Annual Reset Methods

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Do you have questions about the annual reset method with annuities? You’re not alone. This is confusing for many, but it’s important to understand if you’re considering an annuity as part of your retirement planning. In this guide, we will explain what the annual reset method is and how it works. We’ll also answer some common questions about this strategy.

What Is An Annual Reset?

The ratchet method is a strategy used to calculate the unadjusted index interest rate in an indexed annuity.

Under this method, the index term consists of multiple years (1-5 years). Each contract year has a beginning and ending point for which an unadjusted index interest rate is calculated. At the end of the index term—a period of time that may include several contract years—the unadjusted index interest rates for each of the contract years in the index term are added together to produce an unadjusted index interest rate for the entire period.

The ratchet method is advantageous because it smooths out market volatility by resetting at least once yearly, ensuring always some positive return credited.

In addition, this method typically allows for a higher participation rate than other strategies. As a result, the ratchet method can be a valuable tool for protecting your investment while still allowing you to participate in market gains.

In most annual reset point-to-point strategies, a negative year is simply counted as 0 percent. No money is lost.

How Does Annual Reset Work?

The annual reset point-to-point method is a popular way to calculate interest on an index contract.

In this method, the index closing level at the end of the first year of the index term becomes the starting point for the second year calculation. This process continues until the end of the index term period.

A Flight Of Stairs

A fixed index annuity owner earns interest based on the performance of an external index like the S&P 500. The way insurance companies determine how much interest an owner earns is through an annual reset.

  • Annual” refers to the time between two contract anniversary dates.
  • Reset” refers to the annuity crediting and locking in the interest rate, then resetting for the next compounding period. 

Think of an annual reset like a flight of stairs.  

  • Positive Years: Each time you earn interest, you create a new step in the flight of stairs.
  • Negative Years: Every year, there is a negative return, you don’t earn a new step, and your account stays the same as the previous year.

Nothing happens if you earn zero or less interest in a reset period. Your annuity contract value stays the same. Thus, you do not lose money from the annuity due to negative stock market performance.

The annual reset method offers multiple reset periods that I’ll go over, which can be crucial to earning your interest throughout the annuity.

Annual Reset Point-To-Point Method

The index closing level after the first year of the index term serves as the index starting level for the second year’s calculation in the point-to-point method. The second year’s ending index closing level becomes the starting index closing level for the third year, and so on.

The reset credits interest to the index annuity’s account at the end of each year’s index term period. As a result, the accumulated interest compounds on an annual basis.

How Does Annual Reset Work?

Multi-Year Reset

The annual reset strategy and the multi-year reset approach are identical, with one exception: the multi-year reset method requires calculation periods at least two years long. In contrast, the annual reset technique simply uses a single year.

Annual Reset Method And Baseball

For fixed indexed annuities, I like to compare an annual reset interest crediting to baseball in which every reset period is a time “at-bat.” Every time you’re up to bat in baseball, you can either get a hit or strike out. The annual reset method works the same way. During each reset period in a deferred annuity, you have the opportunity to earn or not earn interest.

Since there are multiple reset periods, you should be comfortable with how much chance you want to grow your account. The chance isn’t about how much money you will lose (because you can’t) but how much interest one could earn between periods.

Annual Reset

The annual reset is like it sounds: a reset period of 1 year. Every year you get an opportunity to earn or not earn interest. In a standard 10-year contract, you have ten opportunities to earn or not earn interest.

Two-Year Reset

A reset period of two years in length. Every two years, you have an opportunity to earn or not earn interest. For example, in a standard 10-year contract, you have five chances to earn or not earn interest.

Three-Year Reset

A reset period of three years in length. Every three years, you have an opportunity to earn or not earn interest. For example, in a standard 10-year annuity contract, you have three chances to earn or not earn interest (Year 9).

Five-Year Reset

A reset period of five years in length. Every five years, you have an opportunity to earn or not earn interest. For example, in a standard 10-year contract, you have two chances to earn or not earn interest.

Why Would Anyone Select A Reset Period Of More Than A Year?

Easy answer.  More upside potential. The longer the reset periods, the more opportunity to earn higher interest. The tradeoff is the longer the reset period, the fewer opportunities to make up for lost time, not earning interest.


You open a 10-year indexed annuity contract.

You choose a 2-year reset period.

The first time you’ll see any earnings is on the first day of the 3rd year.

The two years go by, and you earn zero interest.  

That stinks.

Now you have to wait until another two years to earn interest (or choose a shorter reset period), which is a total of 4 years in length before you see any growth.

That’s a long time to see growth. 

Yes, you protect your original principal, but who wants to wait a long time to see any growth?

The other side of that equation is that the earnings probably are greater than an annual reset period if you earn interest.

Now imagine if you chose a reset period of longer than two years.

That’s where it gets dicey.  

I like to say if you’re looking for consistency, stick with an annual reset. 

Choose a multi-year reset strategy if you’re looking for maximum upside potential over the contract’s life.

The good news is you can mix and match strategies on most equity-indexed annuities.  

You can always change your interest-earning strategy after each reset period. In addition, some annuity owners often elect a backup plan to guarantee their outcome, allowing them to empower their retirement.

If you’re lucky, the life insurance company offers a high minimum guarantee value to back you up in case of not earn anything.

Next Steps

If you’re interested in learning more about the annual reset method and annuities, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to provide you with a free quote and answer any of your questions. Annuities can be a valuable part of a retirement plan, but it’s important to ensure they’re the right fit for your unique situation. Thanks for reading!

Annuity Annual Reset Strategy

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Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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