What Is a Guaranteed Minimum Income Benefit (GMIB)?

By Rebecca Lake · April 15, 2024 · 7 minute read

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What Is a Guaranteed Minimum Income Benefit (GMIB)?

A guaranteed minimum income benefit (GMIB) is an optional rider that can be included in an annuity contract to provide a minimum income amount to the annuity holder. An annuity is an insurance product in which you pay a premium to the insurance company, then receive payments back at a later date. There are a number of different types of annuities, with different annuity rates.

A GMIB annuity can ensure that you receive a consistent stream of guaranteed income. If you’re considering buying an annuity for your retirement, it’s helpful to understand what guaranteed minimum income means, and how it works.

GMIBs, Defined

A guaranteed minimum income benefit (GMIB) is a rider that the annuity holder can purchase, at an additional cost, and add it onto their annuity. The goal of a GMIB is to ensure that the annuitant will continue to receive payments from the contract — that’s the “guaranteed minimum income” part — without those payments being affected by market volatility.

Annuities are one option you might consider when starting a retirement fund. But what are annuities and how do they work? It’s important to answer this question first when discussing guaranteed minimum income benefits.

As noted, an annuity is a type of insurance contract. You purchase the contract, typically with a lump sum, on the condition that the annuity company pays money back to you now or starting at a later date, e.g. in retirement.

Depending on how the annuity is structured, your money may be invested in underlying securities or not. Depending on the terms and the annuity rates involved, you may receive a lump sum or regular monthly payments. The amount of the payment is determined by the amount of your initial deposit or premium, and the terms of the annuity contract.

A GMIB annuity is most often a variable annuity or indexed annuity product (though annuities for retirement can come in many different types).

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How GMIBs Work

Let’s look at two different types of annuities for retirement: variable and indexed.

•   Variable annuities can offer a range of investment types, often in the form of mutual funds that hold a combination of stocks, bonds, and money market instruments.

•   Indexed annuities offer returns that are indexed to an underlying benchmark, such as the S&P 500 index, Nasdaq, or Russell 2000. This is similar to other types of indexed investments.

With either one, the value of the annuity contract is determined by the performance of the underlying investments you choose.

When the market is strong, variable annuities or indexed annuities can deliver higher returns. When market volatility increases, however, that can reduce the value of your annuity. A GMIB annuity builds in some protection against market risk by specifying a guaranteed minimum income payment you’ll receive from the annuity, independent of the annuity’s underlying market-based performance.

Of course, what you can draw from an annuity to begin with will depend on how much you invest in the contract, stated annuity rates, and to some degree your investment performance. But having a GMIB rider on this type of retirement plan can help you to lock in a predetermined amount of future income.

Pros & Cons of GMIBs

Guaranteed minimum income benefit annuities can be appealing for investors who want to have a guaranteed income stream in retirement. Whether it makes sense to purchase one can depend on how much you have to invest, how much income you’re hoping to generate, your overall goals and risk tolerance.

Weighing the pros and cons can help you to decide if a GMIB annuity is a good fit for your retirement planning strategy.

Pros of GMIBs

The main benefit of a GMIB annuity is the ability to receive a guaranteed amount of income in retirement. This can make planning for retirement easier as you can estimate how much money you’re guaranteed to receive from the annuity, regardless of what happens in the market between now and the time you choose to retire.

If you’re concerned about your spouse or partner being on track for their own retirement, that income can also carry over to your spouse and help fund their retirement needs, if you should pass away first. You can structure the annuity to make payments to you beginning at a certain date, then continue those payments to your spouse for the remainder of their life. This can provide reassurance that your spouse won’t be left struggling financially after you’re gone.

Cons of GMIBs

A main disadvantage of guaranteed minimum income benefit annuities is the cost. The more riders you add on to an annuity contract, the more this can increase the cost. So that’s something to factor in if you have a limited amount of money to invest in a variable or indexed annuity with a GMIB rider. Annuities may also come with other types of investment fees, so you may want to consult with a professional who can help you decipher the fine print.

It’s also important to consider the quality of the annuity company. An annuity is only as good as the company that issues the contract. If the company were to go out of business, your guaranteed income stream could dry up. For that reason, it’s important to review annuity ratings to get a sense of how financially stable a particular company is.

Examples of GMIB Annuities

Variable or indexed annuities that include a guaranteed minimum income benefit can be structured in different ways. For example, you may be offered the opportunity to purchase a variable annuity for $250,000. The annuity contract includes a GMIB order that guarantees you the greater of:

•   The annuity’s actual value

•   6% interest compounded annually

•   The highest value reached in the account historically

The annuity has a 10-year accumulation period in which your investments can earn interest and grow in value. This is followed by the draw period, in which you can begin taking money from the annuity.

Now, assume that at the beginning of the draw period the annuity’s actual value is $300,000. But if you were to calculate the annuitized value based on the 6% interest compounded annually, the annuity would be worth closer to $450,000. Since you have this built into the contract, you can opt to receive the higher amount thanks to the guaranteed minimum income benefit.

This example also illustrates why it’s important to be selective when choosing annuity contracts with a guaranteed minimum income benefit. The higher the guaranteed compounding benefit the better, as this can return more interest to you even if the annuity loses value because of shifting market conditions.

It’s also important to consider how long the interest will compound. Again, the more years interest can compound the better, in terms of how that might translate to the size of your guaranteed income payout later.

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The Takeaway

As discussed, guaranteed minimum income benefits (GMIB) are optional riders that can be included in an annuity contract to provide a minimum income amount to the annuity holder. Annuities can help round out your financial strategy if you’re looking for ways to create guaranteed income in retirement.

Annuities may be a part of a larger investment and retirement planning strategy, along with other types of retirement accounts. To get a better sense of how they may fit in, if at all, it may be a good idea to speak with a financial professional.

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What are guaranteed benefits?

When discussing annuities for retirement, guaranteed benefits are amounts that you are guaranteed to receive. Depending on how the annuity contract is structured, you may receive guaranteed benefits as a lump sum payment or annuitized payments.

What is the guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit?

The guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit is the amount you’re guaranteed to be able to withdraw from an annuity once the accumulation period ends. This can be the annuity’s actual value, an amount that reflects interest compounded annually or the annuity contract’s highest historical value.

What are the two types of guaranteed living benefits?

There are actually more than two types of guaranteed living benefits. For example, your annuity contract might include a guaranteed minimum income benefit, guaranteed minimum accumulation benefit or guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit.

Photo credit: iStock/Luke Chan

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