The old saying “as American as apple pie” describes something that is deeply embedded in our culture, so much so that it represents what we consider the very essence of what it means to be an American. This can certainly be applied to the history and use of annuities by famous Americans. When you look at the historical use of annuities in America, you’ll find a broad spectrum of different cultural icons who have used these types of products, all the way back to the founding fathers of the nation. Benjamin Franklin left two annuities in his will, one to the city of Philadelphia and another to the city of Boston, which would last for over 200 years until city officials voted to cancel it in 1993. An even earlier example was a Presbyterian church who used this type of product to ensure a secure retirement for ministers all the way back in 1750. That storied history is still going strong today, as many prominent Americans still endorse annuities as a safe way to ensure financial protection.
Ben SteinAmerican writer, lawyer, and actor Ben Stein is as well known for his intellect as he is for his deadpan delivery. He’s worked in multiple White House administrations and is a frequent commentator on economics and financial topics.
Despite hosting a game show where contestants compete to “win Ben Stein’s money,” he is outspoken about the importance of smart investments and planning. He’s written articles about his support of annuities for long-term financial peace, where he warns of the financial hardships he’s seen befall many of his entertainment industry friends. Unlike corporate pensions, which can be cut if the company goes bankrupt, or stocks, which have no guaranteed value, Stein stresses that annuities are insurance products, guaranteed to be paid by the insurers for the rest of your life. He personally trusts his annuities to provide protection for his wife and children.
Shaquille O’NealOne of the biggest celebrities in America (literally!) has to be former-NBA player Shaquille O’Neal. His basketball career ended in 2011, and today he is more renowned for being a public spokesperson and savvy businessman. Despite being one of the highest-paid players in his prime, Shaq actually earns more money now than he did during his NBA days.
Despite his high income, he depends on annuities to protect his family and his legacy. He has famously said that he doesn’t even count the money currently coming in. He attributes that peace of mind to annuities that his money manager suggested to him back in his early NBA career. He took the advice and invested a million dollars of his salary every year into his annuities, which now provides more than enough income for his family to live on.
Babe RuthMy personal favorite example is another sports icon, George Herman “Babe” Ruth. The Great Bambino was encouraged by his business manager Walter “Christy” Walsh to meet with Harry “Slug” Heilman, another Hall of Famer, who worked as an insurance agent with Equitable in the off-season.
Those meetings led to The Babe purchasing a deferred annuity using some of the proceeds from winning the World Series and his annual salary. This and other annuity purchases between these two Hall of Famers would later provide a stable retirement vehicle (estimated at $290,000 annually today) for one of the most recognized names in American Sports history. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook how much financial products like annuities play into our history and culture. Core values instilled in us at an early age, like working hard and saving for the future, are weaved into the very fabric of our being. That’s why I say that annuities, like Babe Ruth, are as American as apple pie.
As you can see, annuities have a long history in America, going back to figures like Benjamin Franklin. It is not just prominent economists and financiers who have championed annuities— they play into our history and culture, and represent foundational American values.