Tide turns on rising annuity rates

Pensioners yet to take out an annuity product have been urged to think about doing so quickly, as rising rates seem to have hit a tipping point.

Annuity rates have been at a five-year high in recent months, but according to the latest figures from Alexander Forbes Annuity Bureau the tide has turned with seven providers cutting rates over the past month.

For example, Norwich Union has cut the annual annuity income for a 60-year-old male with a pension fund of £100,000 by £110 to £7,040.

Despite rates seemingly having reached the peak, Alexander Forbes says to today’s best annual income rate is still £275 higher than the best available one year ago.

David Marlow, director of Alexander Forbes Annuity Bureau, says falling annuity rates mean pensioners should make sure they exercise the Open Market Option and shop around for the best rate.

There are two main reasons for falling annuity rates. Firstly, the yields on corporate bonds - which insurers use to fund these retirement products – have fallen. Secondly, the 5% increase in annuity rates since the start of the year has left many providers with too much business to process.

However, the falling values also reflect the long-term outlook for annuities.

Laith Khalaf, pensions analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says increasing life expectancy means insurers have to pay out for longer, and as a result, annuity rates will have to decrease.

At the same time, more providers now offer enhanced rates to people with lower life expectancy - for example, smokers.

“This means the pool of money paying out your annuity income will be stretched among people with higher life expectancies, with the people you would want to share the money with (i.e. people likely to die younger) all plucked out into separate pools by insurers,” explains Khalaf.

Annuity rate changes August 2008:

Company name Date
Partnership 05/08/08
Norwich Union 13/08/08
Canada Life 29/08/08
AEGON Scottish Equitable 12/08/08
Prudential 05/08/08
Just Retirement 12/08/08
Reliance 22/08/08
Source: Hargreaves Lansdown