METLIFE REVAMPS ITS VARIABLE ANNUITIES WITH NEW DEATH BENEFIT RIDER AND UPGRADES TO TWO LIVING BENEFIT RIDERS
NEW YORK, April 30, 2008
MetLife today announced that it has revamped its variable annuity product suite to include an optional Enhanced Death Benefit rider; upgrades to two of its living benefit riders, Guaranteed Minimum Income Benefit Plus (GMIB Plus/Predictor Plussm) and Lifetime Withdrawal Guaranteesm (LWG); investment flexibility for all three riders and three new asset allocation portfolios composed of American Funds Insurance Series® portfolios and the new Met/Franklin Templeton Founding Strategy Portfolio, all of which are managed by Met Investors Advisory, LLC.
"We recognize that Americans often struggle to save enough for retirement. These changes make it easier for individuals to protect their assets and income – now and in the future," said Lisa S. Kuklinski, vice president and actuary, Individual Annuities, MetLife. "By adding additional flexibility to MetLife’s variable annuity suite, individuals and their trusted financial advisors have new options that allow them to further tailor the product characteristics to their needs and financial objectives in retirement."
New Enhanced Death Benefit
The new optional death benefit rider provides the client with a guaranteed death benefit at least equal to purchase payments accumulated at 6% through age 90, or the highest anniversary value though age 80 if greater. Annual step-ups are available through age 80. Since 6% dollar-for-dollar withdrawals are available, this enables the client to take income that reduces their death benefit in a predictable manner, and also provides a death benefit to their loved ones should the client die before annuitizing the contract (beginning the lifetime income phase of the annuity).
The Enhanced Death Benefit particularly compliments the GMIB Plus/Predictor Plus, since the death benefit base and the income base is determined in the same manner under both riders – providing the client with the same guarantee upon death or annuitization. The fee is reduced 0.05% if both riders are selected. The new Enhanced Death Benefit is available for 0.65% for issue ages 69 or younger and 0.85% for issue ages 70-75 as an annual charge on the death benefit base. Upon an optional step-up of the death benefit base, the charge may increase up to a maximum of 1.50%.
Portfolio Flexibility, More Investment Choice
In many cases, when clients elect an optional benefit rider, they may only invest in selected or certain asset allocation choices. For clients who elect MetLife’s new Enhanced Death Benefit, GMIB Plus/Predictor Plus or LWG riders, they may customize their own asset allocation mix, within limits, using the Portfolio Flexibility or Build Your Own program.
"To provide more investment choice and flexibility, MetLife developed the Portfolio Flexibility program to give our advisors and their clients the tools to build their own diversified investment portfolios and access to MetLife’s unique living and death benefit riders" said Elizabeth Forget, senior vice president, MetLife. "Through this open architecture, contractholders will no longer be required to select one or more of the asset allocation portfolios upon election of one of the contract’s optional benefit riders. They will now be able to create their own asset allocation model subject to certain purchase payment allocation restrictions."
GMIB Plus/Predictor Plus Enhancements (No Increase in Cost)
MetLife has not only added the Portfolio Flexibility or Build Your Own program to its GMIB Plus/Predictor Plus riders, but it has also extended the time frames in which clients can grow the income guarantee and take withdrawals.
If elected, the rider’s income base will now compound at 6% through age 90 up from age 85. That means clients may also take withdrawals of up to 6% of their initial investment through age 90. The annuitization age under the rider has also been extended through age 90 (up from age 85), and the maximum issue age extended through age 78 (up from age 75). Maximum issue ages may vary by distributor.
To allow for more opportunity to lock-in immediate withdrawals and provide guarantees against market declines that impact future annuity income, clients may now make optional annual "step-ups" through age 80 (up from age 75).
GMIB Plus is available with variable annuities issued through MetLife Investors or the New England Financial sales force. GMIB Plus and Predictor Plus are available with variable annuities sold by the MetLife sales force. There is no increase in cost for the enhancements. The annual charge for the GMIB Plus/Predictor Plus remains at 0.80% of the highest income base (up to a maximum of 1.50% upon optional step-up).
Enhancements to the LWG rider also allow for more asset accumulation and potentially larger withdrawals, as well as greater investment choice through the Portfolio Flexibility program.
For those willing to wait to withdraw income, the Total Guaranteed Withdrawal Amount (which initially equals the initial purchase payments received within 120 days of contract issue) now compounds at 7.25% annually (up from 5%) for 10 years or until the second withdrawal. This means the clients’ benefit base, determined initially based on the initial investment, would more than double in 10 years if they do not take withdrawals during that time. Compounding until the second withdrawal allows the client a one-time opportunity to take income without halting the growth of the guarantee.
In addition, clients may now take withdrawals of 6% of their Total Guaranteed Withdrawal Amount for as long as they live if they start taking withdrawals at or after age 76. They can withdraw 5% for life if they begin withdrawals on or after age 59½.
MetLife also extended the automatic annual step-ups through age 90 (up from age 85). LWG is available with variable annuities issued through MetLife Investors, and the MetLife and New England Financial sales forces. The fee for the LWG rider is 0.65% for the single life version and 0.85% for joint life version (for spouses) as an annual charge on the Total Guaranteed Withdrawal Amount up to a maximum of 1.25% and 1.50%, respectively, upon a step-up.
The above descriptions of new and enhanced riders are only brief summaries. Detailed descriptions of the terms of the riders appear in the related product prospectuses. In the prospectus, GMIB Plus is named GMIB Plus II or Predictor Plus II, and LWG is listed as LWG II.
Variable annuities are offered by prospectus only, which is available from a registered representative. A client should carefully consider the product’s features, risks, charges and expenses, and the investment objectives, risks and policies of the underlying portfolios, as well other information about the underlying funding choices. Amounts allocated to the variable investment options of an account balance are subject to market fluctuations, and when withdrawn or annuitized, may be worth more or less than their original value. The principal value and rate of return in a variable annuity will fluctuate due to market conditions. Therefore, at any point in time, the value of the annuity contract may be worth more or less than the owner’s actual investment in the contract. There is no guarantee that any of the variable options in this product will meet their stated goals or objectives. This and other information is available in the prospectuses, which a customer should read carefully before investing. Product availability and features may vary by state. All variable annuity product guarantees, including those associated with the Enhanced Death Benefit, GMIB Plus/Predictor Plus, LWG rider, are based on the claims-paying ability and financial strength of the issuing insurance company. Withdrawals are subject to ordinary income taxes. Withdrawals before age 59 ½ are generally subject to ordinary income taxes.
Celebrating 140 years, MetLife, Inc. is a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. Through its domestic and international subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force). The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance, reinsurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions. For more information, please visit www.metlife.com.
The information in this press release is not intended to (and cannot) be used by anyone to avoid IRS penalties. This press release supports the promotion and marketing of this annuity rider. Clients should seek advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.
Like most annuity contracts, the contracts issued by MetLife and its affiliates contain fees, surrender charges, and holding periods and terms for keeping the contract in force. Clients should consult their qualified tax or legal professional before making an investment decision.
Prospectuses for MetLife’s or any of its affiliated insurance companies’ individual variable annuities and the underlying investment options can be obtained by contacting an authorized MetLife, MetLife Investors or New England Financial representative. MetLife’s variable annuities are issued by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York, NY 10166 and distributed by MetLife Investors Distribution Company (member FINRA), 5 Park Plaza, Suite 1900, Irvine, CA, 92614. Variable annuity products issued by MetLife Investors Insurance Company, Irvine CA 92614, MetLife Investors USA Insurance Company, Irvine, CA 92614 and in New York only by First MetLife Investors Insurance Company, New York, NY 10015 ("MetLife Investors"), (subsidiaries of MetLife, Inc.) are distributed by MetLife Investors Distribution Company, 5 Park Plaza, Suite 1900, Irvine, CA, 92614. Variable annuities issued by New England Life Insurance Company (a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc.) are distributed by New England Securities Corporation, 501 Boylston Street Boston, MA, 02116. New England Financial is a service mark of New England Life Insurance Company. MetLife’s Enhanced Death Benefit, GMIB Plus/Predictor Plus II and LWG are not currently available in New York.