UK annuity pension rates fall again

Eurozone investor fright is forcing annuity rates even lower. New research from Hargreaves Lansdown claims eight different insurance companies slashed annuity rates in May, including two yesterday.

However there remain stark differences in rates offered, with the Prudential coming bottom of the annuity heap. Let's look at the detail.

Shop around

The below table of terms for a 65 year old man with £100,000 shows how rapidly the rates can drop away. From £5,836 from Canada Life to just £5,260 from Prudential. We asked the Pru for a response on why - see table below - they pay lower rates then the competition, but they weren't able to respond.

"If you are very close to retirement, perhaps within the next year, then you may well want to buy your annuity sooner rather than later (today wouldn't be too soon)," says pensions research boss Tom McPhail at Hargreaves Lansdown.


"The combined pressures," he says, "of falling bond yields, Solvency 2, the European gender directive, increasing use of individualised underwriting and improving longevity could all yet push rates down lower."

He adds: "These arguments are particularly relevant if you are unwilling or unable to tolerate sustained longevity and investment market risks in retirement. This means the risk averse and those with small pension pots - i.e. most people."

Annuity rates have fallen year-on-year, more or less, for more than a decade now. The latest rash of figures is especially disappointing given widespread hope that rates might be starting to climb back slightly.

More support needed

Joanne Segars, Chief Executive of the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), pins much of the blame on quantitative easing (QE). "If there is to be more QE then the Government needs to do more thinking about the impact on pension funds. QE has driven pension funds further into the red and leaves those trying to buy an annuity with a worse deal, which they are then locked into for life.

"We are being told it will all be worth it in the long-run, but in the short-run pension funds and pensioners are being left to deal with the pain. They need, and deserve, much more support."

However, in another twist, insurers are increasingly using post codes to evaluate rates - which means middle class pension savers in better off areas will see their pensions shaved further, while pensioners in poorer areas will be boosted.

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