What is a Secondary Market Annuity?
The term secondary market annuity or SMA in short refers to an in force, period certain payment stream. The term secondary market is used to differentiate these existing payment streams from primary market period certain annuities.
While there are payments in the marketplace that originate in lottery prizes and individually owned annuities. It's important to clarify that most secondary market annuity transactions stem from structured settlement compensation. In example legal claims for personal injury or medical malpractice. It's also important to note that these transactions have nothing to do with life settlements. Life settlements make bets on actuarial tables, but the secondary market annuities discussed here are period certain guaranteed receivables.
So, what are structured settlement annuities?
The majority of SMA's in short are guaranteed payment streams backed by period certain annuities. These SMA's are from major carriers that currently pay compensation for damages, injuries, or legal claims.
When an injured party elects to take their award as a structured settlement over time, US tax code IRC 130 allows the plaintiff to receive their compensation free from income tax. By opting for a structured settlement over time rather than a lump sum, the plaintiff can receive both the award and the earnings of that award without tax liability.
Defendants typically use a qualified settlement fund or other vehicle to shift compensation for the injured party to a major carrier in a tax qualified manner. Defendants then generally purchase a life policy with period certain annuity to fund the specific payments due under the settlement. The qualified fund or an affiliated entity of the defendant is the annuity owner, and the plaintiff is the payee.
Structured settlements are a useful tool in the legal system that help provide for minors, help injured people support themselves if they are not able to work, and help reduce reliance on public support systems.
However, times change and often, payee's under a settlement have a need for cash. As the payee's are not the owners of the annuity, their payments are not convertible directly with the carriers into cash. Sellers of payments turn to factoring companies to purchase some or all of their future payments for cash today, and must accept a discount rate for those future payments.
Why the high yield?
When sellers sell at a discount, a secondary market annuity is created that offers the new recipient a higher-than-market rate of return. Buyers of secondary market annuities can receive yields 1 percent to 4 percent higher than comparable primary market, period certain annuities of similar credit quality.