Choosing Your Pension Payout Option

April 17, 2022

Many couples may find themselves confronted with a dilemma as retirement nears. If you plan to receive your pension payout on a monthly basis (rather than in a lump sum), you must decide whether you want to receive a higher payment during your lifetime (the life option) or a lower payment that will span the lifetimes of both you and your spouse (the joint and survivor option).

As you choose between these options, you will need to consider the current and anticipated health of both you and your spouse, as well as your life expectancies. You will also need to assess your financial situation and income requirements. Here is a brief look at each of these payout options:

Life Option. With this option, let’s assume you receive $1,700 per month for your lifetime. This will be higher than the amount you would receive with joint and survivor benefits, say by $475. If you live a long life, this extra $475 per month will undoubtedly come in handy. On the other hand, once you die, payments to your surviving spouse, who may live for many more years, will stop. This could have a significant impact on his or her standard of living. 

Joint and Survivor Option. If you were to select the joint and survivor option, suppose you receive $1,225 per month ($475 less than with the life option). If you die before your spouse, payments to your surviving spouse will continue for his or her lifetime. This may help provide critical income for your surviving spouse, especially if he or she outlives you by many years. However, if your spouse dies before you, you cannot change your payout option, even though your reason for choosing the lower monthly benefit¾to protect your spouse’s long-term income¾is no longer applicable.

The Best of Both Worlds

Deciding between these options may leave you and your spouse feeling as though you are betting on each other’s lives. But, you need not be locked into an “either-or” situation. With proper planning, you may be able to have it both ways¾a higher monthly benefit now plus continuing income for your surviving spouse should you die first.

In structuring this approach, you would select the life option and use a portion of the higher monthly benefit to purchase a permanent life insurance policy on yourself. If you should die first, your surviving spouse can manage the insurance proceeds to help create monthly income, as needed. On the other hand, if your spouse should predecease you, you can cancel the policy and continue receiving the higher monthly pension benefit.

This strategy requires disciplined money management to achieve the desired results. First, your life insurance policy may lapse if the premiums are not paid. Second, a lump-sum death benefit must be properly managed to yield the anticipated income. Third, by waiving the spousal provision, your spouse may lose other pension-related benefits, such as cost-of-living adjustments or company-sponsored health insurance. Finally, the issuance of a policy at a reasonable premium (which would depend on your age and health) is not guaranteed. Therefore, it is important to apply and verify that you qualify for the appropriate amount of life insurance prior to making the pension payout selection. If the premium consumes too much of your monthly payout, this strategy may not be feasible.

Consider All Your Options

When choosing between the life option or the joint and survivor payout option for your pension, coupling the life option with a life insurance policy may be appropriate. There are many factors to consider, including your age, your spouse’s age, your health, your actual pension benefit, and the insurance premium costs. It is always important to analyze your situation carefully with the assistance of your financial professional to help determine which approach may be suitable for you.


Important Disclosures

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

This material contains only general descriptions and is not a solicitation to sell any insurance product. For information about specific insurance needs or situations, contact your insurance agent. This article is intended to assist in educating you about insurance generally and not to provide personal service. They may not take into account your personal characteristics such as budget, assets, risk tolerance, family situation or activities which may affect the type of insurance that would be right for you. In addition, state insurance laws and insurance underwriting rules may affect available coverage and its costs. Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing company. If you need more information or would like personal advice you should consult an insurance professional. You may also visit your state’s insurance department for more information.

This article was prepared by Liberty Publishing, Inc.

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