These tax-deferred investments sold by insurance companies allow you to grow your nest egg and then, when you’re ready to retire, trigger an income that you can’t outlive. Who wouldn’t like that: your own personal pension? While annuities can be an important part of your retirement savings strategy, there are many things to consider, including what kind, when, and how much?
This is the grandpa of annuities. A fixed annuity takes your contribution and the insurance company invests it. You have no say in how the money is managed. Once you trigger the income stream, called annuitization, a fixed dollar amount is paid to you. All annuities allow you to determine the payout option when you sign up. It can be for a single life (perhaps yours), or for joint lives (such as for as long as you live, and then for as long as your spouse lives). There are many variations in the payout options, your insurance agent can explain them all – hopefully with some visual aids.
Even more popular are variable annuities, which allow you to choose from a number of investment options, including mutual funds, bond funds and money market accounts. Some VAs have a guaranteed minimum death benefit feature, which will set a “floor” for investment losses, or a minimum percentage growth rate.
A newer spin on the variable annuity is the “equity-indexed annuity” which will track, to some degree, the performance of a stock index like the S&P 500, but also provide guaranteed minimum interest earnings.
It may sound like the ultimate investment deal, but these types of annuities are complicated, so much so that FINRA, the self-regulatory agency for the securities industry, issued an investor alert on them a few years back. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re bad – just hard to understand.