Q&A: A gift annuity needs more thought

Dear Liz: I am 93 and caretaker of my developmentally disabled daughter, who is 64. She’s in poor health and lives with me but is still able to be fairly independent. I am in good health and still able to drive and so forth. Being newly widowed, I would like to increase my monthly income. I have a reverse mortgage on my home but need money for upkeep. Besides Social Security, I have a small savings account and an annuity payment of less than $500 a month. Do you think a gift annuity that pays 9.5% is a good option?

Answer: A charitable gift annuity typically requires that you give a charity a sizable sum of cash, securities or other assets in exchange for a partial tax deduction and a lifetime stream of income. The amount that’s paid out depends in large part on your age — the older you are, the bigger the payout since your life expectancy is shorter.

Gift annuities may be a good fit for affluent people with charitable intent who can use the tax deduction. From what you’ve written, that doesn’t seem to describe you. If you do have a sizable sum you can tap, it may be better to do so directly rather than involving a charity.

You could benefit from some objective guidance, not just for improving your own financial situation but to provide for your daughter. She may be in poor health, but she still could outlive you and almost certainly will need ongoing support. That probably will include a new place to live, because the reverse mortgage will have to be repaid at your death, and that typically means the sale of the home.

A fee-only financial planner can help review your situation and connect you with other experts, such as an estate planning attorney. You can get referrals from the National Assn. of Personal Financial Advisors at www.napfa.org and the Garrett Planning Network at www.garrettplanningnetwork.com.

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