As a rule of thumb, the worst possible time to convert lump sum savings into a fixed income annuity would be when interest rates are historically low.
Although products may vary, this is roughly equivalent to buying long term bonds at a time when interest rates are likely to increase, substantially reducing your principal in real terms, and eroding your fixed returns through inflation.
For some reason the Obama Administration is promoting the idea now that there should be some encouragement for Americans to start converting their 401K’s and IRA’s into annuities, to provide themselves with lifetime income.
The effort is being spear-headed by Mark Iwry of the Treasury and Phyllis Borzi of the Department of Labor. Here is a paper written on the subject by Mark Iwry when he was at the Brookings Institution.
The essence of this paper is that distributions from IRA’s and 401K’s would automatically be rolled into an annuity providing a monthly income by default.
This concept is known on the Street as the handling fees for meager returns pork barrel pigfest. The Fed likes it because they will undoubtedly get a two year rolling chunk of the people’s retirement cash to play with.