MassMutual was originally established in 1851 by George W. Rice. Rice was an insurance agent for a Connecticut life insurance company wanting to open a similar business in Massachusetts. He started the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company which became a true mutual company – a company owned by its policyholders – soon after it was started.
Today, the company is based in Springfield, Massachusetts and Enfield, Connecticut and has grown from a personal insurer to an international financial services firm. It has approximately thirteen million clients worldwide and over $500 billion in assets under its management. In addition to its operations in the United States, MassMutual has subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, China, Macao, Argentina, Chile, Bermuda, and Luxembourg. The total number of offices for the company numbers over 1200, and the firm’s full marketing name is MassMutual Financial Group.
MassMutual is still run for the benefit of its members and policyholders. They provide life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, retirement/401(k) plan services, mutual funds, money management, and trust services in addition to annuities to their clients.
Although dividends are not guaranteed, MassMutual is proud of its financial strength and has paid dividends to policyholders every year since the 1860s. The company is also known for its charitable giving in the areas where they are based. They often contribute to programs which benefit education, arts, culture, or economic development in the local community.
In terms of annuities, MassMutual offers five different products – two deferred variable annuities, one deferred fixed annuity, and one immediate annuity. The individual products are as follows:
Deferred Variable Annuities:
o MassMutual Transitions Select
o MassMutual Evolution
Deferred Fixed Annuities:
o MassMutual Odyssey and Odyssey Plus
Immediate Fixed Annuities:
o MassMutual RetireEase
Some of MassMutual’s annuity policies can be initiated with death and living benefits. The death benefit option means that a beneficiary will receive all of the money in the account or a guaranteed minimum amount upon the annuitant’s death. Enhanced death benefits are also available which may allow for a higher payment to the beneficiary. The living benefits include guaranteed minimum accumulation benefits, income benefits, and withdrawal benefits.
As with most insurers, MassMutual attaches additional fees associated with its annuity products. These include administration and management fees.There may also be a mortality risk charge and an expense risk charge, often known as an “M&E” charge. In addition, surrender charges may apply if the annuity is terminated early or a portion of the annuity is withdrawn.
When considering an annuity company, it is important to understand the financial strength of the organization. One of the best ways a doing this is by reviewing the company’s financial ratings. Independent rating companies have given MassMutual some of the highest ratings in the industry. Below are the current ratings (as of July 2009) for MassMutual.
A.M. Best Company: (Superior, 1st of 15 categories)
Fitch Ratings: (Exceptionally Strong, 1st of 21 categories)
Moody’s: (Excellent, 2nd of 21 categories)
Standard & Poors: (Extremely Strong, 1st of 21 categories)