Independent Review of the National Western Global Look Back Fixed Indexed Annuity

December 18, 2012 — 3 Comments

This is an independent product review, not a recommendation to buy or sell an annuity.  National Western Life has not endorsed this review in any way nor do I receive any compensation for this review.  This review is meant to be an independent review at the request of readers so they could see my perspective when breaking down the positives and negatives of this particular model annuity.  Before purchasing any investment product be sure to do your own due diligence and consult a properly licensed professional should you have specific questions as they relate to your individual circumstances.  All names, marks, and materials used for this review are property of their respective owners.

If you’re looking for information on the National Western Global Look-Back Fixed Indexed Annuity you’re in the right spot.  In this in-depth review we’ll cover:

  • Issuer credit information
  • Product fees
  • Product performance
  • Product riders (such as income guarantees, death benefit, and/or healthcare benefits)

Let’s dig in!

National Western Global Lookback Annuity at a Glance

Product NameNWL Global Lookback Annuity
Type of ProductIndexed Annuity
IssuerNational Western Life
Standard and Poor's Rating"A" (Strong)
Phone Number800-531-5442

Opening Thoughts on This Annuity

Over the past few months I’ve done quite a few annuity reviews.  They’ve all taken some time but most have been fairly easy for me to break down, test, and get complete comprehensive reviews done and online.


A few weeks ago I had a blog reader want my view on The National Western Global Lookback Annuity.

And let me tell you – that one was a doozy.

The NWL Global Lookback is a Fixed Index Annuity very different than anything I’ve seen on the market.  Basically it has an option that tracks 4 different equity indexes and after a year is complete it “looks back” at the four and allocates your money retroactively toward the index that performs the best. Which sounds really cool at first. So I had to dig pretty deep to see exactly how that works and if it really adds value for annuity holders.

How National Western Life Describes The Global Lookback Annuity

Per the NWL Global Lookback brochure here are some key points as to how it’s marketed:

  • Globally diversified by having interest linked in part to 4 indexes (S&P 500, EURO STOXX 50, Nikkei 225, and Heng Seng Index)
  • Unique “lookback” performance weighting
  • Income Outlook – withdrawal benefit rider
  • 9 year surrender charge period
  • 10% free withdraw each year during surrender period

There’s a few more bells and whistles, but those are the basics.

How Financial Advisors Might “Pitch” This Annuity

The basics (I’ve heard) of the sales process for this annuity, is that when you choose the global lookback option each of the four global indexes will have had different performance. Instead of guessing at the beginning of the year which will be the leader  and having to choose your asset allocation the annuity instead “looks back” after the year is complete and calculates the return based on 40% of the best index, 30% from the second best, 20% the third, and 10% the fourth. This allows annuity holders to get maximum market upside with the principal guarantee of an index annuity.

So far it sounds pretty good right? I mean, you automatically get the best allocation and you have no risk.

Well, that’s just part of the equation. And unfortunately that equation is actually rather complicated.

Complete Video Review of the NWL Global Lookback

Warning: We tend to get pretty in-depth and a little geeky with video reviews.  Enjoy, but consider yourself warned ;).

As you can see from the video review there are some major flaws in the sales pitch vs. reality going on here. Yes, this annuity could produce some nice years. Yes, it really does “look back” and choose the best allocation. But no, it doesn’t really kick out any better returns than other index annuities I’ve reviewed. In fact, it’s actually lower than some others.

Part of this could be because I can’t do a 50 year test of this annuity. That’s because some of the indexes have limited historical data available, which limited my test to roughly 10 years. Even then, comparing just 10 years side by side with other annuities with no lookback feature the returns are pretty similar – in the neighborhood of 2% to 4% per year.

Conclusions on the National Western Global Lookback Annuity

I would suspect this will be a pretty hot seller – especially for investors that desire international exposure and don’t want market risk. Unfortunately, some of these folks might think they’ll make 5% or better average returns. I only think this because I’ve had a few blog readers email me about this annuity and that seems to be the consensus they were suggested – a safe way to be globally diversified with a likely return of around 5% (*blog readers words as suggested to them by agents, not mine). It is possible, but based on my testing I think that’s a little over-optimistic.

At the end of the day I defer to the old (but good) saying:

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The NWL Global Lookback has a nice story, is safe, and has potential to produce reasonable returns.  I’m just afraid it might be too complicated for the average person to really understand.

Have Questions on the National Western Annuity?  See any Mistakes?

I get a lot of financial advisors and insurance company home office folks who visit my blog. Like all humans – I do make mistakes. If you see one on this review please reach out and let me know. I’m always more than happy to make corrections and give credit where it is due. If you’re an investor and this review causes confusion and creates questions feel free to reach out as well. I can’t always get back right away but usually I can clear up those questions within a few days.


The Annuity Gator



Jason is the founder of and a frequent contributor to the site. He has been breaking down the complexities of financial products for over 12 years with his extreme geekery...and translating them into simple explanations for the rest of us. Jason is a sought after speaker/educator by major financial services companies such as TD Ameritrade and Allianz for his unique expertise in quant finance (see, we told you he was a geek) and social media.

3 responses to Independent Review of the National Western Global Look Back Fixed Indexed Annuity

  1. Good review on this annuity. I appreciate how in depth the video goes in explaining the realistic rate of return.

    When are more reviews going to be on the site?

    Thanks for the information.

  2. What happened to the :SIA” review?

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