Sequence of Returns Risk

When you save and invest for retirement over many years, time is mostly on your side. The longer you save and the more you save, the more the compounding of returns can help to potentially increase your nest egg. The returns on stocks, bonds and cash vary from year-to-year, sometimes greatly. There can be long and short periods where returns are mostly positive or mostly negative. But over decades, these returns tend to average out, regardless of the order in which they appear. By saving regularly and staying invested through up and down markets during your working years, you shouldn't be overly concerned about the return you're getting right now.

The problem is that once you stop saving and start taking income from your retirement nest egg, the return your portfolio generates is now very important and can be the subject of great concern. If you take yearly 5% withdrawals from a portfolio that is appreciating each year at a rate higher than 5%, the withdrawal will have little effect on the remaining balance. Conversely, if you take 5% withdrawals from a portfolio that is depreciating in value the results might be devastating.

The experts call this "Sequence of Returns Risk" and it means that the order in which poor and good market returns occur after the accumulation stage ends and the distribution stage from your portfolio begins will have a significant impact on how long your retirement assets will last.

Here is a hypothetical example using historical returns that illustrates how sequence of returns risk could impact two identical retirement portfolios (See the table and chart below).

Mr. Smith retired in 1969 with $100,000 and Ms. Jones retired in 1979 with the same amount. Both invested in a mix of stocks and bonds, taking 5% per year initially, then increasing the percentage withdrawn each year to keep up with inflation. The ten year difference in their dates of retirement had a significant impact.

Mr. Smith experienced negative returns in four of the first ten years, as well as elevated inflation rates. Although his rate of return was higher, the combination of lower returns and high inflation caused the inflation adjusted exhaustion of his portfolio after just 15 years.

Ms. Jones on the other hand experienced negative returns in only two of the first ten years in retirement. Although she also experienced periods of higher inflation, timely positive market performance helped to grow her assets in the early years, and a strong bull market helped the assets continue to grow as she took income from the portfolio.

The main difference between these retirements was that Mr. Smith had the misfortune to retire at the wrong time.

Rate of Return

Data based on two 31-year periods ending on December 31, 1998 and 2008, respectively. Each portfolio assumes a first-year 5% withdrawal that was subsequently adjusted for actual inflation. Each portfolio also assumes a 60% stock/40%bond allocation, rebalanced annually. Stocks are represented by the S&P 500. The Standard & Poor?s 500 Index (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of large company stocks. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Bonds are represented by the annualized yields of long-term Treasuries (10+ years maturity). Inflation is represented by changes to the historical CPI. Past performance does not guarantee future results. This illustration does not account for any taxes or fees, and is not indicatives of any GIFL portfolio.

It is important to note that in these hypothetical examples, although one investor was more successful than the other, neither had a guaranteed income from their portfolio, and instead had to rely on the overall return of the market. Unlike with Social Security or a traditional pension, personal retirement savings in a 401(k) plan or an IRA account don't automatically have a guaranteed income feature.

It is possible to continue to invest in the market and establish a guaranteed income stream using a variable annuity. The guarantee is backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuer, and does not apply to the investment performance or safety of the underlying portfolios. This approach allows you to establish and maintain the level of income necessary for required living expenses and allows you the opportunity to continue to grow your asset base when the market performs well.

When considering an annuity for use in an IRA or other tax-qualified retirement plan (i.e., 401(k), 403(b), 457), it is important to note that there is no additional tax deferral benefit, since these plans are already afforded tax-deferred status. Thus, an annuity should only be purchased in an IRA or qualified plan if some of the other features of the annuity are of value, such as access to specific portfolio choices, the ability to have guaranteed payments for life and other guaranteed benefits, and you are willing to incur any additional costs associated with the annuity to receive such benefits. See the prospectus for details.

Contact our Retirement Income & Rollover Solutions Call Center at 1-888-695-4472 for more information including the product prospectus that contains complete details on investment objectives, risks, fees, charges, and expenses, as well as other information about the investment company, which should be carefully considered. Please read the prospectuses carefully prior to investing. The prospectuses contain this and other information on the product and the underlying portfolios.

John Hancock Annuities and the optional riders, which are available for an additional fee, are not available in all states; product features may vary, subject to state regulation. Variable annuities are not FDIC insured, are long-term contracts designed for retirement purposes, and are subject to investment risk, including the possible loss of principal. Charges may apply to amounts taken in excess of the withdrawal amount available without a withdrawal charge during the surrender charge period. All withdrawals reduce the death benefit and optional benefits. In addition, withdrawals of taxable amounts will be subject to ordinary income tax and, if made prior to age 59, a 10% IRS penalty tax may apply. Venture Annuities are issued and administered by John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.), Bloomfield Hills, MI, which is not licensed in New York. In New York, Venture Annuities are issued and administered by John Hancock Life Insurance Company of New York, Valhalla, NY. Venture Combination Fixed and Variable Annuities are distributed by John Hancock Distributors LLC, member FINRA.

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