What Is a Single Premium Immediate Annuity (SPIA)?

Rachel Cautero
Should you use a single premium immediate annuity?

Whether you’re a seasoned investor or just getting your feet wet, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of an annuity. This financial product doles out regular payments for a set amount of time to purchasers who invest a lump sum upfront. However, there are many different types of annuities. A single premium immediate annuity (SPIA), takes your funds and turns them into guaranteed payments. Read on to learn more about SPIAs, including their pros and cons, before deciding if it’s the right one for you and your financial situation.

Single Premium Immediate Annuities: The Basics

Like other types of annuities, a single premium immediate annuity (SPIA) is a contract between an investor and an insurance company. It’s designed to supplement retirement income. However, with a SPIA, the annuity purchaser invests a large lump cash sum upfront and begins receiving payouts either immediately or within a year. This means SPIAs skip the accumulation phase and go directly to the annuitization phase. They’re also known as immediate annuities and income annuities.

Similar to an indexed annuity, SPIAs also earn interest that can be fixed, variable or based on market performance. SPIAs are highly personalized, too. This means that you get to choose the type of interest rate, frequency and duration of your annuitization payouts when you buy into it.

Investing In a SPIA

Should you use a single premium immediate annuity?

To invest in a SPIA, you’ll need a lump sum of cash. This will be used to purchase the annuity from an insurance company. You’ll then select the type of interest rate (fixed or variable), along with the duration and frequency of annuitization payouts. The latter can be monthly, quarterly or annually.

The lump sum can come from pre-tax funds, such as a 401(k), or it can be from money that’s already been taxed. Of course, whether or not that money has already been taxed will determine if your payouts are subject to income tax. Regardless, you’ll be required to pay taxes on interest earned.

Benefits and Potential Drawbacks

Like many annuities, there are both pros and cons that come with buying into a SPIA. This type of annuity provides a steady, predictable stream of income in retirement, plus tax-deferred growth. SPIAs don’t always have a clearly stated account fee. Instead they’re often worked into the interest rate. This could be seen as a benefit and a drawback depending on the type of investor.

If you’re really worried about your annuity payments throughout the course of your retirement years, consider a cost of living adjustment (COLA) rider to go along with your SPIA. As the name suggests, this rider will increase your annuity payments in tandem with inflation.

One drawback of this type of annuity is the potential loss of control over your funds. If you don’t have a large amount of money saved, it may not be smart to invest in an annuity. You might not be able to access that money should you need it either. Remember, annuities as a whole are relatively illiquid. If you spring for a fixed annuity, you also run the risk of your interest rate not keeping pace with inflation. This means your money might not earn enough. And if you have a variable interest rate, you might compromise your returns or even your annuity principal.

As is the case with all other annuities, the success of your investment can depend wholly on the financial health of the insurance company backing it.

The Bottom Line

Should you use a single premium immediate annuity?

Single premium immediate annuities may be a good choice for those who have a large amount of money saved. They could invest in a SPIA and begin the annuitization process and receive payments immediately. SPIA holders can also choose fixed or variable interest rates, and elect the frequency of disbursements. However, a SPIA might not be right for every investor. Consider all of your options first so that you find the right investments for your financial situation.

Tips for Investors

  • Like other annuities, a SPIA is a contract between the annuity holder and an insurance company. This can determine the fate of your investment. Remember, an annuity is only as valuable as the insurance company backing it.
  • Take the time to consider all of your investment options if you have a large lump sum of cash. An annuity might be the right fit, but there are other ways to invest. Start by analyzing your risk tolerance and then figure out the best way to diversify your portfolio.
  • If you’re not sure whether a SPIA is the right investment vehicle for you, consider working with a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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