Plan for Tomorrow | Understanding index crediting methods
An older man going for a hike

Understanding index crediting methods

Mar 6, 2024, 7:19:22 PM | Reading Time: 5 minutes

Fixed index annuities (FIAs) can be a valuable addition to a retirement savings strategy by bringing a good balance of growth potential and protection. Part of how FIAs deliver these features is through index crediting methods that are used to calculate interest credits. Since each performs differently in various market scenarios, one crediting method or index is not necessarily the “best.” Taking time to explore each option can help you make an educated decision on the crediting strategy that is most suitable for your needs.

Woman walking her dog

How a fixed index annuity credits interest

With the purchase of an FIA, the owner of the annuity can decide how their initial premium is allocated between a fixed account or index accounts and can choose from several crediting methods. Each strategy has its own formula and crediting components, but every crediting method allows the annuity owner to earn interest based in part on the performance of an external market index. Since an FIA is not directly invested in the market, it offers a potential for growth, while still providing protection from market downturns.

The amount of interest that may be credited to a fixed index annuity can be impacted by the following limits:

  • Index cap rates are upper limits on how much of the index gain can be received. For example, if the cap rate is 5% and the index gain is 10%, the interest credit would be capped at 5%.
  • Participation rates limit the interest credit to a set percentage of any index gain. For example, if the participation rate is 30% and the index gain is 10%, the interest credit would be 3%.
  • Index margins are subtracted from any index gain before an interest credit is received. For example, if the index margin is 2% and the index gain is 10%, the interest credit would be 8%.

Methods for crediting interest

To calculate interest credits, there are a variety of crediting method options that can be used. Here are three of the most common strategies offered in FIAs:

  • Monthly Point-to-Point calculates interest credits by determining the change in the index value over a one month period, subject to a monthly index cap rate, and then adding together the 12 monthly index value changes during a contract year. Interest credits, if any, are determined each contract year and are based in part on the index values of the respective indices over that same term. Though the value for a given month could be negative, the final interest credit percentage (the sum of all monthly values) can never be les than zero.
  • Annual Point-to-Point is calculated by subtracting the beginning index value from the ending index value. The difference is then divided by the beginning index value; this amount is called the percent of index value change. The percentage can either be positive or negative.
    This percent of index value change is then subject to either a participation rate, index cap rate, index margin or a combination of any of the three. The resulting final percentage is the interest credit percentage at the contract anniversary.
  • Inverse Performance Trigger is calculated by taking the index values from the beginning of a contract year and comparing them to the index values at the end of the contract year. If the ending index value is equal to or less than the starting index value, the money allocated to this option will be credited interest at the declared performance rate. If the ending index value is greater than the beginning index value, the money allocated to this option will receive a 0% interest credit percentage.

Regardless of what interest crediting method is chosen or how the market performs, interest credits can never be less than zero. For example, if the percent of index value change is calculated at 0% or a negative percentage, then a 0% interest credit percentage would be received for that contract year.

Creating a retirement savings strategy

Fixed index annuities can be a valuable choice for adding growth potential and downside protection to a retirement portfolio. To determine if this option is right for you and explore the different types of interest crediting strategies available, consider meeting with a financial professional. With their expert guidance, you can discuss your retirement vision and create a customized plan that meets your future income needs.

The term financial professional is not intended to imply engagement in an advisory business in which compensation is not related to sales. Financial professionals that are insurance licensed will be paid a commission on the sale of an insurance product.