Annuities starting to improve?

We appear to have witnessed a small upturn in annuity rates. In June the best open market annuity for a male aged 65, with £100,000 seeking a single life, level income with a 5 year guarantee rose to 5.35% or £5,350 in April and May the rate was 5.09%…. technically a modest increase of £260 a year in this example, but equivalent to an increase of 5.1% (Ok it is starting from a very low point).


Well, gilt yields have increased modestly too, these essentially drive annuity rates, along with mortality rates (as well as other health and geographic factors). The 15 year gilt yield bottomed at 1.76% in February this year, but has slowing started to increase. All this suggests a possible interest rate rise is probably coming.

Back in the day…

I wonder what your feelings are to this news. In October 1990 the same £100,000 for a 65-year-old male, also buying a single-life level annuity with a 5 year guarantee would have received an annuity rate of 15.64% or £15,640 a year (nearly three times as much). At the time the 15 year gilt yield was 11.74%. Gilt yields have historically always been less than annuity rates, tracking a very similar path but 2-3% less.

Of course to buy an annuity in October 1990 you would be born in 1925, the year Clara Bow starred in “The Plastic Age” and you would now be 89. Most men born in 1925 do not live to 89, (and some may have fought in WW2… just, being 20 when it ended) but for those that have survived until 2015 the average man would live another 4.32 years according to the ONS. Some will obviously live longer, some less (hence it being an average figure). If you are lucky enough to have a 15.64% annuity rate that started in October 1990 you would have already had £400,384 by the end of June 2015 from your £100,000. Living until the average 93.3 would provide a total income of £458,252… which really isn’t too bad is it.

What about inflation?

Since 1990 until the end of last year (2014) the average rate of RPI was 3.1%. As a result anyone with a level annuity has seen the effective value reduce by 3.1% a year (assuming that you believe the RPI data and buy the same goods and services – which is a significant point).  Of course £15,640 today is £15,640, but if we back date this to 1990, its worth the equivalent of £32,746, in other words a little more than twice as much…. or to put it another way £15,640 is worth about half what it was worth in the space of about 25 years.

Planning your retirement income

If only life were as simple as buying the best deals. In practice planning your retirement income is a fairly involved task, there are lots of choices – loads in fact. How much income you need and your thoughts about inflation are part of the discussion. The new pension freedoms make this a more valuable discussion than simply having to buy an income and living with the consequences, the downside is that greater choice, brings greater complexity and possibility.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email