Answering All Your Questions About Annuities

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

If you have ever wondered about annuities, you are not alone. This type of investment can be confusing for many people. This FAQ page will answer people’s most common questions about annuities. We will cover everything from what they are to how they work to whether or not they are a good investment option. By the end of this post, you will have all the information you need to make an informed decision about whether or not annuities are right for you!

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Table of Contents

What is an immediate annuity?

An immediate annuity or SPIA is an insurance product in which a consumer exchanges a lump sum of money for an immediate irrevocable but guaranteed income stream.

What is a variable annuity?

A variable annuity is a tax-deferred annuity that participates in investments, including the stock and bond markets. The return earned in a variable annuity isn’t guaranteed. The value of the subaccounts chosen could go up or down. If the annuity goes up, the retirement plan could make money. But, if the value of these subaccounts goes down, the contract could lose money. Also, income payments to the owner could be less than expected.

What is a fixed index annuity?

A fixed index annuity is a tax-deferred annuity that allows a policy owner to earn interest based on positive changes in a market index. The interest rate is guaranteed never to be less than zero, even if the market goes down.

What is a fixed annuity?

A fixed annuity is a tax-deferred retirement plan that provides a fixed guaranteed interest for the contract term, similar to a Certificate of Deposit (CD).

Are annuity rates increasing?

Fixed annuity rates are slowly increasing. However, interest rates are rising at a snail’s pace.

What is a Long-Term Care Annuity?

A long-term care annuity is a tax-deferred fixed annuity that provides an enhanced tax-free benefit to supplement qualified long-term care services and facilities.

What is a Deferred Income Annuity?

A Deferred Income Annuity (DIA) is a retirement plan in which a consumer exchanges a lump sum of money for a deferred irrevocable but guaranteed income stream.

What is a Two-Tier Annuity?

A two-tier annuity is a deferred annuity that requires annuitization in the future to generate an income.

What is a Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract (QLAC)?

A QLAC is a Deferred Income Annuity (DIA) funded by a qualified retirement plan to defer Required Minimum Distributions (RMD). 

What is a Structured Settlement?

A Structured Settlement is an annuity with a structured irrevocable payout from an insurance company commonly court-ordered.

What is a Secondary Market Annuity?

A secondary market annuity is the resell of an annuitization distribution (income stream payments) in exchange for a lump sum.

What is a Medicaid Annuity?

A Medicaid Compliant Annuity is a unique immediate annuity meant to financially maintain a healthy elderly spouse’s lifestyle while the unhealthy spouse receives Medicaid.

What is a Single Premium Deferred Annuity?

Single-Premium Deferred Annuities are tax-deferred retirement plans that allow a one-time initial investment into a contract with no option to add to an existing policy. 

What is a Flexible Premium Deferred Annuity?

Flexible-Premium Deferred Annuities are tax-deferred retirement plans that allow an owner to contribute additional funds to an existing annuity policy. 

Are Annuity Payments Taxable?

In most cases, payments are taxable. However, structured Settlements and Roth IRA annuity payments are tax-free.

What is the Best 5-Year CD Rate?

Abound Credit Union offers a 5-year CD rate of 1.30%. Canvas offers a 5-year fixed annuity rate of 3.35%.

What is the Best 5-Year Annuity Rate?

Sagicor Milestone fixed annuity offers 3.00% for five years.

What is Market Value Adjustment?

A market value adjustment is a feature affiliated with fixed index annuities that can increase or decrease interest caps and rates due to market conditions. 

What Are Surrender Charges?

Surrender charges are the penalties incurred if withdrawals are more than the allotted penalty-free withdrawal or cancel the annuity before the term.

What is a Surrender Schedule?

A surrender schedule is the annuity term and the surrender charges affiliated with the surrender schedule. 

What are Penalty-Free Withdrawals?

A penalty-free withdrawal is an amount of money in the annuity that can be withdrawn without penalties.

What are Systematic Withdrawals?

Systematic withdrawals are scheduled withdrawals from the annuity. 

What is the Exclusion Ratio?

A fraction is used to determine the amount of annual annuity income exempt from federal income
tax. The exclusion ratio is the total contribution or investment in the annuity divided by the expected ratio. The exclusion ratio applies to annuitized non-qualified annuity payments.

What are Annuity Fees?

Fees reduce the value of an annuity. They help cover the insurer’s selling costs, manage the annuity, and pay benefits. The insurer may subtract these costs directly from the annuity’s value. Most annuities have charges, but they can be different for different annuities. 

What are Annuity Spreads?

Spreads are the amount of money the insurance company keeps before crediting interest. 

What is the difference between Fees and Spreads in Annuities?

Fees are deducted from the account in both a positive and negative environment. Spreads do not deduct.

What is an Accumulation Value?

The Accumulation Value reflects all the money put into the annuity plus any interest earned, minus any money, charges, or fees taken out and adjusted by any market value adjustments. 

What is the Minimum Guarantee Value?

The minimum guarantee value in fixed index annuities is the minimum amount the annuity is worth guaranteed at any given time. 

What is the Cash Surrender Value?

The amount is available to the owner when an annuity is surrendered to the company. During the early policy years, the cash value is the reserve less a “surrender charge”; in later policy years, it usually equals or closely approximates the reserve value at the time of surrender.

What is the Guarantee Withdrawal Lifetime Benefit value?

The Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawal Benefit (GLWB) value applies to the optional income rider, also known as the “Income Value.”

What is Annuitization?

Annuitization is the term referring to converting funds into an irrevocable guaranteed stream of income.

What is annuity income?

Annuity income is a series of payments a policy owner receives after the annuity has been annuitized. Unlike lifetime withdrawals from an income rider, annuity income does not give the flexibility to surrender the policy.

What is an annuity fund?

The annuity fund is the principal or the money used to purchase an annuity contract.

What is a deferred annuity?

A deferred annuity is the opposite of an immediate annuity in which payments may be distributed later. There are two phases in a deferred annuity: the accumulation phase and the payout period. Deferred annuities also offer death benefits as well.

How do annuities work?

An annuity is a retirement plan designed to protect against the risk of living too long and outliving one’s financial resources during retirement.

How and where can I buy an annuity?

Annuities must be purchased through a licensed financial professional.

How are annuities taxed?

Any money taken from an annuity can be taxed as ordinary income (except Roth IRAs). Also, any income distributed before age 59.5 will be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty. All money withdrawn is taxable in a qualified annuity. For a non-qualified annuity, any interest earned is taxable.

Are annuities bad investments?

Annuities, in general, are long-term retirement plans. The shortest contract period is two years in length. Therefore, annuities might be a lousy investment if consumers seek a short-term retirement plan with 100% liquidity.

Which two entities regulate variable annuities?

Variable annuities are regulated by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and state insurance departments. They are considered securities and must comply with federal securities laws and regulations, with limited exemptions. Regulation by state insurance departments includes reviewing and approving variable annuity contracts offered to the public, examining and licensing companies’ market- Unit 12 Annuities 215 ing variable annuities, and licensing agents selling variable annuities. Due to this dual regulation, an agent who wants to sell variable annuities must pass a test and be registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The agent must also be licensed to sell life insurance by the state. Some states have additional requirements and require an agent to qualify for a separate variable contract license.

How do I sell annuities?

An annuity salesperson must be life and health licensed by the state insurance department. A person selling a variable annuity must also be registered with FINRA as a broker/dealer representative that’s a FINRA member. The state securities department must also license a person selling a variable annuity in some states.

Why buy life insurance over an annuity?

Where annuities are designed for retirement planning, life insurance is designed for estate planning. Death benefits from life insurance are tax-free, while annuities are tax-deferred. One would buy an annuity for estate planning if the funds are in a Qualified Retirement Plan (IRA, 401k) or the applicant is unhealthy and can not get approved for life insurance coverage.

What exam must be taken to sell variable annuities?

An agent must pass either Series 7 or 63 and Series 6 tests. These exams are not required to sell fixed annuities, index annuities, immediate annuities, deferred income annuities, or long-term care annuities because these are insurance products, not securities products.

How safe are annuities?

Annuities are as safe as the issuing insurance company’s financial strength and claims-paying ability. A.M. Best, S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch rate insurance company’s financial strength.
In addition to the financial strength, insurance companies are protected by each state’s Insurance Guaranty Association up to a specific dollar amount.

How are annuities given favorable tax treatment?

Annuities receive favorable tax treatment by deferring taxes to make retirement savings grow faster and allow the ability to contribute more than the standard annual amount on a Qualified Retirement Plan.

How do annuities pay out?

Annuities can payout in 2 distinct ways: annuitization (an irrevocable payout) or Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawals (revocable payout) from an optional income rider.

Are annuities more attractive for people who expect to live only for a short time?

In general, annuities are long-term commitments. However, annuities can be attractive to unhealthy. They can not get life insurance coverage, those who want to avoid probate, and consumers who want to protect a spouse with a guaranteed income for life.

Where are premiums from annuities invested?

Every insurance company invests differently. All states have regulations to ensure insurers invest only in high-quality assets to prevent insolvencies. As a result, life insurance companies may invest funds in concerns that are relatively stable in value. These safe investments include municipal bonds, corporate bonds, real estate mortgages, and even policy loans.

How do annuities work at death?

In general, beneficiaries receive the remaining annuity’s accumulation value in a lump sum with deferred annuities if the annuitant didn’t start the annuity payments. Annuitized retirement plans may or may not have a death benefit.

What are the best annuities?

The best annuities are subjective and are only deemed “the best” based on personal needs, goals, and preferences.

How much do annuities cost?

Most annuities start at $5,000 or more to open a new contract; however, a few annuity contracts one could purchase start at $100 a month.

What are pensions and annuities?

Both pensions and annuities are retirement savings plans designed to pay a retiree an income for a fixed period of life. Pensions are going away while annuities replace them to supplement retirees with an income they can not outlive. Thus, annuities are sometimes called a “Personal Pension Plan.”

How do I compare immediate fixed-income annuities?

An independent financial professional can compare immediate fixed-income annuities with publicly available software. Since annuity rates change regularly, cross-checking the quote with the insurance company is essential.

Should I negotiate the fee an advisor charges for managing my annuity?

A financial advisor, insurance agent, registered representative, or Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) typically earns a commission in a lump sum, a trail, or both. A few annuity contracts do not have commissions, which are exceptions. If the advisor makes a commission from the annuity sale, charging an additional fee to manage the same annuity is not the best for the annuity owner. The commission earned is sufficient enough.

How much of an inherited annuity will go to taxes when I claim the death benefit?

First, suppose the primary beneficiary is a spouse. The spouse can take the death benefit in a lump sum, a series of payments, or continue the retirement plan through spousal continuance. That said, only interest earned in the nonqualified annuity death benefit will be subject to taxes. On the other hand, all earnings will be subject to taxes for qualified annuity death benefits, except for a Roth IRA annuity.

Why is the entire withdrawal amount from my non-qualified annuity taxable?

Withdrawals from a non-qualified annuity contract fall under the Last In, First Out (LIFO) rule, which means all interest is distributed first. Since interest has not been taxed, the withdrawal is subject to taxes. After all the interest is exhausted, the original investment will be tax-free. This is commonly mistaken for the exclusion ratio rule in annuitized annuity payments.

What is the Guaranteed Withdrawal Benefit?

The Minimum Guaranteed Withdrawal Benefit is the value from an income rider that determines the lifetime income amount an annuity contract owner would receive for life. The MGWB only applies if the contract owner utilizes the income rider for lifetime payments. Most MGWB values are fictitious and cannot pocket in a lump sum. As a result, contract owners often confuse the MGWB and the cash surrender value, accumulation value, and guaranteed minimum death benefit value on an annual statement.

Do I need a financial advisor to have an annuity?

Consumers have to buy an annuity through a licensed financial professional, but that does not mean a consumer needs a financial advisor to maintain the annuity. With that said, a financial advisor can assist in finding the best annuity contract.

How can I get out of my annuity?

A contract owner can surrender the policy early, with surrender charges enforced. Another way to get the annuity is to utilize the annual penalty-free withdrawal provision and reinvest in another retirement plan.

Is an immediate annuity a good idea for fixed income?

Immediate annuities are designed for fixed income; however, it is not the best solution for income purposes in most cases. The contract owner will give up all asset control to the insurance company and earn between 1% and 1.5% interest annually for the contract’s life. Depending on the annuitization payout, the contract may not have a death benefit. A more efficient option is a deferred annuity with an income rider. The income rider will distribute a retirement income for life, earn more interest, and provide a standard lump-sum death benefit.

When should I move from one annuity to another annuity?

Contract owners can move from annuity to annuity without tax consequences through a 1035 exchange or direct transfer. Common reasons to replace an annuity contract are transferring money out of the stock market in a variable annuity to an insurance-based deferred annuity like a fixed or fixed indexed annuity, the current contract is not performing well, the contract owner wants a reduction in fees, or the replacement will have an enhanced benefit like an income rider.

Where can I find a lost annuity contract?

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) provides a policy locator service that helps consumers find lost and unclaimed life insurance policies and annuity contracts.

Should I take a lump sum or annuity payout from my retirement account or pension plan?

For fixed-income purposes, always shop annuity contracts to find a higher income payout. Know that taking the annuity payout option means annuitization and giving up all control of the retirement account, earning little to no interest in the retirement plan’s life.

How high are the fees in annuities?

A variable annuity charges up to 4% of the contract value annually. A fixed-indexed annuity can charge up to 1% of the contract value annually if an optional benefit is elected. Fixed, immediate, and deferred income annuities typically do not include standard fees.

Should I take a lump sum or a Period Certain Annuity?

The lump-sum option can provide more flexibility, while the Period Certain Annuity pays the original investment back with minimal interest.

Is there any advantage to owning an annuity jointly?

Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 72(s) states that either joint owner triggers the death benefit on a jointly owned annuity. Therefore, regardless of which joint owner passes away first, the surviving joint owner can receive the death benefit as the primary beneficiary.

Who receives the death benefit when the first joint owner dies?

The beneficiary receives the death benefit.

Who should be the annuitant of a jointly-owned annuity?

There can only be one annuitant per retirement plan. Since most annuity contracts are owner-driven, the annuitant isn’t a primary factor unless annuitized.

Does the 10% federal tax penalty apply if a joint-owner is under age 59.5 and takes a distribution?

Anyone under 59.5 will be subject to the early distribution penalty.

What is a STOLI or IOLI?

A STOLI is stranger-originated life insurance, and IOLI is investor-originated life insurance. The transaction involves recruiting an individual to consent to purchase life insurance or an annuity with the promise to finance the product’s purchase. The investor becomes the product owner and will receive the death benefit paid from the product.

What is a Charitable Gift Annuity?

A charitable gift annuity is a transfer by a donor to a charitable organization. In return, the donor receives annuity payments. If the annuity’s actuarial value is less than the donation value, then the difference in value is declared a charitable deduction for federal tax purposes. The annuity payments to the donor are tax-free partial returns based on actuarial life expectancy tables.

Should a minor be named as a beneficiary of an annuity?

It depends on the state. For example, in some states, an insurance company cannot distribute funds over a nominal amount to a minor without having the parents obtain court documents proving that they have been appointed guardians of the minor’s estate. Therefore, setting up a UTMA, UGMA, or trust is better than naming the minor as the primary beneficiary.

Why buy an annuity?

An annuity provides a guaranteed income for life and protects against the risk of outliving one’s retirement savings.

Can money be lost in an annuity due to a stock or bond market crash?

A contract owner can lose money to market volatility in a variable annuity. However, an owner cannot lose money to market volatility in a fixed, fixed indexed, or deferred income annuity.

What is the purpose of an annuity?

The primary function is designed to liquidate an estate and protect against the risk of living too long.

Can I get out of my annuity if my interest rates decrease?

Some annuities have a bailout provision that allows the owner to surrender the annuity without surrender charges if interest rates drop a specific amount within the surrender period.

Is the annuitant allowed to change the annuity contract structure?

In most contracts, no. Modern annuity contracts are “owner-driven,” which means the owner controls the contract. The owner can change beneficiaries, make penalty-free withdrawals, surrender the annuity, or change the contract during the accumulation phase.

What is an annuitant?

The annuitant is the insured within the annuity contract and the intended recipient of annuity payments if a contract is annuitized.

What’s the difference between an immediate and deferred annuity?

An immediate annuity distributes annuity payments within the first 12 months of the retirement plan. The deferred annuity distributes annuity payments after the first year.

What is the difference between annuity payments and lifetime withdrawals?

Annuity payments are the distribution from an annuitization and are irrevocable. Lifetime withdrawals are distributions from an income rider or guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit and are revocable. Both income distribution methods are taxed differently.

What is the difference between a single premium and a flexible premium deferred annuity?

A single premium deferred annuity allows a one-time contribution to the retirement plan. A flexible premium deferred annuity allows for multiple contributions to an annuity.

Does the FDIC guarantee an annuity?

No. The FDIC does not guarantee an annuity. However, annuities are backed by a state guaranty association with guarantees up to a specific amount of money.

Does the insurance company keep the death benefit from my annuity when I die?

In most cases, no. Primary beneficiaries receive the death benefit. A life annuity with no refund options forfeits any death benefit in exchange for higher annuity payment.

What is the best annuity payout option?

A single-life payout distributes annuity payments for one person’s lifetime. A joint and survivor payout distributes annuity payments for the entirety of two person’s lifetimes, typically spouses. Finally, a certain payout distributes annuity payments over a fixed period, basically paying the money back to overtime.

What is a retirement income annuity?

A retirement income annuity is an ordinary deferred annuity with a decreasing term life insurance rider. The life insurance rider provides term life insurance coverage with a face amount that decreases each year the policy is in force.

What is an income annuity?

An income annuity is a single-premium immediate annuity (SPIA) or a deferred income annuity (DIA). Income annuities typically require annuitization to distribute annuity payments.

What is a group annuity?

Employers can purchase a group annuity to receive an income stream during retirement, similar to a pension plan. Small businesses typically purchase group annuities, while large businesses operate their annuity or pension program.

What is the advantage of owning an annuity?

The two primary advantages of owning an annuity are accumulating cash on a tax-deferred basis and distributing a retirement income for an entire life, even after the annuity contract has run out of money.

Are there tax consequences if I move money from one annuity to another?

No. Under Section 1035(a) of the Internal Revenue Code, exchanges are nontaxable if executed correctly. A transfer of nonqualified annuities is called a 1035 exchange, and the annuity contract must be structured the same during the 1035 exchange process. Modifications can be made before or after the exchange process is complete. An exchange between two qualified annuity contracts is called a direct transfer. An exchange of qualified annuity contracts converted from one qualified retirement account into a new type of qualified retirement account is called a rollover.

Are annuities tax-deductible?

Contributions to a qualified annuity contract are deductible from income under certain conditions.

Can annuities be set up as a defined benefit plan?

Group deferred annuities and individual deferred annuities can fund defined benefit plans. The employer will hold the master annuity contract and provides certificates of participation to each employee covered by the defined benefit plan.

Can Annuities fund IRAs?

Individual deferred annuities may fund IRAs.

Can annuities fund 403b?

School system, church, and hospital employees may set aside income into a 403b annuity through a salary reduction and receive tax-deferral benefits.

Who buys annuities, and who is likely to buy them?

Consumers that want to grow money faster through the tax-deferral method generate an income that can’t be outlived or long-term care assistance.

How long are annuities?

Annuities can range from 2 years to 20 years in length.

How many types of annuities are there?

Currently, there are 12 types: immediate, variable, fixed, fixed indexed, long-term care, two-tiered, QLAC, secondary market, structured settlements, Medicaid, charitable gifts, and deferred income annuities.

How do annuity accounts work?

The Accumulation Value or account value is a contract’s premium minus voluntary withdrawals, applicable fees or charges, and any interest earned. The cash surrender value is the owner’s amount when an annuity is surrendered to the insurance company. Surrender charges can be applied if surrendered prematurely. The nonforfeiture value or guaranteed minimum value is a percentage of a contract’s value minus any voluntary withdrawals plus interest credited at a guaranteed rate. The Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawal Benefit is the value that determines how much lifetime income can be withdrawn for the contract owner’s lifetime. The GLWB is typically a fictitious value and can not be withdrawn or inherited in a lump sum.

How does an annuity affect an RMD?

Most annuity contracts are Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) friendly. The contract will allow the RMD amount to be withdrawn without surrender charges if the penalty-free withdrawal amount is less than the RMD amount. The annuity will only accommodate the singular qualified annuity’s RMD.

What are an annuity and a pension?

Pension plans are employer-sponsored retirement plans that provide a retirement savings plan or a series of systematic payments to retired employees over a period of time. The pension plan’s benefits are based on the retired employee’s years of service and compensation. On the other hand, annuities are typically individual-based retirement plans that provide retirement savings, a series of systematic payments over a period of time, or lifetime withdrawals. Thus, annuities are often referred to as personal pension plans.

What is an accumulation annuity?

Accumulation annuities are deferred annuity contracts designed for growing retirement savings tax-deferred.

How do annuity companies make money?

Insurance companies typically invest the premiums into the insurer’s general account, consisting of conservative investments selected to match its contractual guarantees and liabilities to the contract owner and annuitant. The insurer will make profits from the general account’s earned interest.

How does an annuity differ from life insurance?

Life insurance protects against premature death, while annuities protect against living too long.

What is an annuity drawdown?

A “drawdown,” sometimes called “drawing the income down,” is the process of withdrawing income from the annuity’s account until a certain amount or percentage has been reached or the entire account has been depleted.

What is sweeping the interest?

Sweeping the interest is the process of an annuity owner withdrawing only the fixed interest earned on a fixed annuity, or multi-year guaranteed annuity (MYGA) is a source of income while protecting the original investment simultaneously.

What is an annuity deposit?

An annuity deposit or premium is the money given to the insurance company to purchase an annuity contract.

How does a fixed annuity work?

A fixed annuity is a fully guaranteed retirement savings plan backed by funds invested in the insurer’s general account. The principal, interest, and benefits are guaranteed.

What is a federal annuity?

A federal annuity is a part of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) that consists of a Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security, and a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The federal employee will receive annuity payments from the FERS program each month for life.

How long does a FERS annuity last?

A Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) annuity distributes payment for an entire lifetime.

How does an annuity grow?

A fixed annuity grows tax-deferred by a guaranteed fixed rate similar to a Certificate of Deposit. A variable annuity grows tax-deferred through investments directly in the stock market. A fixed-indexed annuity grows tax-deferred, earning interest based on an index’s positive movement, but not investing directly in the stock market.

What is a hybrid annuity?

A hybrid annuity is any deferred annuity with a guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit or income rider attached.

How does a joint annuity work?

A joint-life or joint and survivor annuity provide income for two lifetimes, typically spouses. A monthly amount is paid to the annuitant until the annuitant dies. Then, the same or lesser monthly amount will be paid to the surviving spouse until death. The amount of monthly income to the surviving spouse is predetermined when issuing the annuity. A joint life payout option is available on income riders as well.

How does an annuity loan work?

Some annuity contracts offer loan provisions in addition to penalty-free withdrawals. Typically the loan balance will be credited with interest according to index increases. In addition, loan amounts will be charged a fixed rate of interest, which is determined either when the retirement plan is purchased or when the loan is taken and is set for the life of the loan.

How much does a lifetime annuity cost?

Depending on the type of annuity purchased will determine the cost. There is no additional cost if the lifetime annuity comes from an annuitization. If the lifetime annuity is an income rider attached to a deferred annuity contract, the cost is typically between free and 2% of the account’s value paid annually. The cost is taken from the annuity each year.

How long does an annuity payout?

An annuity can payout in a lump sum or a series of payments ranging from 5 years in length to an entire lifetime or lifetimes.

How does a QLAC annuity work?

Qualified Longevity Annuity Contracts or QLAC is a deferred income annuity that allows IRA owners and defined contribution plan participants to defer the taxes on a portion of required minimum distributions (RMD) up to age 85.

How is a qualified annuity taxed?

A qualified annuity is taxed when withdrawals or distributions are taken from the annuity. All of the income received is taxed as ordinary income. The Roth IRA annuity is an exception and tax-free withdrawals and distributions.

What is a Roth annuity?

A Roth annuity is an annuity set up or funded by a Roth IRA. There are no required minimum distributions during the owner’s lifetime. Withdrawals are tax-free if the policy has been open for at least five years and the owner is 59.5.

What does surrender annuity mean?

Surrendering an annuity means prematurely canceling the contract before the end of the surrender period. Surrender charges may apply.

What are surrender charges?

Most deferred annuity contracts may be surrendered prematurely and receive the cash surrender value in a lump sum. Insurance companies will apply a charge for canceling the contract early. These early charges are called surrender charges. Surrender charges typically are higher in the contract’s early years and decline over time until the contract has been fulfilled. Surrender charges are typically waived when the annuitant enters a qualified facility for long-term care, is terminally ill, or is dead.

What is an annuity trust?

An annuity trust is an arrangement in which an annuity is held by a person or corporation called a trustee for the beneficiaries benefit. The grantor gives the trustee legal title and must abide by the terms outlined in a trust agreement. Typically an annuity trust provides income or the death benefit to the surviving spouse. The remaining assets pass to the remaining beneficiaries when the surviving spouse dies.

What is a TIAA annuity?

TIAA annuity can either be the retirement savings plan through the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA) converted into annuity payments (annuitization) or a new deferred purchase annuity contract TIAA. In addition, TIAA offers both fixed and variable annuities.

What is a temporary annuity?

A temporary annuity provides annuity payments for a fixed period or until the annuitant’s death (insured), whichever comes first. A temporary annuity is not a period-certain annuity. A temporary annuity does not guarantee payments for the entirety of the fixed period if death occurs first, like a period-certain annuity.

What is a TSA annuity?

A Tax-Sheltered Annuity (TSA) is a qualified retirement savings plan for employees of nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations such as schools, charities, hospitals, and churches.

What is a term annuity?

A term annuity is an annuity income option that guarantees a definite minimum period of payments even after death occurs—also known as a period certain annuity.

How does a union annuity work?

A union annuity is a pension plan created by labor unions and associated employers and the annuity plan. It is designed to provide annuity payments to retired union workers for either a fixed period or life.

What is a universal annuity?

A universal annuity is a hybrid estate planning product consisting of a life insurance policy and a single premium immediate annuity (SPIA). The purpose of the universal annuity is to provide a tax-free death benefit to beneficiaries. In most scenarios, a universal annuity is purchased with a qualified retirement plan like an IRA to instantly fund the life insurance policy to convert pre-taxed dollars into a tax-free death benefit.

What is a variable annuity fund?

With a variable annuity, money is put into subaccounts invested in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The money can be moved from one subaccount to another without tax consequences. However, investments risk market fluctuations and can be lost due to fees and volatility.

What is a voluntary annuity?

Voluntary annuities were government-issued annuities proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 to supplement an income for the elderly not covered under “Mandatory Old Age Annuities,” now known as Social Security Benefits.

How does a lottery annuity work?

If a lottery winner chooses to collect the winnings with the payout option instead of the lump sum cash option, an annuity is a vehicle that distributes the payments. For example, Mega Millions and Powerball winners will receive 30 payments over 29 years, with a 5% increase each year. Upon court order, if a winner dies before receiving all 30 payments, the balance will be paid annually to the winner’s beneficiaries as scheduled.

How does a 10-year annuity work?

A 10-year deferred annuity is a retirement plan that accumulates money for ten years. After the ten years are complete, the owner can pocket the full annuity’s value, transfer it to another annuity, or keep its total value without surrender charges. A ten-year annuity is an immediate annuity that will distribute equal payments to the contract owner. After the 10-year distribution is complete, the contract is considered fulfilled and expired.

How does a 5-year annuity work?

A 5-year deferred annuity is a retirement plan that accumulates money for five years. After the five years are complete, the owner can pocket the full annuity’s value, transfer it to another annuity, or keep its total value without surrender charges. Five years certain annuity is an immediate annuity that will distribute equal payments to the contract owner. After the 5-year distribution is complete, the contract is considered fulfilled and expired. A 5-year period certain payout often distributes less money than the original investment back to the contract owner.

How much does a 20-year annuity pay?

A 20-year immediate annuity distributes roughly 6.617% of the original investment over 20 years. A 20-year fixed annuity yields 3.65% fixed interest annually for 20 years.

What’s the difference between a fixed annuity and a CD?

Annuities often allow a percentage of the contract value to be withdrawn annually without penalty. Certificates of Deposit (CD) generally include penalties if withdrawing before the CD matures. The issuing insurance company guarantees fixed annuities. The FDIC backs CDs by up to $250,000 per depositor per institution. Fixed annuity earnings are tax-deferred and earn compounding interest. Interest earned from CDs is reported annually as ordinary income unless held as an IRA. Fixed annuities offer several income payment options, including a lump sum, annuitization, and systematic withdrawals. CDs are paid out in a lump sum. The death benefit from Fixed annuities offers a lump sum or a series of payments to beneficiaries and often avoids probate. The death benefit from CDs is paid in a sum and may be subject to probate.

What is the shortest annuity length?

Two years.

Do annuities have a hardship withdrawal?

Some immediate and deferred income annuities have a commutation withdrawal benefit. The owner can withdraw up to 100% of the present value of the remaining guaranteed income payments as a lump sum. Commutation is often a one-time courtesy. In addition, there are Return of Premium provisions in some deferred annuities. Often, all surrender charges are waivers if admitted to a qualified facility for long-term care purposes or terminally ill. Deferred annuities also have annual penalty-free withdrawal provisions as well.

Can I take a loan from an annuity?

Most deferred annuity retirement plans have policy loan provisions. The loan balance will be credited with interest according to index increases. Loan amounts will be charged with a fixed loan interest rate. The interest rate is determined at either the time of issue or when the loan is taken and is set for the life of the loan.

Is there an annuity without a surrender charge?

Annuity contracts with a Return of Premium benefit allow the contract owner to be refunded at any time without a surrender charge penalty. The owner will be refunded the original premium back minus withdrawals and applicable fees.

What are commissions on annuities?

The average commissions for annuities in 2020 are 2.5% for immediate annuities (SPIA), deferred income annuities (DIA), multi-year guaranteed annuities (MYGA), and fixed annuities. The average commission for fixed-indexed annuities and variable annuities is 6%. The commission can be paid to the financial professional either one-time upfront or spread out over the contract’s life in quarterly payments.

Which annuities avoid probate?

Most annuity contracts avoid probate. In addition, by naming a beneficiary, contract owners typically minimize delays, expenses, and publicity associated with probate.

Which annuities are tax-deferred?

Taxes are deferred on fixed, fixed, indexed, long-term care, and multi-year guarantee annuity contracts. Taxes are not deferred on immediate or deferred income annuity contracts.

Which annuities require annuitization?

Immediate annuities (SPIA), Deferred Income Annuities (DIA), QLAC, Two-Tiered Annuities, and Medicaid Annuities.

Which companies offer annuities?

Will annuities improve?

Like any consumer product, annuities will improve too. This is because insurance companies are regularly adapting to market climates and trends.

Why are annuities a poor investment choice?

Annuities are typically long-term investments with surrender penalties. Due to high fees and market volatility, a contract owner can lose money in a variable annuity. In addition, some annuity contracts don’t allow for increases in income payments; therefore, they can not keep up with inflation.

Where to buy annuities?

A financial professional or online websites sell annuities to consumers.

Which annuities are not taxable?

Roth IRA annuity contracts are not taxable, and payments are tax-free.

Who insures annuities?

The insurance company insures annuity contracts, and the state guaranty association insures the insurance company.

Which annuities have the lowest fees?

Immediate annuities, deferred income annuities, multi-year guaranteed annuities, traditional fixed annuities, and fixed-indexed annuities have the lowest fees.

Which states protect annuities from creditors?

Texas and Florida.

Are annuities indexed-linked?

Funds in a fixed-indexed annuity earn interest based on the positive performance of an external index. Thus, the fixed index annuity is not directly tied to any index, and there is no exposure risk associated with a direct stock or share ownership.

When do annuities make sense?

Annuities make sense for a person wanting to save and grow money for retirement safely with tax advantages, earn an income for an entire lifetime, pay for long-term care expenses, avoid probate in estate planning, maintain some assets while participating in the state’s Medicaid program, and protect assets from stock market volatility.

Can annuities be cashed in?

Deferred annuity contracts can be cashed in, but they will incur a surrender charge if cashed in too early in most cases.

Can annuities go down in value?

Variable annuities can decrease value due to fees and stock market volatility. Due to stock market volatility, fixed and fixed-indexed annuities can not go down in value. However, in rare cases, a fixed-indexed annuity could lose value to fees for an additional benefit. For example, this scenario would occur if the retirement plan earned zero interest and the fees for the additional benefit were higher than the minimum guarantee.

Can annuities be transferred?

Annuities can be transferred from one annuity to another without a tax penalty if appropriately transferred by utilizing the insurance company’s direct transfer or 1035 exchange form.

Can annuities fail?

Like any financial or insurance product, annuities can fail. Therefore, an annuity is only as good as the insurance company’s financial strength and rating. Typically an insurance company with an “A-” or better rating with S&P or A.M. Best is a safe bet.

Can an annuity be put into a trust?

A trustee would buy a nonqualified annuity contract to benefit the trust beneficiary. The trust will be the owner and beneficiary, while the trustee names the annuitant (the insured). The trust will receive the annuity death benefit at the annuitant’s death in either a lump-sum distribution or a series of payments over five years.

Can annuities be passed to heirs?

Heirs might not have a death benefit if the contract has been annuitized. If the annuity has been spent to zero, heirs will not receive a death benefit. However, if an annuity is a deferred contract, and there is money in the retirement plan, there will be a death benefit. A surviving spouse can continue the annuity through spousal continuation.

Where can I find annuities near me?

Search for local financial professionals such as a wealth management firm, financial advisor, or insurance agent. Independent financial professionals have access to the broadest selection of annuity products.

Can annuities be inherited?

A surviving spouse can inherit an annuity and continue the retirement plan through the spousal continuance provision. However, a non-spousal beneficiary can inherit an annuity death benefit but can not continue the contract.

Are there annuities that offer long-term care insurance?

Annuities have long-term care (LTC) riders, waivers, or long-term care annuity contracts.

Are there annuities with guaranteed returns?

Traditional fixed deferred annuities and multi-year guaranteed annuities (MYGA) offer a guaranteed interest rate similar to a Deposit Certificate (CD) certificate.

Are there annuities to avoid?

Most deferred annuities available today do not require annuitization, which is a feature to avoid. Instead, ask for and review a copy of the specific annuity contract, called a prospectus, before purchasing the contract.

Are there annuities without fees?

Immediate, Deferred Income, Fixed, MYGA, and Fixed Indexed Annuities have contracts without additional fees.

Are there annuities that pay for nursing care or home fees?

Long-term care annuities offer tax-free benefits to pay for a nursing home, home health care, assisted living, hospice, and terminal illness expenses.

Are there annuities for baby boomers?

Most annuities are appropriate for baby boomers or seniors.

Are there annuities like CDs?

Fixed and multi-year guaranteed annuities (MYGA) offer a fixed interest like a CD at a bank.

Do annuities offer guaranteed income?

Annuities are the only financial product currently that distributes a guaranteed income.

What do annuities protect against?

Annuities can protect against losing money in the stock market, protect against creditors, and avoid probate. However, every annuity is different, and every state has separate law rules.

Do annuities have underwriting?

Most annuities do not require medical underwriting to purchase a retirement plan but have a financial suitability review instead. Long-term care annuities are the exception. Financial suitability is part of the application process to determine whether an applicant is suitable for a long-term product like an annuity. Most annuity companies contact and interview via phone if the applicant is 75 or older.

What are the four types of annuities?

There are 12 types of annuities, not 4, which are immediate, variable, fixed, fixed indexed, long-term care, two-tiered, QLAC, secondary market, structured settlements, Medicaid, charitable gift, and deferred income annuities.

How are annuities given favorable tax treatment?

Unlike most financial or retirement plans, annuity taxes are deferred instead of paid annually. Instead, the taxes from an annuity are paid when money is withdrawn from the annuity, typically in the future. As a result, annuity owners take advantage of “triple compounding,” which is interest compounding on the premium, the earnings, and the money that would pay yearly taxes.

What is the best age to buy an annuity?

The best age to purchase an annuity is 40 or older, depending on the annuity’s intention and the targeted retirement age. After age 40, a contract owner accumulates the retirement saving conservatively or calculates how much income could be generated from an annuity’s income rider at the targeted retirement age.

Who is Venerable Annuity?

Venerable Annuity is known as Voya Insurance and Annuity Company, formerly ING annuities.

Who are the best annuity companies?

The best annuity companies are insurance companies with an A+ rating with A.M. Best or Standard & Poors. Annuity companies with A- or better ratings are categorized as “excellent.” Also, seek the length of the insurance company’s history and the owner of the insurance company.

What is the primary reason for buying an annuity?

The primary reason to buy an annuity is to save money for retirement or to receive a guaranteed income for a fixed period or life.

What is another word for an annuity?

Pension plan, TSA, or retirement savings plan.

What is the minimum amount of an annuity?

Most annuities require at least $10,000 to open a new contract. However, a few contracts allow as little as $100 a month to open a new contract.

What is the average fee for an annuity?

The average fee for a fixed indexed annuity is 1% of the annual value, and the fee applies only if an additional benefit or feature is added. The average fee for a variable annuity is 3% of the annuity’s value paid annually. There are no fees for traditional fixed annuities, immediate annuities, or deferred income annuities. Annuity fees do not include fees charged by financial professionals.

What is the best thing to do with an inherited annuity?

A spouse can continue the retirement plan through spousal continuance, take the death benefit, pay taxes, or reinvest in another annuity. A non-spousal beneficiary can take the death benefit in a lump sum, pay the taxes, reinvest the death benefit in a new annuity, and spread the tax obligation by regularly withdrawing from the new annuity over ten years to meet the new spend-down timeline.

What happens at death with a lottery annuity?

Upon court order, if a winner dies before receiving all 30 payments, the balance will be paid annually to the winner’s beneficiaries as scheduled.

How soon can the benefit payments begin with a deferred annuity?

Suppose the deferred annuity has a Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawal Benefit or income rider. In that case, benefit payments can begin as early as 30 days after the contract is issued or after one year, depending on the annuity contract. If the benefit payments are distributed through annuitzation, contact the insurance company for the annuitization schedule. Every retirement plan is different.

How are contributions to a tax-sheltered annuity treated about taxation?

Tax-sheltered annuity contributions are qualified funds and tax-deferred, which means taxes are not withheld on contributions. Taxes are not paid until withdrawals are made. Withdrawals from a tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) are taxed as ordinary income.

Which annuities are with Primerica?

Lincoln Financial Group, Brighthouse Financial, AXA, and AIG annuities.

How do I cash in my annuity with American National?

Contact American National at 1-800-252-9546. Ask for an Annuity Service Request Form. Check “Contract Surrender” under Section 6—Distribution Request.

What to do with an expired annuity?

Withdrawal partial or the total annuity amount, pay taxes on the withdrawals or transfer the funds to another annuity.

Who assumes the investment risk with a fixed annuity contract?

The insurance company assumes the risk since they contractually guarantee a fixed rate of return.

An annuity that starts paying monthly benefits within a month after issuance is called a?

Immediate Annuity (SPIA) or a deferred annuity with an income rider distributing income immediately.

An individual who purchases a life annuity is given protection against?

Outliving an income during the individual’s lifetime.

What does an annuity protect the contract owner against?

Annuities can protect contract owners against losing money in the stock market, protect against creditors, and avoid probate. However, every annuity is different, and every state has separate law rules.

Can annuities be put in a trust?

An annuity can be set up as a trust. The owner must be the trustee, a living person, not an entity. The trust must be designated as the primary beneficiary.

How are monthly life annuity benefit payments treated?

Monthly payments are treated as ordinary income and are subject to ordinary income tax. All monthly income payments will be taxed if the annuity is a qualified plan. Only the interest will be taxed if the annuity is a non-qualified plan. Payments will be tax-free if the annuity is a Roth IRA.

How much does an annuity cost?

An annuity’s minimum premium amount is $10,000.

Related Reading: How Much Does An Annuity Cost

Does Vanguard have annuities?

Vanguard is a financial services company that offers a variety of investment products, including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Vanguard does not offer annuities as a standalone product.

However, some of Vanguard’s mutual funds and ETFs may invest in annuities as part of their portfolio holdings. For example, a Vanguard mutual fund that invests in fixed-income securities may hold a variety of fixed-income instruments, including annuities. Similarly, an ETF that tracks a bond index may include annuities as part of its portfolio holdings.

It is essential to carefully review the product’s holdings and understand the potential risks and limitations of investing in their annuities. It is also a good idea to consult with a financial advisor to determine if an annuity suits your financial situation and goals.

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Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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