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A Fascinating Behind-the-Scenes Look: What Are Annuities? (2023)

Pros And Cons Of Annuities

An annuity policy is a type of investment that can provide you with a steady stream of income for a set period of time. In this article, we will take a behind-the-scenes look at what is an annuity and how they work – and answer many of the questions you have regarding annuities.

An annuity contract is basically an insurance product you invest in with an insurance company. When you invest in a type of annuity, your annuity contribution goes into a pool of money that will be used to pay out a stream of income to you for a specified period of time. The income from an annuity is usually paid out monthly, and can last for a set number of years (or an annuity for lifetime income).

There are two types of annuities: fixed annuities and variable annuities.

With a fixed annuity policy, you know exactly how much income you will receive each month (and for how long), and this amount will not change. With a variable annuity, the income you receive each month can vary, depending on the performance of the investments in the annuity.

When you purchase an annuity, you are typically doing so with money that you have already saved up (preferably savings that are not in a 401(k) or IRA). The money that you use to purchase an annuity is not taxed until it is withdrawn. This can be a significant additional tax advantage, as it allows your build up of cash value to grow tax-deferred.

What Are Annuities – Definition

What are annuities? As stated earlier, an annuity policy is defined as a insurance product that pays out a fixed stream of payments to an individual, typically over a payout period of more than one year. Annuities can be used for a variety of purposes, including retirement planning, estate planning, and tax advantage investing.

An annuity can be an attractive option for retirees who want to ensure they have a steady income stream to cover their basic living expenses. There are a few things to consider before buying an annuity, such as the type of annuity options, the features and benefits of annuities, and the costs.

There are a few basic categories of annuities: fixed and variable. Fixed annuities offer a guaranteed rate of return, while variable annuities offer the potential for higher returns but also come with more investment risk.

Different Kinds Of Annuity Contracts

Immediate Annuity – meaning you exchange a lump sum payment of investments today (known as annuity premiums), for a stream of income. It can be thought of as if you traded in your 401k, and instead received a pension.

Deferred Income Annuity – it simply mean you are accumulating and deferring your income stream or future annuity payments to a future date. In the interim, your annuity is invested one of two ways:

Accumulation Phase

There is an accumulation phase when you are saving followed by different phases at retirement: a payout phase, distribution phase, and an annuitization phase

  • Fixed Annuity – income annuities are similar to a CD – you will be earn a fixed interest rate or rate of return
  • Variable Annuity – this is similar to an investment portfolio, where the annuity owner invests annuity funds in subaccounts that act similar to mutual funds. You get a variable rate of return that is based on the investment performance of the subaccounts you choose to invest in. This is called the accumulation period.

A fixed annuity pays out a fixed interest rate of return, regardless of what happens with the financial market performance. This makes them a relatively safe investment, but also means that the return is usually lower than what could be earned in a more volatile investment.

A variable annuity policy, on the other hand, does not pay a fixed rate of return. Instead, the payments from a variable annuity will fluctuate, depending on the performance of the underlying investment and the day to day market fluctuations. This means that a variable annuity can offer the potential for higher returns, but also comes with more market risk.

There is a third type, called Equity Indexed Annuities with a participation rate and growth rate.. Since these are heavily pushed by insurance brokers and bankers – I will write an entire article about these…

So, now you know what are annuities and the definition of an annuity product. Let’s understand how they work now.

what are annuities

What Are Annuities – Buying An Annuity

When considering a retirement annuity, it’s important to understand the features and annuity benefits that are important to you. For example, some offer a death benefit, which can provide financial security for your loved ones. Other features to consider include income riders, which can increase your income in retirement, and inflation protection, which can help keep your income stream rising as costs go up, or even a death benefit rider.

Annuities also come with additional costs, such as insurance and annual annuity charges and annuity fees. It’s important to understand all the future costs associated with an annuity before making a purchase. These could include other common types of applicable charges such as an expense risk charge, administrative expenses, annual expenses, expense ratios, and fund expenses of the sub accounts.

If you’re thinking about an annuity purchase , be sure to talk to a financial advisor to see if it’s the right fit for your retirement goals.


There are several primary reasons to buy an annuity.

  • The most common reason is to create a guaranteed stream of income in retirement. An annuity can provide income for life, which can be a valuable asset in retirement planning.
  • An annuity can be a valuable tool in retirement planning, providing a guaranteed income stream for life. This can be a critical asset for retirees, who may be living on a fixed income and need to know that their income will not fluctuate and minimize longevity risk.
  • An annuity can also provide peace of mind, knowing that you will have income no matter how long you live. There are principal protection, downside protection and guaranteed protection.
  • Estate planning is another common reason to buy an annuity. An annuity can be used to transfer wealth to heirs without incurring estate taxes. This can be a valuable way to pass on assets to loved ones, protection for dependents, while minimizing capital gains and ordinary income taxes.
  • Asset protection is another reason to consider an annuity. Annuities are often used to protect assets from creditors. This can be a valuable tool for people who are concerned about losing assets to creditors in the event of a lawsuit or other legal action.

There are many reasons to consider purchasing an annuity. Retirement planning, estate planning, and asset protection are all common reasons. Annuities can provide a contractual guaranteed stream of income, which can be a valuable asset in retirement. They can also be used to transfer wealth to heirs without incurring estate taxes.

decision making
What Are Annuities and How Do Annuities Work?

How Do Annuities Work – Basics of Annuities

As stated above – fixed annuities offer financial guarantees of a rate of return (a minimum interest rate), while variable annuities offer the potential for higher returns but also come with more investment risk.

Annuities are an insurance product, often purchased from insurance companies. But they can also be purchased from other financial institutions, such as banks and investment firms. When an annuity is purchased, the buyer typically makes a lump sum payment of cash, which is then used to fund the annuity.

The future payments over time from an annuity are typically made on a monthly income or yearly basis, and they can last for a set time period (such as 10 or 20 years) or for the rest of the annuity holder’s life.

Annuities can be a helpful tool for retirement planning, as they can provide a steady stream of income during retirement that can supplement other sources of retirement income, such as Social Security or a pension. They can also be used to help manage estate taxes, as the payments from an annuity can be used to pay taxes owed on an inheritance.

If you’re considering purchasing an annuity, it’s important to understand how annuities work!! The next question I get asked is if annuities are safe investments.

Annuities are complex products and there is a lot to consider before purchasing one. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • They can provide contractual guaranteed income for life, but they are not without financial risk.
  • Immediate annuities begin paying reliable income right away, while deferred annuities accumulate value over time and then begin paying income at a later date.
  • They can be an important part of a retirement plan, but they should be carefully considered before purchase.
risk reward ups downs

Are Annuities Safe?

Many people view annuities as a safe way to ensure they will have income in retirement, but there are some risks to consider.

  • The most important thing to remember is that they are a long-term investment vehicles. This means that you should not expect to see any immediate returns on your investment. In fact, it may take several years for your annuity to mature and start paying out. This can be a problem if you need income right away in retirement.
  • Another risk to consider is that they are not inflation-protected. This means that the income you receive from your annuity may not keep up with the cost of living over time. This could make it difficult to maintain your standard of living in retirement.
  • Finally, annuities are not guaranteed by the government. This means that if the insurance company that issues your annuity goes out of business, you could lose all of your initial investment.

Despite these risks, an annuity can still be a good option for some people. If you are comfortable with the investment risks and are looking for a way to financially guarantee income in retirement, an annuity may be a good choice for you. So we know some of the risks , and you may feel they are safe. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons:

Pros and Cons of Annuities

There are many different types of annuities, but they all have one thing in common: they offer a way to ensure that you will have income in retirement.

Benefits of Annuities

  • The main advantage of an annuity is the peace of mind it can provide. Knowing that you have a guaranteed income stream can be a huge weight off your shoulders, especially if you are worried about outliving your savings.
  • They can also be a good way to diversify your portfolio, as they offer a way to invest in something other than stocks and bonds.

Cons of Annuities – There are some drawbacks, however.

  • The most obvious is the cost. Annuities typically have high fees, which can eat into your original investment returns. Additionally, annuities are not very flexible. Penalties could include a surrender penalty, withdrawal penalties, tax penalties, and even a federal tax penalty if you make a nonqualified withdrawal prior to age 59 1/2
  • Once you purchase an annuity, you are locked into the terms of the contract. This means that if you need to access your money early, you may be subject to surrender charges during the surrender period.

Overall, annuities can be a good way to provide income in retirement. However, they are not right for everyone. Be sure to do your research and talk to a financial advisor to see if an annuity is right for you.

So we have reviewed the high level pros and cons of annuities. You may be still wondering – are annuities a good investment objective for me?

What Are Fixed Annuities Pros and Cons?

fixed annuities pros and cons

What Are Fixed Annuities Pros and Cons? A fixed annuity is an insurance contract in which the insurer agrees to make periodic payments to the annuitant, starting either immediately or at some future date. The regular payments are guaranteed to continue for a specified period of time, or for the life of the annuitant. The annuity … Continue reading

The Pros and Cons of Variable Annuities You Need To Know

pros and cons of variable annuities

Variable Annuities Definition – What Are Variable Annuities? The sale of variable annuities has been on the rise in recent years. This type of annuity can offer investors a way to invest in the stock market without having to worry about the ups and downs of the market.  At least that is the sales pitch.   … Continue reading

What Are Immediate Annuities? – Everything You Want Know

immediate annuities

An immediate annuity is an annuity that pays out income immediately after the annuity is purchased. The annuity payments are made at regular intervals, typically monthly, and continue for the rest of the annuitant’s life. How Do Immediate Annuities Work? An immediate annuity is an annuity that pays out right away. You give the insurance … Continue reading

Are Annuities A Good Investment

Annuities can be a good investment options for people who want to ensure they have a steady income stream in retirement, but they are not without their drawbacks.

They are good for you if

  • The main advantage of an annuity is the guaranteed income stream it provides.
  • This can be especially valuable for people who are worried about outliving their savings.
  • With an annuity, you know exactly how much income you will have each month, which can help you budget and plan for retirement.

Annuities are bad for you if

  • First, they typically have high fees. This means that you will need to make sure that the income you receive from the annuity is greater than the fees you are paying.
  • Second, they are not very flexible. Once you start receiving income from an annuity, you typically cannot change the amount you receive or how long you will receive it for. This can be a problem if your needs or circumstances change in retirement.

Overall, annuities can be a good investment option for people who want the security of a guaranteed income stream in retirement. However, they are not right for everyone. Be sure to carefully consider the pros and cons of annuities before making a decision.

This was a high level overview of annuities. You may have a better idea of whether or not an annuity makes sense for you. If you still have some questions, below is a series of articles I wrote that go deeper into specific types of annuities.

If there is a specific type of annuity you are considering – feel free to jump to that article by clicking below. Or read each article to get a better understanding of what your options are, how they work, and the pros and cons of each.

11 Annuity Riders Explained

11 Commonly Used Annuity Riders Explained

When shopping for an annuity, you may come across a variety of annuity riders that can be added to your contract. Annuity riders can provide additional guarantees and protections, but they come at a cost. Here are eleven of the most commonly used annuity riders and what they mean. Before annuity riders, there were only … Continue reading

Annuity Do's & Don'ts Baby Boomers

9 Annuity Do’s and Don’ts For Baby Boomers

As baby boomers approach retirement, many are wondering if an annuity is the right investment for them. Especially since every time they step foot into the bank – the financial advisor there is pushing them to buy annuities. And so is their financial advisor. And their insurance agent too. They sound too good to be … Continue reading

RMD nfor on qualified annuity

Do You Know When Annuities Have RMDs?

An tax deferred annuity can be a great way to ensure a stream of income in retirement, but it’s important to understand the rules around IRA and non-qualified RMDs, or required minimum distributions. There is no one definitive answer to this question. It depends on what type of account in which the annuity is … Continue reading

What Are Pensions and Annuities?

Pensions and annuities are two types of retirement savings plans. A pension is a retirement plan that is sponsored by an employer and typically pays a fixed amount of money to a retiree. An annuity is a retirement savings plan that is typically funded by an individual and pays out a fixed amount of money over a period of time.

What Are The Differences Between Annuities?

FAQ frequently asked questions

There are four different types of annuities: immediate, deferred, fixed, and variable.

Immediate annuities begin paying out investment income right away
While deferred annuities allow you to grow your original investment for a period of time before investment income payments begin.
Fixed annuities offer a guaranteed rate of return
While variable annuities offer the growth potential for higher returns but also come with more investment risk.

Which type of annuity is right for you will depend on your individual circumstances and financial goals. If you need income right away, an immediate annuity may be the best choice.
If you can afford to wait a bit and want the potential for higher returns, a deferred annuity may be a better option.
And if you’re looking for a guaranteed rate of return, a fixed annuity may be the way to go.

USAA Annuities 101: What Are Annuities?


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Note: The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as financial or legal advice. Consult with a professional advisor or accountant for personalized guidance.

Michael Ryan
Michael Ryanhttps://michaelryanmoney.com/
A former stockbroker, financial planner, and owner of my own financial planning practice and then a property & casualty agency. I have since retired and decided I want to help individuals and business owners by offering personal financial coaching. And now, I have started my blog - www.michaelryanmoney.com - to bring financial literacy to everyone. In a short time I have already been quoted and featured in US News & World Report, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, and more (https://michaelryanmoney.com/home/press/) As a financial planner, I helped people from all walks of life. If you have questions about money, I will help you find the answers at www.MichaelRyanMoney.com
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