Retirement Annuities (RAs) have been around for a long time, and are basically private pension plans that help you to save for retirement. As we near the end of yet another tax year, we move into a period that is often referred to as RA season, which is a good time to weigh up the advantages of this investment product.
Over the years, RAs have evolved into much more flexible and affordable investment vehicles than they once were, and investors can now benefit from “new-generation” RAs on linked investments platforms (LISPs). These offer a vast selection of underlying unit trusts, and they allow contributions to be made at the investor’s discretion, without penalties for missed contributions.
The most significant benefit of having a retirement annuity is the tax deductibility of contributions. According to an article published on Fin24, as of 1st March 2016, “all contributions to pension, provident and RA funds are consolidated and are deductible up to 27.5% of the greater of remuneration or taxable income, capped to R350,000 annually.” An investor can expect to receive an annual tax refund in line with their income, and this RA rebate can considerably boost your retirement benefit.
Capital gains tax normally needs to be paid for any discretionary investment, but this isn’t the case with an RA. Interest and dividends are also not taxed in an RA, which means that the entire growth of your investment is tax-free, which makes a significant difference over the long-term.
Do be aware that when you do finally retire after the age of 55 and are finally allowed to take up to one third of your RA in cash, you will have to pay tax on the proceeds taken. However, a portion of the lump-sum benefit is tax-free and the rest is taxed on a sliding scale. And, as you have deferred paying tax on the proceeds, a larger investment amount has had the chance to compound tax-free over time.
Come retirement, the other two thirds of the proceeds from your RA will be used to purchase an annuity, which will then provide you with an income to sustain you in your golden years. You will need to pay tax on your monthly “income”, but many individuals’ personal tax rates decrease after they retire.
An RA presents another advantage when it comes to estate planning, as it falls outside of your estate, so the proceeds from your RA will be paid directly to your nominated beneficiaries when you pass away, without the estate duty or executor’s fees. For the most part, your money is also protected from the claims of creditors, which is another yay for RAs.
In spite of this list of positives, many investors feel uneasy when it comes to retirement annuities and are reluctant to consider them as an investment option. However, it’s important to understand that RAs have evolved significantly, become much more affordable, and new regulations have been implemented to minimise risk and force investors to diversify. This may not be considered as a positive thing by everyone, as Regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act does restrict investors to a maximum of 75% allocation in shares, which many people debate as shares have managed to outperform all other asset classes over the long-term. However, this risk management method was implemented to benefit broad spectrum investors in different environments, and it offers more investment protection when markets become volatile.
If your objective is to specifically save for retirement, a retirement annuity could be the best vehicle for you. So don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting this RA season to discuss your options and goals.