Annuity Sharks

I’m not sure how I get on these mailing lists, but I occasionally receive emails from promoters who assume that I’m in the business of ripping off seniors or anybody else who crosses my path. These promoters promise to show me how to peddle variable and equity indexed annuities to the unsuspecting and make big bucks.

Not surprisingly, these emails don’t dwell on whether the products are appropriate for potential customers — they aren’t. What they focus on is the incredible cash that will come my ways through commissions if I convince an 85-year-old widow to bite. The commissions can be amazing. You may “earn” 12%, 14%, 16%, maybe even 20% by just spending an hour or two with a potential victim.

Sell a senior a $100,000 annuity and you can walk away with $15,000 for your efforts.

With the stock market in one of its occasional funks, annuities are being peddled ferociously again. And the industry is finding new ways to put lipstick on these pigs. On the television, for instance, I keep seeing a commercial with a 800-pound gorilla that’s telling a retiring employee how wonderful a particular variable annuity is because it offers guaranteed income.

One of the most loathsome emails that I’ve received shows an annuity peddler throwing dollar bills in the air as he stands behind bulging bags of cash. In bold letters it promises 9% commissions, plus 12% premium bonuses and a chance to take qualify for a million dollar cruise. For someone who doesn’t have any qualms about kneecapping a senior, this would be quite a deal.

If you aren’t repulsed enough yet, read this Wall Street Journal story about a seminar for annuity hawkers. It should turn your stomach.

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