In Perfect Harmony

Aug 16, 2023

Which states produce the most country music legends? Not surprisingly, Texas, Tennessee and Georgia boast many members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

But smaller states like Oklahoma more than hold their own. A concert featuring native Oklahomans Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill would be a hot ticket.

Beyond being the birthplace of country music royalty, Oklahoma now shares something else in common with Texas, Tennessee and Georgia, as well as 36 other states.  

Oklahoma recently adopted a rule proposed by Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready that incorporates the enhanced consumer protections in the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) updated model regulation on annuity transactions.

Residents in 80% of the United States now benefit from a best interest standard of care. Building on this momentum, many additional states are considering similar measures to protect their citizens.

The new 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 consumer protection rule, the nearly 4 million residents of the Sooner State will be in a strong position to achieve financial security and prosperity throughout retirement.

The actions in the states closely align with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Regulation Best Interest. And, unlike a fiduciary-only approach, these harmonized measures ensure savers, particularly financially vulnerable lower and middle-income Americans, can access information about different choices for long-term security throughout retirement. According to a recent study, a fiduciary-only approach would restrict access to financial inclusion for 10 million households. A new survey shows that retirement savers overwhelmingly want the option 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 assured that financial professionals must act in the consumer’s best interest when offering recommendations about annuities. These protections safeguard consumers while also making certain that middle- and working-class families will retain access to financial information. The U.S. Congress reaffirmed the importance of lifetime income when it passed legislation in 2019 and 2022 to make it easier for employers to include annuities in workplace retirement plans and simpler for savers and retirees to utilize annuities that fit their needs. 

The 10 states lacking this practical consumer protection should follow Oklahoma’s lead. Then all Americans working to protect their family’s financial future could benefit from a best interest standard of care, no matter what music is playing in their neck of the woods.

Melissa Young

Melissa Young is Regional Vice President, State Relations at the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). She is responsible for state legislative and regulatory affairs in Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas. Melissa leads ACLI’s advocacy team on issues related to consumer disclosures, corporate division/insurance business transfers, and market conduct.

Whitney Jessee

NAIFA-Oklahoma President Whitney Jessee is from Tulsa, Okla.