logo

/

Aspida Annuity Reviews

Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity Review

bio-pic

byNikhil Bhauwala

Wed Feb 21 2024

Author @ AdvisorWorld.com Inc
Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity Review

Introduction

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 Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity. Synergy Choice Income is a deferred, fixed-indexed annuity that may be a good option if you are looking for a fixed-indexed annuity that offers tax-deferred growth and downside protection, allowing you to create a stream of lifetime income that you can’t outlive. This annuity offers some good indexing options, which have the ability to provide reasonably expected returns in the market. After extensive research and due diligence, I have provided an in-depth and unbiased analysis of this plan.

The review of the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity will be broken into multiple subcategories:

  • Product Description
  • Rates and Costs Associated with the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity
  • Riders
  • What Makes This Product Stand Out?
  • What I Don’t Like
  • Company Details
  • Conclusion

Product Description - Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity

The Aspida Synergy Choice Income 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 looking for a fixed-indexed annuity that offers tax-deferred growth and downside protection with a core focus on generating a stream of lifetime income they can’t outlive.

Let’s have a look at the high-level fine print of the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity, and then we will discuss each point in detail.

Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Index Annuity rate sheet (as of November 2023)
Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Index Annuity rate sheet (as of November 2023)

How does the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity policy work?

Any annuitant (maximum age at the time of policy issue: 80) can purchase the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity with a minimum initial purchase amount of $25,000, and in return, he will earn market index returns (calculated through a formula that we will discuss shortly), credited as per the chosen crediting period. Apart from the regular crediting period, there are various events that 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. However, the principal selling proposition of the product is not its potential for interest growth, but the guaranteed lifetime income payments it offers, a feature that will be explored in greater detail in a subsequent section of this review.

The Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity offers the annuitant to choose from one or more of the three indexes (S&P 500 Index, Goldman Sachs Grand Prix Index, and Citi Aria Index) to determine their earnings crediting formula. The S&P 500 index has four strategies, and the GS Grand Prix and Citi Aria Index have two strategies each. The plan also offers a fixed-rate guaranteed interest strategy to choose from, making a total of 9 strategy options. We will discuss each available index briefly:

  1. 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, similar to most other annuities, the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity offers the S&P 500 index with par rates, and caps in place, meaning that your interest-earning capacity is capped. These rates change frequently; I will discuss more on the rates shortly.
  2. Goldman Sachs Grand Prix Index: The Goldman Sachs Grand Prix Index is a dynamic financial index that balances investments between U.S. technology equity futures and U.S. Treasury futures. Utilizing market anomalies and calendar-based signals, the index aims to offer exposure to these two asset classes while maintaining a target volatility of 4.5%. While these volatility controls may result in less fluctuation in rates of return when compared with indexes that don’t use them, they also may reduce the overall rate of return compared with those other indexes. 
  3. Citi Aria Index: The Citi Aria Index is an equity-focused financial index that dynamically allocates its investments on a monthly basis between two Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) underlyings: the Citi Global ESG Index and the Citi US Tech ESG Index. The Citi Aria Index's exposure includes U.S. Tech ESG equity via the Citi US Tech ESG Index, and a global developed markets basket comprising 55% Citi US Large Cap ESG Index and 45% iShares ESG Aware MSCI EAFE ETF. The Citi Aria Index is aimed at achieving a 20% volatility target level. Additionally, it incorporates a performance control mechanism that caps monthly returns at +4% and floors them at -8%.

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 for the 10-year withdrawal charge period at the time of writing this article was 2.75%. You can view the latest rates of this annuity here.

Rates and Costs associated with the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed 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 rates, caps, and triggers that the company has in place that affect our earnings. These rates tend to change over time, and the updated rates can always be checked on the company’s website.

The formula to calculate the earnings credited is:

  • For Strategies with Participation: (Participation Rate % X Index Return)
  • For Strategies with Caps: Index return over a given crediting period with a maximum potential of earning the cap rate

Let’s have a look at the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Index Annuity rate sheet (as of November 2023) to understand how the earnings are determined.

The first thing to note is that we have an option to choose between three indexes, and each index has multiple strategies. All in all, it gives us an option to allocate our contract to a maximum of 9 strategies (8 index-based and one fixed). The company displays three types of rates across all strategies. The index allocation rate (participation rate) and the cap rates are the most important.

  1. 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 150%, and the index returned 4% over the agreed time. In that case, the annuitant will be eligible for 150% of the return, i.e., 6%.
  2. 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.
  3. Fixed Interest Rate: If you opt for a declared strategy / 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/at par 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 2.75%.

You will notice that the cap rates and participation rates in the Aspida Synergy Choice Income annuity are quite low, while some of their other annuities, like Aspida Synergy Choice Max, offer one of the highest rates in the market. It is because this annuity’s core strength doesn’t lie in growth or accumulation but in its Guaranteed Lifetime Income Benefit (GLIB) rider, which provides relatively higher guaranteed lifetime income payments that you cannot outlive (unless you make excess withdrawals). So, it doesn’t make sense to opt for this annuity if your purpose is growth or accumulation. We will discuss the GLIB rider offered by this annuity shortly. 

Amongst these indexes, I would prefer to invest in the following strategy options because of the higher participation and/or cap rates:

  • S&P 500 2-year Point-to-point with Cap Rate
  • GS Grand Prix 2-year Point-to-point with Participation Rate

Surrender/Early Withdrawal Charge

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 the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity:

Benefit Base
Benefit Base

Market Value Adjustments - 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. The surrender charge schedule is different for the different tenures of annuities and also changes for some states. 

The surrender charge of the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity is in line with all the other annuity issuers.

Contract/Administrative Charge

The Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity does not impose any annual contract or administrative fees. However, it comes with a paid rider, detailed in the following section.

Riders

Guaranteed Lifetime Income Benefit Rider (GLIB RIder)

The most important part of this annuity discussion is the Guaranteed Lifetime Income Benefit (GLIB)  rider it comes with. This rider enables you to have a stream of guaranteed lifetime income payments that you cannot outlive.  

Firstly, an income base in the Aspida Synergy Choice Income annuity is set up as the foundation for calculating future guaranteed withdrawal amounts. A 32% Income Base Bonus provides you with an initial boost. 

The Income Base is used to determine your lifetime income withdrawal amount – the bigger the Income Base, the greater your income payment amount. Here’s how it works:

lifetime withdrawal percentage
lifetime withdrawal percentage

Each year, a simple interest roll-up rate of 12% is earned on the initial premium and added to

the Income Base. The interest continues to accrue for 10 years, or until the rider is activated.

During this phase, all withdrawals will reduce the Income Base and the annual simple interest

credits by the same percentage as the annuity’s Contract Value reduces. For example, withdrawing 10 percent from your Accumulated Value will reduce your Income Base by 10 percent too. 

Note that your rider’s Income Base is NOT the same as the annuity’s Account Value. The Account Value is available for withdrawal and is used to determine the Cash Surrender Value of your fixed-indexed annuity. On the other hand, think of the Income Base as a value that is used just to calculate your Lifetime Income Withdrawal amount. This value has no cash value or surrender value and cannot be withdrawn in a lump sum. The rider's charge is determined based on your Income Base; however, it is deducted from your account value.

Accessing your Lifetime Income Withdrawal

Your Lifetime Income Withdrawal depends on your income base at the time you start lifetime income withdrawals. Thus, the later you start your lifetime income withdrawals, the more your lifetime income withdrawal amount.

To calculate the Maximum Lifetime Income, the following formula is used:

Income Base at the time of first withdrawal * Lifetime Income Withdrawal Percentage

The lifetime income withdrawal percentage is influenced by the age at which you commence lifetime income withdrawals, as well as the choice between single-life or joint withdrawals. 

To illustrate with a hypothetical example, suppose a client invests $100,000 in this annuity and refrains from making withdrawals for ten years. 

The income base would ascend to $100,000 + $32,000 (32% Initial Boost) + $120,000 (12% Annual Simple Interest Credit for ten years) = $252,000

If the client is 70 years old when starting lifetime payments, with a 6.15% lifetime withdrawal rate, they would be entitled to receive 6.15% of $252,000, which amounts to $15,498 annually for the rest of their life. This holds true even if the account value falls to zero, provided the depletion is not a result of excessive withdrawals. The guaranteed withdrawal percentage is determined at the time the policy is initiated.

Cost of Rider: This rider incurs a pre-activation cost of 0.50% of the Income base and an annual post-activation rider cost of 1.50% of the income base, which is deducted from your account value.

In my assessment, this annuity rider appears favorable due to its initial and subsequent roll-up boosts. Nevertheless, it's worth noting that the associated rider charge is somewhat higher compared to other similar annuities

Also, as with most annuities, the Aspida Synergy Choice Income also has free in-built nursing home and terminal illness waivers.

Extended Care Waiver: After the first contract year, an annuitant can withdraw up to 100% of the contract’s accumulated value if he is confined to a Qualified nursing home for at least 90 consecutive days. No withdrawal charge or MVA applies if the owner qualifies for this benefit. Diagnosis must occur after the contract is issued, and written proof with supporting documentation is required from a qualified physician.

Terminal Illness Waiver: After the first contract year, an annuitant can withdraw up to 100% of the contract’s accumulated value if he is diagnosed with a terminal illness with a prognosis of 12 months or less. No withdrawal charge or MVA applies if the owner qualifies for this benefit. Diagnosis must occur after the contract is issued, and written proof with supporting documentation is required from a qualified physician.

What makes this product stand out?

The Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity offers a few features that make a favorable case for this annuity. The ones that I like the most are

  1. Income Base Initial and Roll-up Bonus: In addition to the beginning income base (the initial premium you put), the company credits a 32% initial bonus and a 12% roll-up bonus to your income base.
  2. No annual contract, mortality & expense, or administrative fees
  3. Free  Confinement and Terminal Illness Waiver Benefit
  4. Multiple Payout Options: Lumpsum or Annuitization option with Life Only, Life with Period Certain, Joint and Survivor Life, etc.

What I Don’t Like

This product is a decent product for people looking for growth and safety; still, there are some features that I believe could add more value for the annuitant. Some of the features that I don’t like about the policy are:

  1. Although the annuity offers good strategies on the S&P 500 Index, I don’t like the other two indexes that the company offers. These indexes have a volatility control mechanism that limits the overall return of the index. However, at the time of writing this article, the company is offering a good participation rate on those indexes to compensate for the low potential return.
  2. The GLIB rider cost is slightly on the higher side.
  3. I couldn’t find the Minimum Guaranteed Surrender Value (MGSV) rate on the marketing material of this annuity.

Company Details

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.

Aspida Life Insurance Company

Aspida Life Insurance Company, established in 2021, stands as a relatively new entrant in the life insurance and annuity market. It functions as a direct subsidiary of Aspida Holdings Ltd., which concentrates on offering retirement and reinsurance solutions and is backed by a leading global alternative investment manager, Ares Management Corporation. Aspida distinguishes itself by prioritizing the use of technology and agility to support its clients in realizing and safeguarding their aspirations.

It is rated as follows by the rating agencies:

These ratings mean that the company is considered to be strong and stable financially. As of year-end 2022, some of the financial highlights for Aspida Life Insurance Company include its:

  • $12.1 billion in assets under management
  • $1.1 billion of total GAAP equity
  • $395 billion in parent company’s (Ares Management Corporation) assets under management

Conclusion

With advancements in healthcare and technology, the average American today lives longer than ever. Consequently, it's crucial to have a source of income that grows safely and steadily, and can provide a guaranteed income during retirement years. This strategy not only mitigates the risk of outliving your income but also ensures a decent standard of living in retirement.

The Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed annuity ensures a secure and predictable income for life, lessening financial risk. It provides a fixed stream of income in your retirement years with benefits such as tax deferral, principal protection, and a market index-linked income option without market risk exposure. For those prioritizing guaranteed and stable lifetime income streams that cannot be outlived, the Aspida Synergy Choice Income Fixed Indexed Annuity might be a fitting choice to consider. Although Aspia is a relatively new entrant in the annuity market, it has received favorable ratings from established rating agencies. To offset its position as a newcomer in the market and to entice potential customers, Aspia offers an enhanced income base boost. This strategy is designed to result in increased lifetime earnings for its clientele.

We understand that choosing the right annuity can be a complex decision, influenced by a myriad of factors such as market conditions, individual financial goals, and evolving life circumstances. To better serve you in this critical decision-making process, we regularly conduct in-depth reviews of various annuity products, examining features, costs, and potential benefits. To delve deeper into our extensive reviews, click here.

©2024 AnnuityratesHQ. All rights reserved.