Fixed Index Annuities are contracts between the annuitant and an insurance company in which the insurance company promises to credit interest based on the performance of a certain stock market index. Fixed Index Annuities have an inbuilt capital protection feature, so your principal will remain safe even if the index goes down.
Annuities are complex products, and many advisors try to missell them without properly understanding the buyer’s needs. Thus, you must educate yourself on these products and not solely depend upon the annuity agent’s high-pressure sales pitch.
This article discusses an in-depth review of the Allianz 360 Fixed Indexed Annuity. Allianz 360 is a deferred, fixed-indexed annuity that may be a suitable option if you are looking for lifetime income benefit, the safety of principal, a premium bonus, and enhanced withdrawal options. After extensive research and due diligence, I have provided an in-depth and unbiased analysis of this plan.
The review of the Allianz 360 Fixed Indexed Annuity will be broken into multiple subcategories:
- Product Description
- Rates and Costs Associated with the Allianz 360 Fixed Indexed Annuity
- What Makes This Product Stand Out?
- What I Don’t Like
- Company Details
Product Description - Allianz 360 Fixed Indexed Annuity
The Allianz 360 is a Fixed Indexed Annuity (FIA) plan that offers the annuitant (annuity investor) an opportunity to earn a market index-linked return without having to incur the risk of market downside. This is a suitable plan for people who are approaching retirement and aim to grow and protect their retirement savings. This plan is also suitable for people who are looking for a premium bonus, enhanced guaranteed lifetime income, or plan to leave a legacy for their loved ones, in addition to protecting and growing their retirement savings.
Let’s have a look at the high-level fine print of Allianz 360 Fixed Indexed Annuity, and then we will discuss each point in detail.
|Product Name||Allianz 360|
|Issuing Company||Allianz Life Insurance Company|
|AM Best Rating||A+ (1st of 13 ratings)|
|Withdrawal Charge Period(s)||10 years|
|Maximum Issue Age||80 Years|
|Minimum Initial Purchase Amount||$20,000|
|Surrender Charge Schedule||10-year: 10.00%, 10.00%, 10.00%, 8.75%, 7.50%, 6.25%, 5.00%, 3.75%, 2.50%, 1.25%, 0%|
|Crediting Period and Strategies||1-year, 2-year, 5-year point-to-point with participation rate, caps, or spread; monthly-sum with cap, or 1-year fixed with interest rate guaranteed.|
|Plan Types||IRA, Roth IRA, Nonqualified Account, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, 401(a)|
|Indexes||S&P 500 Index, BlackRock iBLD Claria Index, Bloomberg US Dynamic Balance Index II, PIMCO Tactical Balanced Index|
|Free Withdrawals||10% of the annuity’s Accumulated Value; per year|
|Death Benefit||Upon the annuitant’s death, the beneficiary can either choose from (i) Accumulated Value (Lumpsum) or (ii) Annual Payments (with premium and interest bonus)|
|Riders||Paid Rider - 360 Benefit - Enhanced Income Benefit and Withdrawal Rider|
|Surrender Value||Greater of Accumulated Value (less any withdrawal charges/MVA) and the Minimum Guaranteed Contract Value|
How does the Allianz 360 Fixed Indexed Annuity policy work?
Any annuitant (maximum age at the time of policy issue: 80) can purchase the Allianz 360 Fixed Indexed Annuity with a minimum initial purchase amount of $20,000, and in return, he will earn market index interest credits (calculated through a formula that we will discuss shortly), credited as per the chosen crediting period. Apart from the regular crediting period, various events may trigger earnings credit: On free withdrawals, for a long-term care event or terminal illness or injury event, or when a death benefit is payable.
As soon as the annuitant makes a premium payment, an “Accumulation Account” is created, equal to your total premium paid plus 125% of any interest earned from your chosen allocations, less withdrawals, charges for any optional riders you select, any applicable allocation charges and surrender charges, and adjusted by any Market Value Adjustments (MVAs).
In most other annuities, there is no interest multiplier (like 125% in this annuity); however, it should be noted that, in reality, it might not turn out as good as it sounds:
360 Benefit Rider: This is a paid rider that you need to take with this annuity for a 125% interest credit. The cost of this rider in the first year is 1.3%. After the first contract year, the annual benefit can change (although it will never be greater than 3%).
Now, this 1.3% and 125% is not as straightforward as it seems. This 1.3% is deducted from your contract’s accumulated value, while the 125% is calculated on interest credits.
Let’s take an example - Suppose your accumulated value in Year 1 is $100,000. During the first year, your index strategy earned an interest of 5%. During the second year: 7%, third year: 0%; and fourth year: 6%. Let’s see how this turns out.
|Assuming No Interest Bonus||Assuming 125% Interest Bonus and 1.3% Rider Charge|
|Year||Accumulated Value||Net Interest Earned||Accumulated Value||Net Interest Earned|
|1||$100,000||$5,000||$100,000||($5,000 x 125%) - ($100,000 x 1.3%) = $4,950|
So, the point here is it is not necessary that an interest bonus will always be beneficial as you are already paying some cost upfront.
Low Cap Rates: I found that Allianz offers lower cap rates when compared to competitors. So, in some way, the interest bonus can just be considered as compensation for the lower cap rates that you are agreeing upon.
Interest Indexing Options
The Allianz 360 Fixed Indexed Annuity offers the annuitant to choose from one or more of the four indexes to determine his earnings crediting formula. Each index offers multiple indexing strategies, and you can choose multiple crediting strategies based on your preference. The plan also offers a fixed-rate guaranteed interest strategy to choose from. We will discuss each available index briefly:
- S&P 500 Index: The S&P 500 index is one of the most popular and oldest indexes in the world. It tracks 500 large-cap publicly traded stocks listed in the United States. It is a reliable index and has often succeeded in the test of time. It is very important to note that the Allianz 360 plan consists of cap/participation rates for the S&P 500 index, meaning that you will be credited only a part of the S&P 500 return to your annuity. These rates tend to change frequently; I will discuss more on the rates shortly.
- Bloomberg US Dynamic Balance Index II: The Bloomberg US Dynamic Balance Index II reflects the performance of an index strategy that uses the S&P 500 Index and the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate RBI Series 1 Index. The S&P 500 Index is a well-established benchmark for U.S. equity markets. The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate RBI Series 1 Index is designed to track the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index —a well-established benchmark for the U.S. bond markets. The Bloomberg US Dynamic Balance Index II was created in August 2015 and targets a low annualized realized volatility, which limits the return potential of the index.
- PIMCO Tactical Balanced Index: Incorporating a rules-based asset allocation strategy, PIMCO Tactical Balanced Index is designed to provide dynamic exposure to stocks and bonds within a quantitative framework. It aims to provide a stable risk profile through constantly evolving equity and interest rate market environments.
- BlackRock iBLD Claria Index: The BlackRock iBLD Claria® Index is designed to provide exposure to a diversified global equity portfolio that targets volatility at a predetermined level. The Index uses a dynamic process whereby it is rebalanced each day to adjust allocations between the Equity and Fixed income baskets. Using historical 20-day and 40-day volatility measures, Index capital moves from the equity basket to the fixed-income basket or back as historical volatility deviates from the target. The Index is constructed from iShares® ETFs.
Note: In addition to allocating the funds in the following indexes, the annuitant also has the option to allocate funds at a fixed interest. These Fixed Rates tend to change from time to time. The Fixed Value Rate at the time of writing this article was 3.00%, which I feel is low compared to other plans that offer similar annuities. This rate may change from time to time and can vary from state to state. You can check the latest rates on the company’s website.
Rates and Costs associated with the Allianz 360 Fixed Index Annuity
The earnings crediting formula
The earnings crediting formula is the most important part of this annuity discussion. It is important to know that we don’t simply get the index return credited to our annuity. There are a few participation rates, caps, and spreads that the company has in place that affect our earnings. The formula to calculate the earnings credited is:
- For Strategies with Caps: Index return over a given crediting period with a maximum potential of earning the cap rate
- For Strategies with Participation: (Participation Rate % X Index Return)
- For strategies with Spreads: Index return less the spread percentage
Let’s have a look at the Allianz 360 Fixed Index Annuity rate sheet (as of 08/01/2023) to understand how the earnings are determined.
From the above rate chart, you will notice that there are 18 interest crediting options (1 fixed and 17 indexed). Let’s have a look at different terms that are used by Allianz in the Allianz 360 chart rate:
- Participation Rate (PR): The participation rate describes the annuitant’s participation percentage in a return of an index. For example, suppose the participation rate is 120%, and the index returned 5% over the agreed time. In that case, the annuitant will be eligible for 120% of the return, i.e., 6%.
- Spread: Spread is the percentage of the index return that the insurance company will deduct from your interest calculation. For example, if the spread in the contract is 2% and the index returned 8%, you will be eligible for the return minus the spread (8% - 2%), i.e., 6% of the return.
- Cap Rates: It means at what rate your interest-earning capacity is capped. For example, if an index returned 12% but the contract’s cap rate is 6%. In this situation, the annuitant will be eligible for an interest credit of 6% only. It doesn’t matter how much the index goes above the cap rate; the maximum interest that can be earned is the cap rate.
- Monthly Sum: The indexed interest rate for a term year is based on monthly index changes. A monthly index change is determined by comparing the closing index value at the end of that month to the closing value at the beginning of that month. A positive monthly change in a term year is adjusted by applying the monthly cap for that term year. The indexed interest rate for a term year is the sum of the 12 adjusted monthly index changes for that term year. The credited rate will never be less than 0%.
- Fixed Account Rates: If you opt for a fixed account rate, you simply earn the fixed rates for a particular period specified by the company before your policy begins. These rates usually tend to be low as compared to other fixed avenues, such as CDs and MYGAs, so you should avoid fixed rates in a general scenario. The 1-year fixed rate on this policy at the time of writing this article was 3.40%., which is not that good compared to other FIA’s fixed-rate offerings.
Interest Bonus - We discussed the 360 Benefit (for a 1.3% annual charge) briefly, which offers an interest bonus rate of 125%. So, if your selected indexing strategy’s interest comes out to be 6%, your account will be credited 125% of 6%, i.e., 7.5%.
In my opinion, the S&P 500, Bloomberg US Dynamic Balance Index II, and the PIMCO Tactical Balanced are ideal indexes to choose from. S&P 500 because it offers a decent cap rate on the monthly-sum option (not the best out there, but still okay), and others because they offer an uncapped strategy with slightly higher participation rates. However, it must be kept in mind that except for the S&P 500, all these indexes are volatility control indexes which limits the true return earning potential of the index. Even the S&P 500 Futures Daily Risk Control 5% Index is a volatility control index and should not be confused with the S&P 500.
Out of the following strategies, I would go with the annual and multi-year point-to-point strategies with participation rates, as it offers higher participation rates. It should be noted that Allianz offers a lower cap rate and high spread rates; Thus, I would not prefer strategies with caps and spreads for Allianz annuities. Also, I feel that, in general, the Allianz 360 annuity might be a decent annuity only if you consider its enhanced withdrawal benefit (I will discuss it shortly). For the regular accumulation account, there are other players, such as Athene and F&G, that offers better growth opportunity.
Index Lock Feature
With both annual point-to-point and MY point-to-point with participation rate crediting methods, you have the ability to manually lock in an index value on any of your individual indexed interest allocation(s) one time at any point during the crediting period.
You may have a high chance of missing out on some of the one-off index gains between the two earnings crediting points. This is where the Optional Free Lock-in features come in handy.
Generally, Index gains are automatically locked in at the end of the strategy term, but this feature gives you an option to manually lock in index gains once per strategy term. It means you can lock in index gains when you feel that index is peaked. The following explains the feature graphically.
In this hypothetical example, the index value rose to 111 in month 18, at which time the decision was made to lock in the index value. The beginning index value (100) is compared to the locked index value (111), resulting in a change of 11%. If the participation rate were 80%, the indexed interest for this crediting period would be 8.8% (80% of 11%). By using Index Lock, you are able to lock in the day’s ending index value and be assured a positive index credit for the crediting period - no matter what happens during the remaining months.
This free built-in feature is one of the most liked features of Allianz Fixed Indexed Annuities.
As another option alongside the manual Index Lock capability, Auto Lock lets you set upper and lower index interest rate percentage targets during each crediting period. The index interest rate percentage target set will be equal to the amount of indexed interest earned after the participation rate is applied.
Should your needs change unexpectedly, and you need to take an excess withdrawal (a withdrawal that is above the free withdrawal amount available in a given contract year), you may be entitled to access additional monies; although certain charges and penalties may apply. Any amount withdrawn in excess of the remaining free withdrawal amount is subject to a Surrender Charge. Below is the Surrender Charge schedule for Allianz 360 Fixed Index Annuity.
|Surrender Charge %||10%||10%||10%||8.75%||7.50%||6.25%||5.00%||3.75%||2.50%||1.25%||0%|
In case you need to surrender your policy, a Market Value Adjustment (MVA) will be applied to the portion of the withdrawal or surrender that exceeds the free withdrawal amount during the withdrawal charge period.
Note that this surrender charge schedule is only valid for the Allianz 360 Fixed Index Annuity product for select states. For complete details about each state, you may visit the product’s brochure here.
The surrender charge of Allianz 360 Fixed Index Annuity is pretty much in line with all the other annuity issuers.
The Allianz 360 Fixed Index Annuity levies no annual contract or administrative fees.
Your beneficiary(s) can receive the greater of the accumulation value, guaranteed minimum value, or cumulative withdrawal amount as a lump sum (this option doesn't include any bonuses).
The Allianz 360 FIA comes with a paid rider - 360 Benefit Rider. The Allianz 360 Benefit rider comes at an annual cost of 1.3% of the accumulated value, and offers three additional features:
1. Interest Bonus
The 360 Benefit provides an interest bonus that results in a credit of 125% of any fixed and/or indexed interest rate applied to your contract. This bonus continues for both fixed and indexed interest allocations until you surrender your contract for a lump sum or take income, either as lifetime withdrawals or as annuity payments. We have discussed this in detail in an earlier section.
2. Increasing Income Withdrawal Percentage
Another key feature of the 360 Benefit is the increasing income withdrawal percentage. Starting at age 40, the contract holder has the opportunity to increase their income withdrawal percentage every year they hold the contract before starting income withdrawals. This increase continues until lifetime withdrawals begin.
This feature is designed to reward contract holders for delaying their income withdrawals. The longer you wait to start withdrawals, the higher the percentage of your contract value you can withdraw each year. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who anticipate needing more income in later years of retirement or those who have other sources of income and can afford to delay withdrawals from their annuity.
3. Lifetime Income Withdrawal Options
The 360 Benefit offers two lifetime income withdrawal options, providing flexibility to meet different income needs in retirement.
- Level Income: This option provides predictable, dependable income for life. The withdrawal percentage is fixed at the time income withdrawals begin and does not change. This option may be a good choice for individuals who value stability and predictability in their income stream. Knowing exactly how much income you'll receive each month can provide peace of mind and make budgeting easier.
- Increasing Income: This option also provides income for life, but with an opportunity for payment increases. The withdrawal percentage starts smaller but has the potential to increase each crediting period based on the interest rate credited to your allocation options in your contract. This option can be attractive for individuals concerned about inflation or increasing expenses in retirement. While the initial income may be lower than with the Level Income option, the potential for income increases can help maintain purchasing power over time.
The below schedule shows lifetime income withdrawal percentages (as a percent of the annuity’s accumulation value) for both single and joint plan, for level and increasing options, respectively. Remember that you can start lifetime withdrawals only at age 50 or older.
Is the 360 Benefit rider an ideal rider? - Yes and no! Although the rider offers these benefits, it comes at a cost, which is on the higher side. However, if accessing your money frequently is your priority, this might be a suitable option for you.
What makes this product stand out?
Although Allianz 360 Annuity might not offer the best income-earning options, it still offers some features that not many fixed-indexed annuities offer. The ones that I like the most are
- Multiple Index Options: The Allianz 360 Annuity offers the annuitant to select from four broad market indexes.
- Free Manual and Auto Lock-in Feature: As this is a Fixed Income Annuity, you are naturally protected from market downturns. But you may have a high chance of missing out on some of the one-off index gains between the two earnings crediting points. This is where the Optional Lock-in features come in handy. Generally, Index gains are automatically locked in at the end of the strategy term, but this feature gives you an option to manually lock in index gains once per strategy term. It means you can lock in index gains when you feel that index is peaked.
- Interest Bonus on 360 Benefit Rider
- Option for enhanced and increasing lifetime withdrawals
- No Annual Contract, Mortality & Expense, or Administrative Fees
What I don’t like
I don’t like a few things about the Allianz 360 Fixed Index Annuity. Most of them are those that limit the income-earning capacity of an annuitant.
- Accumulated Value Option is Not Lucrative in Terms of Interest Earning Potential
- Indexes Offered Come with Volatility Control Mechanism: It must be kept in mind that except for the S&P 500, all the indexes offered by the Allianz 360 are volatility control indexes that limit the true return earning potential of the index.
- Low Realistic Returns: You might have known by now that this is a conservative policy that focuses more on income protection rather than income growth. As a conservative policy, the realistic return expectations are pretty average. It is not the best policy for someone who is looking only for growth and accumulation.
- Paid Rider: The main highlights of the policy (interest bonus, enhanced withdrawals, etc.) are only available with the 360 Benefit option, which is a paid rider costing 1.3% of your accumulated value annually.
You must always keep in mind that, unlike CDs, annuities are not guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or any other federal insurance agency. An annuity's "guarantee" is only as strong as the insurance company that issues the annuity, so it is always important to assess the issuing company before buying an annuity.
Allianz Life Company
Allianz Life Company has been in business since 1896. It is a subsidiary of Allianz SE, one of the oldest financial services and insurance companies, and has been in the business for over 13 decades. It has been one of the largest providers of fixed and fixed-indexed annuities in the US for many years and has regularly been in the top ten Fixed Indexed Annuity Sales. Allianz SE is a Fortune 500 company ranking #47.
It is rated as follows by the rating agencies:
|AM Best||A+ (1st of 13 ratings)|
|Moody’s||A1 (5th of 21 ratings)|
|S&P||AA (3rd of 21 ratings)|
Allianz Life Company has managed to maintain decent ratings for many years. It is considered to be strong and stable financially. As of year-end 2021, some of the other financial highlights for Allianz SE include its:
- EUR 12.2 billion in total sales / direct written premium
- EUR 41.1 billion of total stockholders’ equity
- EUR 5.2 billion in net operating income
- EUR 129.5 billion in total assets
Thus, going by the operating history and financial numbers, we can safely gauge that you can trust your savings with Allianz Annuity Life Company.
With the advancement in healthcare and technology, the average American today is living longer than ever. So, it’s very important to have a stream of income that can grow safely and steadily and have the ability to provide a guaranteed income during the retirement years. This not only helps you to mitigate the risk of outliving your income but also ensures that you continue to live a decent life even in your retirement.
The Allianz 360 Fixed Indexed Annuity is a decent product when it comes to enhanced withdrawals, offering a few unique features like interest bonuses and Index-locking. However, it may not be the ideal fixed-indexed policy if you are looking for income growth and lumpsum withdrawal. It has a low-income earning potential, with the indexing options having low cap and participation rates.
As Allianz is one of the strongest life insurance companies in the world, it may prove to be an ideal policy for a very conservative annuitant who is looking for income protection above anything.