Annuity Calculators: Can You Trust Them

Annuity Calculators are certainly not all the same. If you are shopping for an annuity it is important to be clear on what your objective is for this potential annuity. 

There are many different types of annuities that can seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to.

Annuities get a reputation for being complicated but in reality, there are just a lot of options, features, and types. When done correctly this can definitely play into your favor because odds are regardless of your goals and objectives there is probably an annuity that can be tailor-made just for you.

Types of Annuity Calculators

There are many different types of annuity calculators just as there are many types of annuities. Some calculations from these “calculators” can be taken with a grain of salt while other’s output results are contractual guarantees.

The type of calculation or calculator used depends on the type of annuity you are purchasing.

Hypothetical Back-Testing vs Annuity Calculator's

Hypothetical Illustration:

A hypothetical illustration is when you look back and judge the performance of a particular index before it was actually created.

For example, let’s say you are considering purchasing an indexed annuity with a 70% participation tied to the MLSB (Merrill Lynch Strategic Balanced Index). While we can’t say for sure what 70% of the performance of that index will be 7 years from now, we can run a back test to see how it would have performed the last 7 years. 

This is because these volatility-managed indexes do not have a human component to them. The indexes are  basically just an algorithm that moves money between an equity component and a fixed component depending on the level of voracity.


When shopping for a Variable Annuity it is likely you get a back-test because with a variable annuity you are investing directly into the market. 

When you get a back-test for a variable annuity all the calculator is doing is applying your fee, or any contract specifications, to the actual returns of your index.

This creates what we call a hypothetical. Most often, these hypotheticals will provide you with three potential rates of return:

  1. The best 10 year period
  2. The worst 10 year period
  3. The most recent 10 year period

This can be helpful because even though the worst ever 10 year period isn’t guaranteed to be the worst possible scenario, it gives you a good idea of the lower end. The same hold true for the best ever and most recent 10 year periods. Below is an example of one of these charts.

MLSB Index General Information 
BASE DATE31-Jan-85
LIVE DATEAug-12-2014
INDEX SPONSORMerrill Lynch International

Annuity Calculators Final Thoughts

If you are considering a fixed index annuity the calculation you get may likely be a hypothetical back-test.

Many of the newer index annuities link to market indexes other than the S&P 500 and many of these indexes are brand new. 

As you saw above index annuity illustration goes back 10 years. So how do you test the historical performance of an index that is brand new?

 A hypothetically back-test gives you a hypothetical percent you would have earned had you purchased the annuity 10 years ago and the index performed the way they think it will. 

Annuity calculators are helpful tools to use when trying to get an idea of what rate of return range you might earn but they are not meant to be used as a quote or taken for anything more than a rough idea of what you might expect.

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