

I was having lunch last month with a CPA friend of mine. He was telling me his new plan for retirement, not because he wanted my advise but because he wanted me to see how cool his projection system was.  His system was very smart and it showed all of his investment history over a long period of time. According to his #s he would be able to retire in 9 years. I reminded him that at a similar lunch 5 years earlier he told me he could retire in 7 years, so I asked him what had changed? He said that his formula of projections are based on his own investments and his 10 year history of returns. Five years ago he was averaging close to 10% a year over the prior 10 years so the projection model showed a 7 year horizon for retirement. Unfortunately the market had a “correction” and his new 10 year average is closer to 4.5% so it will now take him longer to retire. I listened to his explanation and then I asked him one more question – why would you have all your money at risk to try to earn 4.5% per year? Wouldn’t it be better to have a guaranteed 6% return that will guarantee an income you cannot out live?

Of course to him that question did not make sense. In his mind there is no way you can guarantee 6% in any vehicle (legally) and so he brushed me off. I took some time to explain an income annuity to him but he was skeptical. He wanted to know what the insurance companies invested in and how can they do it? This is not an uncommon response when we are dealing with CPA’s (or Engineers). They want to know the “Anatomy of the Income” so they can dissect it and understand it. So here is my take on the Anatomy of the Income in a Guaranteed Lifetime Income Annuity:

All Income Is Not Alike

An income annuity is an effective generator of income. It can provide high levels of guaranteed payments that cannot be outlived. In fact, it would be difficult to find another strategy that can offer the amount of income that an income annuity produces, coupled with its high level of security and stability.

The Anatomy of Income Changes Over Time

Let’s look at a representation of how the payments of a Guaranteed Lifetime Income Annuity would look for a 65 year-old-man, based on a premium of $100,000, which produces an annual income of $6,500.

So how can an income annuity provide the attractive levels of income it does?

An Income Annuity that is guaranteed for life is different in makeup than any other product on the market. It is the “nature” of the income payments that is different and can only be guaranteed by an insurance carrier. Guaranteed Lifetime Income Annuity payments are comprised of:

Return of Premium – Each payment includes the return of a portion of the original investment made by the policy owner.

Interest. – There is a portion of each payment that comes from interest earned from the insurance company’s investment of premiums.

Mortality Credit –  Each payment includes income that is directly linked to the current age of the annuitant. This portion is known as mortality credit.

While the payments remain the same, the proportion of the individual components changes over time. They start off mostly comprised of interest and the return of your premium, but the longer you live the more the mortality credit comes into play.

What Is Mortality Credit?

A mortality credit is also known as the “mortality yield”. With an income annuity, premiums paid by those who die earlier than expected contribute to gains of the overall pool and provide a higher credit to survivors than could be achieved through individual investments outside of the pool. This is the secret formula that makes the annuity sizzle.

Our clients have no problem understanding the idea of mortality when we talk about life insurance. My CPA friend actually has a term policy that he bought from me. He pays $3,000/yr for a $2,000,000 term policy. So I asked him…how do you think an insurance company can afford to pay your family $2,000,000 if you die and only asks you for a premium of $3,000? He did not hesitate to answer…they pool the mortality. (I told you he was smart) I said the income annuities work the same way – it is the pooling of mortality that makes the income annuity different and it is why they can make the guarantees that they do.

The lunch ended with my CPA friend having a different point of view. Later that day he called me and asked me to show him my “best” carriers for Income Annuities. Surprisingly he has invested some of his own money into the concept (not all of it) and since that lunch he has referred me 3 different clients who turned into sales. Some times one simple explanation can help you convince even the smartest of clients.

About Jeffrey Berson

40 years in and around the industry has made Insurance a part of my DNA. I have had the pleasure of working with and for some of the greatest minds in our industry. My "Bersonal" View is an attempt to capture some of the best ideas, the best concepts and the best practices in a way that can lead to success for others. It will certainly be my point of view, so please...don't take it "Bersonal".
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2 Responses to What is a Mortality Credit?

  1. Leonardo Bertucci says:

    Terrific article; helps to explain, very simply, the hows of the guaranteed income rider benefits.

  2. Julie says:

    This is awesome! Wondering how these “Riders” work in the crazy Washington State laws 🙂

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