Even though 80% of Americans aged 44 to 75 said they would choose a product with a 4% return and a guarantee against losing its value, over a fund aiming for an 8% return but subject to market risk—54% said they would not select an annuity.

This is one of the puzzling findings of a survey of 3,200 people that Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America recently conducted.

The results underscore the fact that despite all of the insurance and mutual fund industries’ efforts to educate investors about guaranteed lifetime income, a great deal more work lies ahead. In fact, a brand new slate of opinion needs to be formed, based on the findings that 53% base their opinion of annuities on research done 10 to 20 years ago. And - 64% of these people haven’t done any additional research since.

Further, only 27% knew of innovations made with annuities in the past 10 years. For instance, an even fewer number, 23%, realize that variable annuities permit contract holders to participate in market gains.

“Perceptions need to change if consumers are to access guaranteed income and create a more stable retirement,” said Allianz Life President and CEO Gary C. Bhojwani. “The 401(k) industry did a great job of teaching consumers about mutual funds to save for retirement. We need the same type of concerted education effort on annuities.”

Conversely, the study found a high satisfaction level among those who have purchased an annuity, with 76% saying they are “very happy” with their purchase. Fifty-seven of those who own an annuity said they like it because it is a safe, long-term investment vehicle.

With respect to liquidity and the much-criticized limited access to funds, 54% said they would prefer a product with a 7% return even if it limited access to funds, to one paying 5% with complete access to their money.

“The debate on retirement and the role annuities play in retirement planning needs to change,” Bhojwani said. “No other financial product offers guaranteed income for life. Government, financial planners and the industry need to re-educate the American public about what these products do and how they can help secure a stable retirement.”

The Allianz annuity survey was conducted online May 6 to May 12 by Larson Research and Strategy Consulting and DSS Research.

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