At a time of CD roll-overs under 3 percent, this sounds like a big come-on, but in reality it is possible under the right circumstances.

There are two determining factors: Either the money will be the source of lifetime income or will pass on to beneficiaries of the owner.

This type of annuity program, offered by some extremely large worldwide insurance companies and fully guaranteed against any downside market risk, seems like a welcome alternative to current CD markets and similar low-risk places to keep retirement money.

In discussing these plans with folks facing the prevailing low interest rates for maturing CDs, several questions arise.

Who is the guarantor? My research has produced several large, old worldwide insurance companies which seem as safe as any place else to grow or preserve retirement money. It wouldn't make sense to overload such a program, but a modest percentage of a retirement nest-egg might be smart.

Another question is, can I get my money back if I need it for emergencies? The answer is yes, but there is always some penalty for early withdrawal. If that need seems likely, these programs are not a good idea, although the penalties are modest and relatively short-lived.

Yet another question concerns IRA or other so-called qualified money. I have yet to find a company that will not accept such money on a regular rollover basis, and this brings to mind Required Minimum Distribution, which all holders of "qualified" money are subject to, by law, upon reaching age 70 ½. With one company I looked into, although the account was growing at 8 percent each year, the RMD had no negative effect, meaning that even though the RMD at age 72 might cause 4 percent to be removed from the account by law, the account still would grow at a net 4 percent.

What about this so-called 8 percent? Is it for real? The answer is yes, as long as the money is to be used for income as determined by the schedules of the guaranteeing insurance company, which, according to my research, are not as competitive as rates offered in the immediate annuity marketplace. But I found this was offset by the 8 percent growth factor over time compared to the under 3 percent currently available in the CD marketplace. Also, once money is used to buy an immediate annuity, control of that money is lost even though you can't outlive the income.

On the other hand, once you elect to start taking income from the 8 percent program which you are also guaranteed to receive for as long as you live, your 8 percent growth ceases, but if for any reason you decide to stop taking income, your 8 percent starts up again so you really have retained control compared to buying an immediate annuity.

Westporter Bill Beyea, CSA, can be reached at 203-226-4770 or