While sales of variable annuities declined 18% to $127 billion last year, guaranteed living benefits remained popular, with 84% of policyholders electing to buy those riders in the fourth quarter, according to LIMRA.

Jafor Iqbal, an associate managing director at LIMRA Retirement Research, said GLBs' continued popularity is in spite of the fact that insurers spent much of the year raising costs and paring back benefits on the variable annuities, the assets of many are underwater compared to their guarantees.

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