Independent Review of the Great West Financial Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity

What’s Covered In This Review

In this review, we will be discussing the following information on the Great West Financial Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity:

  • Product TypeIndependent Review of the Great West Financial Smart Track Variable Annuity
  • Fees
  • Current Rates
  • Realistic long term investment 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.

What you will likely notice, is that like just about any other annuity, the Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity from Great West Financial can perform quite well in certain areas. But, there are other areas that may not be up to par, depending on your specific financial goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.

So, before you head out and make a purchase with what will likely take a significant amount of your retirement funds, it is essential that you first have a more in-depth understanding of how this product works – and how it may or may not work for you and your specific financial goals.

Although annuities have become a popular way for investors to assure themselves of an ongoing income in retirement, there are many different types of annuities – and each is designed to perform in a different way. Likewise, there are some types of annuities, such as variable, that can put your money at risk. So, unless you are fully aware of the potential drawbacks of these products, you could have an unwelcome surprise down the road.

As a result, it is important that you know just exactly what you may be buying, as locking yourself into an annuity – and then trying to get out of it later if you feel that it isn’t for you – can be expensive.

Annuity and Retirement Income Planning Information That You Can Trust

If this is your first visit to our website, then please allow us to officially welcome you here to AnnuityGator.com. We are a team of experienced financial pros who are highly focused on offering the most comprehensive, and unbiased, reviews of annuities. We’ve been at this for many years – much longer than our competitors, and so we have become a well-known source of annuity information.

With that in mind, if you’ve been in the process of looking for more information about annuities via the Internet, then it’s a good possibility that you have noticed there’s a lot of conflicting information out there about these products. This, however, isn’t really a surprise, because there is also a great deal of confusion about how they work, and which type may be best for certain circumstances.

It’s possible that you may also have recently attended an annuity seminar in the recent past where you learned about the Smart Track Advisor annuity, or other similar product. Attending this seminar may even be the catalyst that has ultimately lead you here to our site in search of additional information.

In any case, while there are many annuity marketing websites out there on the Internet, you will find that most of these just copy information that you can already find right here. This is because we’ve been at this for a very long time, and in turn, we’ve come to be known as a highly trusted source of annuity information online.

You may have found yourself being lured in by some of the claims that other websites make, such as:

  • High income payments
  • Lowest annuity fees
  • Guaranteed lifetime income
  • 7 – 8% Rate of Return

Look familiar?

Although these claims may be inviting, the reality is that you must first make sure that they are true. This is especially the case if you are seriously considering moving a large amount of your hard earned savings into such an annuity.

Regardless of the actions that got you here, you can now rest assured that you are in the right place if you are seeking more details regarding the Great West Financial Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity.

This is because here you will discover not just the rosy good features about this product, but also the bad and the ugly. In providing you with the “whole picture,” though, we feel that you will be in a much better position to make a decision about moving forward with purchasing this annuity, or passing on it and going for another alternative that fits your needs better.

So, if you are ready to begin, let’s get started!

Great West Financial Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity at a Glance

Product NameSmart Track Advisor
IssuerGreat West Financial
Type of ProductVariable Annuity
Standard & Poor's RatingAA
Phone Number(800) 905-1959
Websitewww.greatwest.com

Opening Thoughts on the Great West Financial Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity

Great West Life and Annuity Insurance Company has over 100 years of experience in providing clients with financial growth and protection strategies and tools. The company currently has in excess of $476 billion in assets under administration, so it has a very strong and stable foundation.

The company is rated as the second largest insurer in sales of individual life insurance through banks. In addition to term and single premium life insurance coverage, Great West offers annuities and executive benefits products. Due to its stability, as well as its timely payment of policy holders’ claims, Great West has been rated as an AA from S&P Rating Services. The company is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

Overall, investors can typically expect a variable annuity to do two primary things. These are to 1) grow principal, and 2) produce income in retirement. But in reality, variable annuities are not really all that good at producing income. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of the risk that these types of annuities present, both to their investors, and to the insurance companies that are offering them.

Because the value of a variable annuity can – and oftentimes does – fluctuate so much, insurance carriers can only guarantee a lesser amount of future income, similar to their more “safe” options like fixed annuities.

So when you think about it, for each and every dollar that you put into a variable annuity, it is really only going to guarantee you less income than a fixed annuity would do – even for the exact same amount of money. Given this, if your main goal in purchasing an annuity is to ensure that you have a guaranteed income stream down the road, then a variable annuity might not be your best option.

Regarding their investments, variable annuities can usually offer you with the opportunity to obtain unlimited growth. However, in order to even be eligible for that, you will also have to incur the “tradeoff” of taking more downside market risk.

Before we get into the gritty details, here is some necessary legal information that needs to be disclosed…

This is an independent annuity product review and it does not constitute any type of recommendation to purchase or sell an annuity. Great West Financial has not endorsed this review in any way, and I do not receive any compensation for providing this review. This information is meant to be an independent opinion so that readers may see my personal perspective when determining the potential advantages and / or drawbacks of this particular financial vehicle, and how it may or may not fit into their specific financial portfolio. Prior to purchasing any type of investment or investment product, it is important to pursue your own due diligence and to consult with a competent and properly licensed financial professional before moving forward. This way, you can more precisely ensure that the product and / or service fits in with your individual circumstances. All names, trademarks, and materials that were used in this annuity review are the property of their respective owners.

How Great West Financial Describes the Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity

The Great West Financial Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity was launched in early 2017.

This annuity also offers a low-cost dual strategy that is designed to provide the following key benefits:

  • Unique investment strategy with more than 90 sub-accounts
  • Withdrawal rates as high as 6% at age 65 for life
  • Single and joint riders for the same cost
  • Ability to choose single or joint when income starts – not at the point of initial sale
  • Multiple ways to increase income after withdrawals begin – including age band income resets
  • No managed volatility requirement associated with living benefits

The Smart Track Advisor also provides a retirement income solution that includes three riders. These include the:

  • Great West Secure Income Foundation GLWB Rider
  • Great West Secure Income Plus GLWB Rider
  • Great West Secure Income Max GLWB Rider

So, based on the fact that it provides tax-deferred investment growth potential, and lifetime retirement income – Great West Financial also describes the Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity as offering the best of both worlds.

Due to its attractive benefits, the Great West Financial Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity was recently rated as one of Barron’s 50 Best Annuities.

How a Financial Advisor Might “Pitch” This Annuity

Given the somewhat volatile stock market that we’ve seen over the past several years, variable annuities have fallen a bit out of favor with some investors. This is especially the case for those who may have lost large sums of money in the 2008 recession. But for others, a variable annuity could fit their needs quite well. For instance, there is the opportunity for a nice strong return in up years.

With the Smart Track Advisor variable annuity from Great West, there is a great deal of choice, as you have more than 90 investment options to choose from, including seven different asset categories and more than 20 fund managers.

This annuity also hails from a good, strong, financially stable insurer, Great West Financial. This company has been serving customers for more than 100 years, so it is likely that a financial advisor might also include the financial strength and stability, as well as longevity, into his or her presentation.

But, if you are being offered this annuity by a commissioned insurance or investment advisor, it is likely that they may key in on the positive highlights of this product, while only glossing over the potential drawbacks (if they even talk about them at all).

Certainly, any financial vehicle that is invested in equity related options will carry a certain amount of risk. So, just as you would with mutual funds that are held in a personal investment account, if the options that you’ve chosen to put into this annuity go down in value, so will your portfolio.

What About the Fees on the Great West Financial Smart Track Advisor Annuity?

As with most other annuities – or any investment, for that matter – there are various fees that are associated with the Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity from Great West Financial. Unfortunately, variable annuities can be riddled with fees – which don’t just include charges from the annuity in and of itself, but also fees that are charged by the mutual funds offered in the annuity, too.

With the Smart Track Advisor, the fees are fairly spread out. For example, the product with the standard death benefit option (which include return of the account value) will hit you with a 0.20% M&E charge, while the optional death benefit option which includes return of premium will incur an M&E charge of 0.40%.

You’ll also find operating expenses that can range from a low of 0.46% to a high of 2.30% of assets. The average in this case typically comes in an roughly 1.02%, according to Great West Financial.

If you opt for the Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawal Benefit (GLWB), you can also be charged an annual fee, depending on which option you choose. For instance, these fees can range from a low of 0.90% for the Great West Secure Income Foundation, to a high or 1.30% for the Great West Secure Income Plus. The Great West Secure Income Max will incur an annual fee of 1.20%.

There are also GLWB investment options, along with their very own operating costs. These can include the following:

  • Great West SecureFoundation Balanced Fund L – 0.89%
  • Great West Moderate Profile Fund L – 1.23%
  • Great West Moderate Conservative Profile Fund L – 1.14%
  • Great West Conservative Profile Fund L – 1.08%

That being said, because of the fact that the Smart Track Advisor is a fee-based variable annuity when it comes to advisor compensation, the sale agent that offers this annuity may be able to either bill the annuity owner for the advisory fee separately, or have the fee – up to 1.5% – deducted from the annuity contract without disrupting any of the product’s guarantees. Here, the advisor can choose the best share class and fee structure that meets the unique needs of each client.

The Annuity Gator’s End Take on the Great West Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity

Where it works best:

The Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity from Great West Financial can be a viable option for those who:

  • Are seeking the opportunity for a higher rate of return
  • Have a higher risk tolerance, and can better endure the ups and downs of the market
  • Are looking for a way to diversify their holdings in a financial vehicle that can also guarantee future retirement income

Where it works worst:

Even with the positive features of this annuity, there are some areas where it may not fare so well, depending on an investor’s specific objectives. In this case, the Smart Track Advisor variable annuity may not be a good option for those who:

  • Are not planning to use the lifetime income benefit
  • Do not have a high tolerance for market risk
  • Are seeking safety of their principal – regardless of what occurs in the market

In Summary

When considering any type of financial option, it is essential that you first keep in mind what your overall goals are – both in the short and the long term. For example, even though a particular annuity may offer you the opportunity for lifetime income, if you are not comfortable with market volatility, then a variable annuity may not be the best solution for your needs.

In the case of the Great West Financial Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity, there are a number of advantages, such as the way in which investors can rebalance and diversify holding to better align with changing needs over time.

Plus, as there is with most variable annuities, this product tends to be on the high side when it comes to charges and fees. That is because you not only have to be aware of the charges from the annuity in and of itself, but also you will have fees charged by the mutual funds that are included in the annuity contract.

With this in mind, the only way to really know if the Smart Track Advisor variable annuity from Great West Financial will work for you is to have it tested. We can provide you with this information via our annuity calculator – and there is no charge or obligation for having this done. Just simply contact us via our secure contact form here and we’ll get on the case.

Have More Questions About the Smart Track Advisor Annuity from Great West? Did You Happen to Notice Any Mistakes in this Review?

We realize that this annuity review was a tad bit long, however, it is our feeling that offering a little “too much” information is better than not offering enough. That being said, if you still have any additional questions or would like more details on how this annuity may perform when coupled with your overall financial and retirement income goals, then please feel free to reach out to us here through our secure online contact form. In addition, if you felt that this annuity review was helpful, by all means feel free to forward it on to anyone else who you think may also benefit from it.

In addition, as most humans do, we can make mistakes or overlook some things. So, if you did happen to notice any information in this review that needs to be corrected or updated, please let us know that, too.

Are there any other annuities you would like to see reviewed?

As we expand our annuity database, we are always looking for annuities to discuss in our reviews on the AnnuityGator.com website. If there is one (or more) that you would like to see a review written about, just tell us here and our team of annuity geeks will get on the case.

Best,

The Annuity Gator

Independent Review of the Great West Financial Smart Track Advisor Variable Annuity

 

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