U.S. annuity sales last year recorded a 16% jump from 2020 to $254.8 billion, the highest annual annuity sales since 2008, and the third-highest sales recorded in history, according to preliminary results from the Secure Retirement Institute’s U.S. individual annuity sales survey.

In the fourth quarter, annuity sales were $63.4 billion, 8% higher than fourth quarter 2020, SRI said.

“Strong equity market growth in the fourth quarter and in 2021 propelled double-digit growth in both traditional variable annuity and registered index-linked annuity sales, resulting in strong year-over-year results,” said Todd Giesing, assistant vice president, SRI Annuity Research.

Sales of variable annuities (VAs) in the fourth quarter jumped 17% from the prior year to $32.3 billion. Total VA sales in 2021 were $125.6 billion, 27% higher than the prior year.

Traditional VA sales also recorded 13% growth from 2020 to $21.7 billion in the fourth quarter. For the year, sales totaled $86.6 billion, up 16% from 2020. SRI noted that this ends nine years of declines for traditional VA sales.

Giesing said traditional VA sales growth came after “heightened concern about potential changes to the tax code drove growth in investment-focused, non-qualified product sales.” He also noted that fee-based products experienced the largest gains last year, as registered investment advisors and broker-dealers sought out tax-deferral solutions for their clients.

Registered index-linked annuity (RILA) sales continued to break records. Sales of RILA in the fourth quarter reached $10.6 billion, 26% higher than prior year. RILA sales climbed to $39 billion in 2021, 62% higher than in 2020.

RILA sales, Giesing said, benefited from current economic conditions and expanded competition as new carriers enter the market. He added that SRI predicts RILA sales’ upward trajectory will continue because they offer a balance of protection and growth, solutions that investors will continue to seek in 2022.

Fixed-annuity sales were leveled with fourth quarter 2020 results at $31.1 billion. In 2021, total fixed annuities increased 7% to $129.2 billion.

Fixed-indexed annuity (FIA) sales jumped in the fourth quarter to $16.6 billion, an 18% increase from the prior year. FIA sales were $63.7 billion in 2021, up 15% from 2020. This, SRI said, marks the largest annual growth for FIA products in three years.