UPDATED: Nov 30, 2018
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Jackson has a pretty strong presence and is well known among financial representatives, even if they aren’t one of those instantly recognized brands with the average person. They don’t advertise heavily and rely a lot more on reputation and popularity with financial advisors – which we’ll talk about more later in this review – to keep new business rolling in.
Jackson National Life Summary
Jackson National Life Insurance Company was founded in 1961 in Jackson, Michigan, initially offering term life insurance as an affordable alternative to the popular whole life policies of the time. They started out selling through their own agents, but by 1966 they decided to break with the traditional model of captive agent sales and go to independent agents instead, an unusual move at the time that made them something of a pioneer in the selling of insurance policies.
That approach worked, and they reached the $1 billion in assets mark by 1984. Two years later British insurance company Prudential plc – which is not related to the American company, and dates back to 1884 in London – purchased Jackson National Life Insurance. They remain a subsidiary of that company to this day, although they continue to operate as a separate organization.
The 1990s took Jackson in a new direction as they began selling annuities. The company launched their first variable annuity in 1995 and followed it with their first offering of fixed annuities the next year. They followed this with a series of acquisitions that expanded their assets as they continued to move into retirement and investment products. Annuities would eventually become the entire focus of the company.
Today the company’s headquarters is located in Lansing, Michigan with branch offices across the country in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Jackson National Life no longer sells life insurance policies, however do retain the company name. The company now offers a variety of annuities.
Thanks to the acquisition of multiple subsidiary companies, including life insurance companies, they appear to still have a large number of life policies in force, but there’s no such policy offering currently.
Two branches of the company handle distribution, one for individual customers and another for institutional investments. They also have several subsidiaries including a broker dealer network, National Planning Holdings, Inc., and asset management companies.
Jackson products continue to be sold through independent agents across the country. Like many other similar companies, Jackson has a subsidiary company created to write products in New York State, Jackson National Life Insurance Company of New York.
Jackson runs their Center for Financial Insight that provides relevant information about investing and financial planning. The goal of this aspect of the website is to provide financial material that is engaging and useful to consumers and professionals alike. There is a focus particularly on retirement planning, however it is also geared towards educating the modern investor. Although Jackson and their subsidiaries mainly run the Center, they get contributions from others in the industry.
Although they did start as a life insurance company, Jackson’s primary products today are annuities. While they can share some similarities with certain forms of life insurance, they are definitely in a class of their own.
Annuities are generally seen as an investment option designed to provide income from the invested funds, particularly used as supplemental retirement income.
While some life insurance policies also offer investment opportunities, the main goal of life insurance is the death benefit to provide for loved ones, while annuities’ main benefits are for those still living, even if there is a death payout.
So while Jackson is still in some ways a life insurance company, they don’t write term, whole, or universal, which are the policies most people think of as life insurance. Instead they offer three different types of annuities for customers to secure income into retirement.
Jackson offers three types of variable annuity, each with different investment options, benefits, and requirements. Variable annuities offer a range of choices for the invested funds, and Jackson offers between 90-100 different choices.
Jackson’s three variable annuity products are:
Elite Access – A 1% charge and a minimum $5000 non-qualified or $2000 qualified initial investment make this something of an entry-level annuity for those looking to make a smaller initial investment. This annuity has a five-year withdrawal charge schedule and has limited options for living and death benefits. This annuity offers diversified investment choices to build on the traditional investments.
Elite Access Advisory – With a higher initial investment of $25,000 (qualified or non-qualified), this option has a three-year withdrawal charge schedule. There is a minimum additional premium of $500 and a monthly contract charge of $10/month.
Perspective II – This annuity has a 1.4% charge and the minimum initial investment is $10,000 non-qualified and $5000 qualified. It includes 10 year living benefits that are guaranteed as well as death benefit options. There is a 7-year withdrawal charge schedule, and other withdrawal options are available.
Perspective Advisory – This option is a variable and fixed annuity. Perspective Advisory has a minimum investment amount of $25,000 (non-qualified or qualified) and there is a 3 year withdrawal charge. The mortality and expense risk charge is 0.25%.
Fixed Index Annuities
Jackson offers four different fixed index annuity choices, all of which have a minimum initial investment of $10,000 non-qualified and $5000 qualified.
Jackson AscenderPlus Select – The only annuity that offers LifePay, an optional rider for lifetime income. This option requires a higher minimum initial investment of $25,000. 5, 7, or 10-year contract terms are available as well as three different options for indexes.
Select Annual Reset – This annuity has an Annual reset point-to-point crediting method with 5 or 7-year contract terms. The minimum initial premium is $10,000 non-qualified or $5,000 qualified. It has a guaranteed minimum accumulation value of 1.25% of 100% of premium, and two index choices – S&P Index and Multi-Strategy Index.
Elite Choice – An initial investment of $10,000 (non- qualified) or $5,000 (qualified) is required for this choice. This option offers 6, 8, or 10-year terms, several crediting method options, and two different index choices – S&P 500 Index and Multi-Strategy Index. An Elite Choice annuity provides tax-deferred earnings, flexible income options and guarantees, including a guaranteed death benefit.
Elite Choice Rewards – Similar to the Elite Choice, but offers only 8 and 10-year terms. It also has an additional interest of 2.5% for premium up to $100,000 and 5% for premiums above that amount.
Jackson’s fixed annuities offer several options to provide retirement income as well as a death benefit. These annuities have a guaranteed payout and don’t face the potential fluctuations in value that a variable annuity would, as the market does not impact them.
Jackson offers five fixed annuity options, each of which has a few different features and benefits. All of the fixed annuities have an initial investment minimum of $5000 non-qualified and $2000 qualified, other than Immediate Annuity which requires an initial investment of $5,000. These initial investments aren’t too high and therefore makes them pretty easy to get into with a smaller investment amount.
- Action Family
- BonusMAX Family
- MAX Family
- SuperMAX Family
- Immediate Annuity
Within these are different options that can be chosen to fit the income needs of the person investing. Withdrawal charges and interest rates vary across these as well.
Annuities in New York
Through their New York State subsidiary, Jackson sells a series of annuity products that are designed specifically for that state’s laws. Some of the same annuities are available for New York as in the rest of the country, although they are New York-specific.
- Perspective II Fixed and Variable Annuities
- Perspective L Series Fixed and Variable Annuities
- Elite Access Fixed and Variable Annuities
- NY Action Family of Single Premium Deferred Annuities
- Jackson of NY Single Premium Immediate Annuities
Annuities are one of the most common products marketed to people who are approaching retirement. They can seem like a great idea on the surface – put in a relatively small initial investment and earn income. It’s important to be aware, however, of the fees and charges that are attached to these annuities. They can be very high and greatly impact how much value the investor is really getting out of the annuity.
The added bonus of a death benefit on some annuities can also be an attractive feature, particularly for those who don’t have life insurance and are finding that they’ve reached an age where taking out a life insurance policy has become difficult and expensive. However, it’s important to look at all of the options for funding retirement as well as providing for final expenses before choosing an annuity to do both jobs.
Annuities have a place in some people’s retirement plans, but they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. In general, annuities can be very expensive and often pay high commissions to agents that sell them. Because of this, they are sometimes pushed on people that would benefit from something else.
The important thing to do when considering investing a large portion of your nest egg into something like an annuity is talk to a fee-based financial planner. Someone that does not benefit from selling you something, but rather collects a fee in exchange for advice.
Cost of Investment
There’s no real premium comparison to be done for a company like Jackson, as they don’t offer standard life insurance products.
They do offer annuities with a relatively low minimum initial investment amount, although it’s important to remember that smaller investments earn smaller returns. It’s very important to read the prospectus and all of the information on the interest rates and returns that you can expect from a particular annuity before you invest, as these can vary greatly.
Overall, Jackson’s fees don’t appear to be out of line with other annuities, although as we have already noted, annuities have some high fees in general.
Each individual is different, so it’s hard to determine just what the actual cost of investment would be for you – and this is where that independent financial planner comes in again. Make sure you get a clear picture of what each option will cost you in terms of fees, and be sure to check in with a tax expert to determine implications of each option.
Claims and Contact
Since Jackson doesn’t write traditional life insurance policies, they don’t really have a standard claims department, although some of their subsidiaries that write life insurance do. These companies should be contacted through their individual contact numbers.
Jackson’s customer service for policy owners is 1-800-644-4565.
This line is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST, which is a little longer than the average business hours for a life insurance company.
This phone number can be used for any customer service or policy/product questions, and is likely the number that would be used in the event of a death benefit claim against an annuity that offers that benefit as well, although the site doesn’t state that specifically.
Jackson doesn’t have an online claims form, which makes sense given the products that they sell, but they do have an email contact form that can be used for customer service issues.
Claims forms for various needs can be found among the other downloadable forms on the company’s website, easily accessible. Death benefit claim forms are found here, along with other annuity claims.
Consumer Feedback and Ratings
Jackson National Life Insurance Company is not Better Business Bureau accredited and has a C+ rating. The last time we reviewed this company it had an A+ rating. According to the BBB website there were two complaints that were not handled well by Jackson National therefore contributing to the rating drop. There has been 2 complaints close in the last 3 years.
Jackson’s complaint volume with the BBB was never high. The BBB takes failure to respond to a complaint pretty seriously, and it can drop a company’s rating dramatically. Although Jackson did respond to their complaint BBB claims that they failed to make a good effort to resolve the dispute. For the second complaint the customer did not accept the response, however the BBB has not heard back from the customer. For a company the size of Jackson, the amount of complaints (showing 2 closed) in the last three years is a really low number.
According to a Cogent Reports survey of financial advisors in 2014, Jackson National came out ahead of the pack in terms of the company’s proprietary metric, Asset Investment Momentum, or AIM. That means it’s the preferred brand of the financial advisors surveyed, rising above competitors with more brand recognition among consumers such as Prudential and Nationwide.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they have the best products for you, but it does mean that they are performing well, and professionals are choosing them above other companies as the go-to for annuities. Since financial advisors do well when they have happy clients, it does carry some weight that they choose Jackson National above others, at least based on this survey.
Overall, the company appears to have a good reputation both with customers and with professionals. They have few complaints and have made moves in recent years to resolve previous issues, which gives the impression they do care about how they are perceived and about helping their customers.
Annuities aren’t for everyone, but depending on your financial situation and your needs, they may be the right choice for certain investors. If annuities are something you want to add to your investment portfolio, then Jackson National is a company worth looking at. Annuities are all they do, and they are recognized in the industry and among financial advisors for doing it well.
The company is strong financially and they have plenty of annuity options to choose from, along with minimum investments that are accessible to any level of investor. There is nothing of major concern in the reviews.
Before you start shopping for annuities, however, take the time to find a trusted financial advisor who will go over all of your finances and goals and help you to decide which investments are the right ones to suit your needs. Make sure your advisor will also go over the annuity options you’re considering so you’ve got a clear picture of what to expect in terms of returns, interest, and of course those fees that can make annuities so costly.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.