What Will We Cover in this Annuity Review?

In this review, we will be going over the following information regarding the Transamerica I-Share variable annuity:

  • Product typeIndependent Review of the Transamerica Vanguard Variable Annuity
  • Fees
  • Current rates
  • Realistic long-term expectations
  • How it is used
  • How it is most poorly used

Annuities can be complex. That’s where having an Annuity Investigator who loves math comes in.
We make the complex, simple.

If you’ve been considering the purchase of an annuity because you want the opportunity for market-linked growth and tax-deferred build-up of your savings, and you are seeking a secure income in the future, then the Transamerica I-Share variable annuity may be something for you to consider.

However, before you move forward with the purchase of this annuity, it is essential to understand that not all annuities are alike. In fact, not even all variable annuities are alike. So, it is important that you know what to anticipate with this particular financial vehicle, as well as why you may be choosing it over many other potential annuity alternatives.

Over the past ten years or so, many investors who are inching their way towards retirement have been a bit skeptical about putting their money into equities. One of the biggest reasons for this has to do with the 2008 U.S. recession and the fact that billions of dollars literally evaporated into thin air.

If you are an investor who was affected by this, then the sting of substantial market losses may make you want to turn and run the other way when it comes to equities and equity-related financial products. However, this type of financial vehicle can oftentimes provide you with the best method of ensuring that your money keeps pace with rising inflation – which in turn, can help you to pay for the goods and services that you need in retirement. In other words, you may be stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of your need for equities. In any case, you need to know what you’re getting into before making a commitment – and one that could be costly to get out of.

Annuity and Retirement Income Planning Information That You Can Trust

If you’ve been in the process of looking for annuity information online, you have likely become aware that there is no shortage of annuity review websites. Many of these websites, however, are much more interested in giving you only the basics, in return for getting your contact information.

In fact, many of these websites will make some bold claims for the sole purpose of luring you in, such as:

  • Highest Income Payouts
  • Lowest Fees
  • High Rates / Return

If you have stumbled across our website for the first time, and you aren’t sure what we do, then please allow us to officially welcome you to AnnuityGator.com. We are a team of annuity experts who focus on providing our website visitors with comprehensive and unbiased annuity reviews.

We have been doing this for a long time now – far longer than many of the “copycat” annuity review websites that you may already have come across. Because of that, we have become a highly trusted source of annuity information.

Independent Review of the Transamerica I-Share Variable Annuity

It is also possible that you recently have attended a seminar about annuities, where the presenter offered you a “free” lunch or dinner, while he or she delved into the details regarding the Transamerica I-Shares variable annuity, or some other similar annuity.

Unfortunately, we all know that nothing in life is really free. In this case, it’s probable that the presenter wanted to “follow up” with you individually in order to determine whether or not this annuity would be right for you. If this is the case, then you may even have landed here on our website seeking more details before you commit to moving forward. This could prove to be a very good move.

As you read through the annuity reviews on our site, you will soon find that we don’t just paint a nice, rosy picture of how annuities work and the great benefits that they provide. In fact, we make it a point to also include the details that would be considered as drawbacks.

We do this for the purpose of providing you the whole story about these financial products, and not just the “good parts.” In doing so, you will be in a much better position to make a well-informed decision regarding whether or not this is the right annuity for you.

So, if you’re ready to get started with this review, let’s go ahead and dive in!

Transamerica I-Share Variable Annuity at a Glance

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Opening Thoughts on the Transamerica I-Share Variable Annuity

Transamerica has been in the business of helping its clients to grow and protect wealth since 1904. Founded in San Francisco, the company grew and expanded quickly – even in the early years of financial turmoil in the United States.

Transamerica Life Insurance Company, which is headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is Transamerica’s insurance arm and is a strong contender in the insurance and annuity arena. As of year-end 2016, this company held in excess of $1,05 billion of insurance in force, and nearly $131,800 million of total assets.

Due to its stable financial footing, and its timely payment of policyholder claims, the company has also earned high ratings from the insurer rating agencies, including an:

  • A+ from A.M. Best Company
  • A+ from Fitch Ratings
  • A1 from Moody’s
  • AA- from S&P

While variable annuities have taken somewhat of a back seat to other, safer, alternatives like fixed and fixed indexed annuities over the past decade, there is a definite niche for these products – particularly with those who are seeking the opportunity for a higher rate of return, as well as the tax-deferred growth of assets.

Transamerica offers ten different variable annuity options to choose from – each with varying fee structures and surrenders charges schedules that can allow you and your advisor to essentially “customize” a strategy that is right for you. The Transamerica I-Share variable annuities offer a surrender-charge free financial vehicle, exclusive to managed money platforms.

Before we get into the gritty details, there are some required legal disclosures here…

This is an independent annuity product review. It is not a recommendation to purchase or to sell an annuity. Transamerica has not endorsed this review in any way, nor do we receive any type of compensation for providing this review. This annuity review is meant solely to be an independent review at the request of our readers so that they may see our perspective when breaking down the positives and the negatives of this particular annuity. Prior to committing to the purchase of any type of insurance and/or investment vehicle, it is critical that you do your own due diligence, and that you also talk with a properly licensed professional if you have any questions that relate to your specific situation. All of the names, materials, and marks that have been used in compiling this annuity review are the property of their respective owners.

How Transamerica Describes the I-Share Variable Annuity

Transamerica describes the I-Share variable annuity as a financial vehicle that is built for today’s fee-based account needs.

This product offers a comprehensive lineup of investment options from some of the most recognized money managers in the industry. With its automatic asset rebalancing feature, you are able to maintain the asset allocation balance that you’ve selected by having the annuity automatically transfer money between investment options on a regular basis, without generating a taxable event.

There are a few bells and whistles that can be added to the I-Share variable annuity. These include living and death benefits. (There is a standard death benefit that is included). For example, the Additional Death Distribution+ (ADD+) option pays you a percentage of your rider earnings, which could help to increase the legacy that you leave to your beneficiaries. There is also the Return of Premium and an Annual Step-Up option.

With the Return of Premium option, the minimum death benefit option will pay your beneficiaries the total of all premiums that were paid into the annuity (minus any withdrawals). With the Annual Step-Up, there is a guaranteed minimum death benefit guaranteed at an amount that is equal to the highest policy value on either the issue date or any policy anniversary, plus premiums (minus any withdrawals that occur after the anniversary with the highest value).

As far as living benefit options, there are a few. These include the following:

  • Retirement Income Choice 1.6 – With this Transamerica signature living benefit, you can obtain both growth and protection of income – regardless of what occurs in the market, or even in the economy overall.
  • Transamerica Income Edge – The Income Edge benefit adds more investment flexibility with a broad lineup of options, along with a lifetime income stream.
  • Retirement Income Max – With a higher withdrawal rate, the Retirement Income Max benefit is designed for those who need to maximize their retirement income now as versus waiting until later.
  • Guaranteed Principal Solution – The Guaranteed Principal Solution comes with three guarantees so that you can be assured that principal is protected and that you have a steady stream of lifetime income in retirement.

Alternatively, you could opt to go with just the Investment Only strategy. Doing so can help you to lower the expenses incurred with this annuity, while still achieving tax-deferred growth and expert asset management.

How an Insurance or Financial Advisor Might “Pitch” this Annuity

If you have been presented the Transamerica I-Shares variable annuity by an insurance or financial advisor, it is likely that he or she has highlighted several key points about this annuity, such as its ability to provide you with market-linked returns, while at the same time allowing your money to grow tax-deferred. They may also have stated that this annuity can give you a reliable stream of income in retirement and that there are ways that you can structure this annuity to more closely fit your specific needs.

Yet, while there are many ways that you can customize the Transamerica I-Share variable annuity, it is important to keep in mind that the living benefits, as well as the enhanced death benefits, do not come free. Therefore, given the additional premium cost of these items (if you opt to add them) can have a negative impact on your return – even if an upward moving market.

In addition, because the I-Shares annuity is a variable annuity, there is the issue of risk. If you or someone you know lost money in the market downturn of 2008, then you may still vividly recall how bad that felt. You may also be painfully aware that, even though the market has come up, there is no guarantee that it won’t go back down again. And if it does so just prior to your retirement, it could have a major effect on how your financial situation – and your overall lifestyle in retirement – pans out.

In addition, while there are no surrender charges on this annuity, don’t let this fool you into believing that you’ll get away with no fees at all. In fact, far from it. So, while you may have to endure some sleepless nights hoping that the market does not correct itself, you will also be incurring fees with this product.

What About Fees on the Transamerica I-Shares Variable Annuity

Annuities – and in particular, variable annuities – are known for their fees. And rightly so, as they oftentimes live up to their reputation. With regard to the Transamerica I-Shares variable annuity, there are several fees to be mindful of.

These include the following:

  •  Annual Mortality and Expense Fee and Administrative Charge (M&E&A):
    • Mortality and Expense Risk Fee – 0.05%
    • Administrative Charge – 0.15%
  • Annual Fund Facilitation Fee – Up to 0.60% annualized fee assessed daily as a percentage of the value of certain sub-accounts
  • Annual Service Charge of $50 (but no more than 2% of the policy value)
  • Death Benefit:
    • 0.20% – Policy Value Death Benefit
    • 0.10% – Return of Premium Death Benefit
    • 0.40% – Annual Step-Up Death Benefit
  • Optional Death Benefit Riders:
    • 0.25% – Additional Death Distribution (annual charge based on policy value)
    • 0.55% – Additional Death Distribution + (annual charge based on policy value)
  • Guaranteed Principal Solution – Optional Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawal Benefit Rider – 1.25%
  • Living Benefits:
    • 2.50% – Retirement Income Max (annual charge – % of withdrawal base)
    • 2.50% – Transamerica Income Edge (annual charge – % of withdrawal base)
  • Retirement Income Choice 1.6 (annual charge – % of withdrawal base)
    • Base Benefit Designated Allocation Group A – 2.50%
    • Base Benefit Designated Allocation Group B – 2.50%
    • Base Benefit Designated Allocation Group C – 2.50%
  • Additional Benefits Available with Retirement Income Choice 1.6 rider:
    • Death Benefit – Single Life Option – 0.55%
    • Death Benefit – Joint Life Option – 0.50%
    • Income Enhancement – Single Life Option – 0.45%
    • Income Enhancement – Joint Life Option – 0.65%

In addition, there are also investment management fees that can be assessed per each of the underlying investment options that are chosen. For more details on these fees, you can view the prospectus here.

The Annuity Gator’s End Take on the Transamerica I-Shares Variable Annuity

Where this annuity works the best:

This annuity could be a viable option for those who are seeking the following benefits:

  • Market-related growth
  • Diversity of underlying investments
  • Lifetime income, regardless of how long it is needed

Where this annuity works the worst:

  • For investors with a low-risk tolerance
  • For those who do not want or plan to use the lifetime income feature

In Summary

When considering any type of financial product, it is important to first have a good idea of what your overall short- and long-term monetary goals are – and how that particular product may or may not end up fitting in with these goals.

The Transamerica I-Shares variable annuity could be a good fit if you are still leaning towards the opportunity for higher growth than you’d get with a fixed annuity, along with the ability to receive lifetime income. But it is also important to consider any of the “tradeoffs” that you’ll need to make in order to obtain these benefits. And there is also always the underlying market risk to consider.

With that in mind, the only way to really know if the I-Shares variable annuity from Transamerica may be a good fit for you is to have it tested. We offer this service, so if you are interested in this additional information, please just contact us and we will be happy to run these figures based on your specific situation and financial goals.

Any Additional Questions on this Annuity? Did You Happen to Notice Any Mistakes?

While this annuity review was somewhat long, our feeling is that we would much rather provide our readers with more details than not enough, as this is really the only way to make a well-informed decision about these types of products. So, if you found the information in this annuity review to be beneficial to you, then please feel free to forward the review on and share it with anyone else that you think may also benefit from it, as well.

If you happened to notice anything in this review that may be outdated or in need of revision, please let us know that, too and we will make the necessary updates as soon as possible.

Are there any other annuities that you would like to have us review?

No problem! If so, just simply let us know the name of the annuity (or annuities, if there is more than just one), and our team of experienced annuity “geeks” will get on it!


The Annuity Gator

Independent Review of the Transamerica I-Share Variable Annuity