Regular listeners of the Motley Fool Answers podcast will know that Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp are full of excellent investing and personal finance advice. But for this episode -- which they are dedicating totally to listener questions -- they've called in reinforcements: Ross Anderson, a certified financial planner from Motley Fool Wealth Management, a sister company of The Motley Fool.
In this segment, they weigh in on a former U.S. serviceman who's looking for the right annuity to invest the funds from his Thrift Savings Plan -- like a 401(k) but for federal employees. However, annuities are designed to solve a problem he doesn't have, and will create others that he doesn't yet have.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Feb. 27, 2018.
Alison Southwick: The next question comes from Nick. "I have reached 62, so retirement is looming. I have more than $200,000 in a government TSP retirement account. I'm shopping for annuities and am befuddled as to whether this would be in our [my and my wife's] best interest. I receive $41,000 per year as a retiree from the U.S. Air Force and I'll receive $11,000 a year from the VA when I retire, plus I'll get $17,000 a year from Social Security if I retire next January. Any info you can share would be most appreciated."
Ross Anderson: Nick, the thing that's toughest about doing this show for me is that I don't get to ask follow-up questions, because I have quite a few.
Southwick: We ask questions. He thought we have answers. No!
Anderson: I normally get to pick at these types of things before I give a real answer. The real question, here, is what are you trying to accomplish. It sounds like you've got a number of pretty solid income sources between the military retirement, Social Security, and all these income streams.
If you're feeling like that is not enough income on an annualized basis, an annuity is another way to potentially add some income in a guaranteed way, but you're losing a lot of liquidity and you're losing a lot of flexibility when you do that. I would be very careful before you make that sort of a choice, because that's almost an irreversible choice if you're going to invest all that money into an annuity, and then you'll have all your assets in annual income mode, and nothing to pull from, potentially, if there is maybe an emergency, or the roof on the house... Well, we'll keep going back to that.
Southwick: A classic.
Anderson: I really worry about whether or not I would lock that money up into an annuity where you don't have as much flexibility with it. That being said, if guaranteed income is the goal, there might be an appropriate case to be made, but I'd be very careful with that.
And zoom out to look at what you are really trying to solve, and then find a strategy that supports the goal, vs. looking at the tool, first.
Southwick: It sounds like he's got almost $70,000 in guaranteed income a year.
Robert Brokamp: Yes, I'll go even harder than you on this and say he's got enough guaranteed income right now. I don't think an annuity is going to be the best bet because he's got a lot of guaranteed income. But in terms of liquid assets, $200,000 for someone who's about to retire is not a whole lot.
Anderson: It's only a couple of roofs.
Brokamp: That's true. So, I would keep that in more liquid investments, without being able to ask him a question.
Anderson: Yes, it's true. Some people are truly discomforted by market fluctuations, and if that's the situation we're in that we have to have guarantees, maybe an annuity could make some sense, but other than that, I agree with you. I wouldn't do it.