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Annuities: Equity-Linked Certificate Of Deposit: The Safer Low-Cost EIA Alternative

Aug 17, 2007
Equity-Linked Certificates of Deposit are a safer, low-cost alternative for those who must have an Equity-Indexed Annuity type of investment. These little-known investments allow you to participate in the growth of the market index while your principal is guaranteed by the Government. Read on to find out more.

Equity-Indexed Annuities are probably the most heavily promoted investment for seniors in today's marketplace. The sales pitch is appealing and the payoff to the agent is very big--up to 13%. The enormous commissions have led to sales abuses which leave seniors holding the bag.

Readers of this column have wised up to the flaws of Equity-Indexed Annuities. But what are the alternatives?

The best alternative to Equity-Indexed Annuities is to use a diversified mix of investments and strategies that can provide an income stream between 6% and 10% while limiting any risk of significant loss. That's what I do for my clients--without long-term time commitments or surrender penalties if they want access to their money.

Another alternative is called an Equity-Linked Certificate of Deposit. They provide virtually all the benefits that Equity-Indexed Annuities are designed to provide, without all the negative strings attached.

Equity-Linked Certificates of Deposit are offered by banks. They pay a return that is based on a stock market index, usually the S&P 500. Just like all Certificates of Deposit, they are federally insured by the FDIC up to $100,000 per individual. The minimum purchase for an Equity-Linked Certificate of Deposit is usually $25,000, but some can be found with $1000 minimums.

The return is based on the average performance of the S&P 500 over a set period of time. Just like Equity-Indexed Annuities, how the return is calculated depends on the issuer. The returns are all based on averaging the gains or losses of the index at set points over the life of your contract. Some Equity-Linked Certificates of Deposit guarantee a 3% return. Those doing so will limit the index return. Others provide 100% of the calculated index return.

The only way you can lose your principal with an Equity-Linked Certificate of Deposit is if you pull your money out before the end of the term. Most will have some form of a penalty, but since there wasn't a big commission paid to an agent to sell it, the redemption penalties should be small. (Some don't allow early redemption so investigate before you invest.) All allow early redemption without penalty if the account holder dies.

One of the major benefits Equity-Linked Certificates of Deposit have over Equity-Indexed Annuities is a short term commitment, FDIC insurance of principal, and much lower fees. They allows you much more control and flexibility.

For instance, let's say you intend to invest $75,000 in Equity-Linked Certificates of Deposit. Instead of putting all the money in a single CD, divide that money between three--purchasing one each year for three years. Then as one comes due you can roll it into another 3-year term. This will reduce the negative effects in how the index returns are calculated while giving you access to $25,000 every year.

There are several disadvantages to Equity-Linked CDs. They don't normally pay interest until maturity, so these investments are not a good choice of those looking for steady income. And like Equity-Indexed Annuities, you don't really get 100% of the market gains because of the averaging used in calculating the rate of return.

You may be wondering why you haven't heard of Equity-Linked Certificates of Deposit before. In fact, you should wonder why the advisor recommending you buy an Equity-Indexed Annuity hasn't recommended them! The reason is they don't pay a large commission so there isn't a financial incentive for the advisor to do so.

Check with your local bank to see if they offer Equity-Linked CDs. Not all do, but they are becoming more widespread. Any broker or advisor that can sell bonds should also have access to Equity-Linked CDs.

I still believe there are better ways to invest your money than Equity-Linked CDs. But I'd much rather see someone invest in them than an Equity-Indexed Annuity. Don't let advisors who stand to gain so much from your money pressure you into investing in an Equity-Indexed Annuity when an Equity-Linked CD is a much better alternative.
About the Author
Nationally-syndicated financial columnist and Certified Financial Planner Jeffrey Voudrie provides personal, in-depth money management services and advice to select private clients throughout the USA. He will answer your financial question FREE at http://www.guardingyourwealth.net/
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