A Worthy Climb

Mar 1, 2024

Anyone who has been on a road trip in the Northeast has probably seen the bumper sticker: “This car climbed Mt. Washington.”

Since the 1950s, everyone who’s successfully driven to the top of the 6,288-foot summit has received one.

It’s one of New Hampshire’s most enduring symbols. And it could soon get some company. Recent accomplishments in New Hampshire might warrant another bumper sticker, although this one will be for residents, instead of tourists.

New Hampshire’s Insurance Department led by Commissioner D.J. Bettencourt recently adopted a new rule that incorporates the enhanced consumer protections in the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) updated model regulation on annuity transactions. New Hampshire became the 43rd state to adopt similar laws or rules. Building on this momentum, the remaining states are studying similar measures to further protect their residents.

The rule enhances the standards financial professionals must follow and protects consumers’ access to, and information about, annuities, the only financial product in the marketplace that can provide guaranteed income for life. Thanks to this new rule, the nearly 1.4 million residents of The Granite State will be in a strong position to achieve financial security and prosperity for their entire lives.

The actions in the states closely align with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Regulation Best Interest. And, unlike the Department of Labor’s ill-advised fiduciary-only proposal, these measures ensure savers, particularly financially vulnerable middle-income Americans, can access annuities and information about other options for their retirement savings.

The DOL’s proposal is similar to its failed 2016 regulation that, before it was struck down by a federal court, resulted in more than 10 million American workers’ accounts, with $900 billion in savings, losing access to professional financial guidance. A recent survey shows that retirement savers overwhelmingly want the freedom to work with any kind of financial professional who is offering products and services that meet their needs.

With these enhanced state and federal consumer protections, savers can be confident that financial professionals must act in the consumer’s best interest when offering recommendations about annuities. The U.S. Congress reaffirmed the importance of lifetime income when it passed legislation in 2019 and 2022 that made it easier for employers to include annuities in workplace retirement plans and simpler for savers and retirees to utilize annuities that fit their needs.

More than 4.1 million Americans are turning 65 each year through 2027. Now is definitely not the time to limit people’s options for retirement.

The remaining states should adopt this practical consumer protection. Then Americans looking to protect their family’s financial future would benefit from a best interest standard, no matter where in the United States they care to live, drive or climb.

Jill Rickard

Jill Rickard is Regional Vice President, State Relations, at the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). She is responsible for state legislative and regulatory affairs in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. She also leads ACLI’s advocacy team on matters related to paid family & medical leave, indexed universal life insurance, and impact investing. She joined ACLI in 2021.

Dawn Chambers

Dawn Chambers, past president of NAIFA-NH, is from Manchester, New Hampshire.