Do you have a lump sum of money and you’re wondering how to get the most out of it? Well, one option could be a CD. But another option could be an annuity. Have you ever wondered what the differences are, what the pros and cons are of each of these products?

Recently, one of our clients inherited a lump sum of money from her mom. However, she wasn’t sure what to do with the money, she knew that banks were paying a reasonable rate of return on short-term CDs right now.

For example, a six-month CD may be paying out 6%. So naturally, she questioned, Is this a good deal or is there something better for my situation? And to that, we brought to the table the question of a fixed annuity.

You see, the bank was actually crediting them 6% for a six-month CD. Why was the bank paying that much for a short-term CD? And the answer is really simple. If and when interest rates go back down, the bank doesn’t want to be caught with a long-term commitment at a higher interest rate. So the bank’s given themselves some wiggle room, meaning a short duration to get out of the contract and this is because banks generally don’t keep the money around. 

When a depositor puts money in the bank, the bank doesn’t let it sit there. They turn it over. And how do they turn it over? They turn around and they loan it to somebody. And a bank will generally loan a dollar that you put on deposit 8 to 10 times. Going out, coming back, going out, coming back, and they just rinse and repeat.

So because the bank doesn’t have the money on hand, they have to sort of suck you in so they don’t get caught with long-term interest rate risk. The bank is offering a much higher rate for a short duration so that they can keep turning it over. And more importantly, when the interest rates go down, the bank isn’t going to be caught with a long-term commitment.

Let’s contrast that with an annuity, specifically a single premium deferred annuity. This is a fixed annuity that locks in the interest rate over, let’s say, three, four, or five years. Because let’s face it, these products are actually paying out similar interest rates to the bank’s CD. But generally, the rates will be higher for a short-term annuity and lower for a longer-term annuity.

In other words, short-term interest rates are actually higher than long-term interest rates. And consequently, what’s happening is insurance companies as well as banks are incentivizing people to take shorter duration annuities because the interest rates are higher. So this is how these financial institutions sort of limit their interest rate risk.

But this goes back to the original question, why should this client take an annuity versus a CD? The annuity might be paying 5% whereas the CD is paying 6%. What’s up with that?

And the answer is simple. You’re locking in a reasonable rate of return for an extended period of time. Would you rather have 5% over three years? Or would you rather have 6% over only six months?

Basically with the CD at the bank. The bank is transferring that interest rate risk back to you. So ultimately, what happens is people say, yeah, well, but after six months, I could renew it at 6% again. Well, maybe you can. Maybe you can’t. It depends on what the interest rate environment is at that time. But here’s the point.

You know, three years ago, if somebody came in and said, hey, I’m looking for a fixed annuity, they might be getting two and a half, maybe 3% if they were lucky. Now they’re getting close to 5%. So they could walk in for five years at an interest rate that’s like 60% higher than what the rate used to be three years ago. That’s a pretty good deal. Again, you’re locking in for a longer period of time.

Now, of course, there’s this other issue, which is do you need access to that money? And if you do, then this may not be the appropriate way to address this issue. But a huge benefit of an annuity versus a bank CD is it’s tax deferred.

Once you put your money in that annuity, it’s growing on a tax-deferred basis, meaning it’s not taxed until you access the money. Once you do access it, the interest will be taxed as ordinary income. However, with a bank CD, your interest is taxed all along the way. And that’s something a lot of people don’t consider.

So really with an annuity, you make the decision as to when you want to pay the tax. You could take an annual distribution of interest only and therefore pay the tax at that time. You can defer the interest each and every year until the annuity is finished and then pay the cumulative tax at that time. Or, you can roll over that annuity into another fixed annuity and defer the tax even still. But, the key is you have the choice.

Now, one other thing to consider, not specifically for this client, but if you’re under age 59 and a half. Taxes aren’t the only thing to consider. If you access money in an annuity before age 59 and a half, that money may also be subject to the 10% penalty. Because these products are structured for retirement purposes.

So let’s go back to the original question. Should they be doing a CD or an annuity?

Well, it depends. It depends on their situation and how they plan on using that money. And it depends on how much control they want. So the moral of the story is, like always, it’s not only about comparing interest rates. We have to look specifically at your situations, your goals, your objectives, and how you plan on using the money.

If you have a lump sum of money you’d like to discuss a way to earn a reasonable rate of return and avoid risk in doing so. Hop on our calendar for our Free Strategy Session and we’d be happy to speak to you about your specific situation.

And remember, it’s not how much money you make it’s how much money you keep that really matters.