Annuity Sales Under Fire

Michael Sheehan

Physician's Money Digest, March15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 5

Variable annuities have long been agreat way to make money—for thosewho sell them. Buyers often find themselvessaddled with high expense ratiosand crippling surrender fees that makeit tough to get at their money. Recently,the National Association of SecuritiesDealers (NASD) accused a member firmof improperly switching variable annuitycustomers into new policies that paid thefirm higher commissions. The NASDcomplaint notes that the firm reapedalmost $38 million in commissions andfees on the swaps and cost policyholders$9.8 million in surrender charges. Thefirm has denied any wrongdoing, butmany independent financial advisorssuggest avoiding variable annuities, notonly because of their bloated costs andpunitive surrender fees, but also becausehigh commissions on annuitiesgive sellers an incentive to push them,even though they may not be an appropriateinvestment for the client.