February 14, 2008 / 3:54 PM / 12 years ago

Annuity rates rise after decade of decline

LONDON (Reuters) - Annuity rates have risen at their strongest rate in a decade but the outlook now is less certain, new figures show.

A couple relaxes in deckchairs in St. James Park in central London May 11, 2006. Annuity rates have risen at their strongest rate in a decade but the outlook now is less certain, new figures show. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Average annuity rates increased by more than 6 percent last year following a prolonged erosion of the buying power of pension pots, according to Investment Life and Pensions Moneyfacts.

A typical male received an annuity rate of 622 pounds per 10,000 pounds of retirement savings in December 2007, up 6.32 percent on the year.

The average female received 582 pounds per year in retirement income per 10,000 pounds, up 6.4 percent.

The figures are based on an annuitant aged 60 buying a standard level without guarantee annuity.

The upturn follows a decade of falling rates, which have dropped by 29.56 percent for men and 27.34 percent for women over the past 10 years.

“The increase in annuity rates over 2007 gives a significant boost to a market that has suffered substantial reductions in rates amounting to 30 percent over the previous decade,” said Suzanne Greener, deputy editor of Investment Life & Pensions Moneyfacts.

Rates have, however, dropped over recent weeks and the outlook for those set to retire in the future is less certain, as inflation and recession threaten to hamper long-dated investments that drive annuities and the buying power of annuities already in payment.

But with a boom in the number of enhanced or impaired life annuity products — those which give higher rates to people who smoke or who are suffering from ill health — on the cards, Greener urged retirees to search the market for the best deal.

Everyone has the right to exercise what is known as the “open market option” — the ability to buy an annuity from a company other than the one with which they had their pension.

“It’s vital that pensioners don’t fall into the trap of assuming that their existing pension provider will offer them the best deal,” she said.

“What’s more if the predicted boom in enhanced annuities is fulfilled, it will be essential for pensioners either to take time to find the best deal for themselves to suit their individual lifestyle and health circumstances or to take advantage of an adviser’s expertise.

“Less savvy annuitants could suffer badly, particularly if the withdrawal of impaired lives from the standard annuity pool leads to the conventional rates on offer taking a further dive.”

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