The Retirement Income Journal recently ran a piece quoting A.M. Best as urging annuity issues to “Focus on issues in your direct control.”

Having been Founder and President of my own life insurance company, Golden American Life, and divisional president in two major life companies, I know a little about the issuer side of the business.

So while I agree with the premise of “doing what you can control,” here’s my list of the top things to focus on:

  1. Make it easier for customers to do business with you.
  2. Develop products that automatically align your interests with both agents and customers.
  3. Move from “bell and whistling” to simplifying your products.
  4. Do what you do best and what no other financial institution can do – manage all forms of life risks.

Another article I read warned couples to mind the age gap. This is a topic I wrote about just last week in “The perfect Valentine’s Day gift? A lifetime of income.”

I agree completely that retirement planning is more challenging when there’s a significant gap in a couple’s ages. However, it’s not difficult to measure the problem if you use an income annuity as a yardstick.

Take a couple aged 60 (male) and 58 (female), with no dependents. Say they have $500,000 in savings and are looking to retire when he reaches 70. Their guaranteed retirement income is $3,646.

Take that couple and reduce her age to 50. Their guaranteed income is only $3,288.

An 8% reduction – but not an issue that can’t be handled.