Women are living longer, and after the scare of the financial crisis, concern among them has increased about not having enough money to last their lifetimes.

Enter income annuities; New York Life Insurance Co., the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States, announced this month that 64% of its record $1.9 billion in fixed immediate annuity sales last year was to women purchasers.

An academic paper co-sponsored by New York Life titled "Lifetime Income for Women: A Financial Economist's Perspective" said that women's rising longevity and the continued demise of traditional pension plans put them at risk of outliving their assets.

The study found that, traditionally, women were advised to invest in high-risk products for higher returns to sustain them throughout retirement. But lifetime income annuities, which guarantee payments no matter how long the beneficiary lives, are a safe alternative, with a lower cost and less risk, the study said.

At the recent Limra conference in Washington, Jafor Iqbal, an associate managing director of Limra's retirement research, pointed out during a session that advisers believe longevity risk is the No. 1 retirement risk.

"The N.Y. Life announcement is consistent with our women's consumer research," Marie Rice, a corporate vice president and the director of Limra's retirement research division, said in an e-mail last Monday. "Limra research has found that women are much more concerned than men about financial security, having enough money for retirement and investing in more conservative products. Fixed immediate annuities offer the protection that women want."

Cindy Hounsell, the president of Women's Institute For a Secure Retirement, said in a telephone interview last Monday that she believes more women are buying fixed immediate annuities mainly because they are panicked about the decline in their investments' value in 2008.

"There is a panic over not having guaranteed income," Hounsell said. "In many ways the fact that women are buying more fixed immediate annuities is a really good sign that they are understanding their retirement situation. Once people get an education, then buying annuities is really a no-brainer. We buy insurance for our cars. We need to buy insurance for ourselves."

This story has been reprinted with permission from Financial Planning.

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