Fed Is Raising Interest Rates. How Do Retirees Benefit?

Some sectors of the population may feel the pain of interest rate hikes, while current retirees, and those near retirement, could actually benefit.

A man rests his chin on his hand and looks up as he makes a decision.
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Potential homebuyers frowned at the Fed’s mid-March quarter-point rate hike because they can expect mortgage rates to continue to climb steadily, as they have since January. Freddie Mac’s weekly research bulletin (opens in new tab) shows that between Jan. 20 and March 24, rates for 30-year mortgages increased more than 1.1 percentage points. A review by the Mortgage Bankers Association revealed (opens in new tab) that the higher rates are starting to dampen homebuying, with purchases declining by 6% week over week. We have to wait to see whether slowing sales affect how the Fed adjusts its rates.

On the other hand, many retirees are smiling as interest rates creep up. That’s because if a portion of your income is coming from fixed income investments, you can see those yields rise. And one group of retirees could be particularly happy: those who are planning to include annuity payments as one of their sources of income.

Insurance companies sell income annuities, which are the source of annuity payments. They invest the annuity reserves in mortgages and similar loans. When interest rates rise, the insurance companies offer annuities with higher annuity payments, too. An annuity purchased today will pay more than one bought just a couple of months ago. For example, for a woman age 70 who considered purchasing a life-only income annuity with a $1 million premium, the annuity payments increased by 7% from $67,204 on Dec. 21, 2021, to $71,926 March 22, 2022.

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This increase in annuity payments also means you can create more safe income in your plan for retirement income. With both higher and more safe income, you’ll have lots of options on recalibrating your plan.

A Chance at Even Better Annuity Payments Ahead

The Fed says it plans to raise rates several more times over the next year, with one increase expected to be as much as 0.50%. We can expect insurance companies to continue to re-price their income annuities, although not necessarily in lock step.

For every quarter percent Fed rate hike, the income from an annuity might increase by 1.5%. The reason for this multiplier impact is fairly complex and varies by annuity carrier. In its simplest form (which I applied many years ago) the interest rate yield curve on the carrier’s investment was built into the pricing for the life of the annuity and not for a single year.

So, should you wait to buy your annuity until all the predicted Fed hikes have been put in place? Considered in a vacuum, you would do that. But the real world presents variables, such as stock market performance, that should cause you to temper such definite action.

As I wrote during a past stock market dive, ups and downs are unpredictable. Sometimes they’re tied to inflation, interest rates and other economic events; other times a correction might be blamed on pandemics, war and natural disasters. The best response is to create a long-term plan for retirement income that will largely protect your income against negative shocks — but that can also be adjusted to current circumstances.

In other words, maybe the rate hikes will slow the economy and cause a correction in markets. Your increase in income from annuity payments might soften the blow.

Timing Is Everything

Like many others, I advocate that you never try to time the market. In consultation with an adviser, and considering the many possibilities, you might decide you will add annuity payments to your income. At the same time, you might decide to make several purchases spread over a year or more.

A well-prepared plan for retirement income will let you choose from many scenarios that you design. It will also help you choose a mix of income sources to ensure that your risk is spread over many investment types, both safe and a little risky. We want your savings to produce enough income to last the rest of your life and meet your legacy and other goals.

If making all those decisions sounds complicated, I also consistently advise consumers to develop their plans with the help of professionals. At Go2Income, we can provide you with a complimentary personalized plan (opens in new tab) that delivers both a high starting income and growing lifetime income, as well as long-term savings.

This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Jerry Golden, Investment Adviser Representative
President, Golden Retirement Advisors Inc.

Jerry Golden is the founder and CEO of Golden Retirement Advisors Inc. (opens in new tab) He specializes in helping consumers create retirement plans that provide income that cannot be outlived. Find out more at Go2income.com (opens in new tab), where consumers can explore all types of income annuity options, anonymously and at no cost.