The Ultimate Guide To Shopping And Buying An Annuity

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Navigating the world of annuities can be daunting. But in our journey today, we are going to simplify the annuity purchasing process, breaking it down step by step, and arm you with the knowledge you need to make the best decision for your future income needs. With over a decade of experience in selling annuities, I understand the importance of putting people first. So, let’s dive in!

Confused About Annuities?

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Know Your Needs:

Before embarking on buying an annuity, it’s pivotal to comprehend your financial needs, goals, and risk tolerance. Start by asking, “How much income will I need in retirement?” Certified financial planners or financial advisors can offer invaluable assistance in aligning your annuity purchase with your overall retirement plan, ensuring it complements your financial objectives.

The Ultimate Guide To Shopping And Buying An Annuity

Types of Annuities You Can Buy:

  • Immediate Annuities: Start income payments almost immediately after a single lump sum payment.
  • Deferred Annuities: Allow future income and offer tax-deferred growth.
  • Fixed Annuities: Offering fixed interest, guaranteed income, and safeguarding you against market downturns.
  • Variable Annuities: Have the potential for higher returns, but investing involves risk as they are linked to the performance of investment options chosen by the annuity buyer.
  • Indexed Annuities: Interest earned based on a stock market index, offering no risk of loss and potential better upside returns.
How To Invest In Annuities.

Choosing the Right Annuity:

When considering how to buy annuities, keep your financial goals, risk tolerance, and desired income in focus. Seek advice from financial professionals or certified financial planners to weigh the annuity contracts and the features like death benefits, cash refund annuity options, and guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits.

  • Fixed-Income Annuity or Indexed Annuity: If you have a low-risk tolerance and prefer stable, guaranteed income.
  • Variable Annuity or Equity-Indexed Annuity: If you are comfortable with some level of risk for potentially higher returns.
  • Joint-Life Annuity or Long-Term Care Annuity: If you have specific needs such as ensuring income for a spouse or covering long-term care costs.
How To Buy An Annuity And Where Can I Buy An Annuity.

Purchasing Process:

To buy an annuity online or through brokerage firms or mutual fund companies, here’s a simple guideline:

  1. Research Providers: Consider the claims-paying ability and the ratings of the annuity provider. Buy from “A-” or better annuity companies and avoid “B” rated insurance companies. We recommend S&P, Moody’s, and A.M. Best.
  2. Annuity Shopping: Compare similar products from different companies to make the best decision.
  3. Understand the Fees: Annuity fees, including annuity premiums and other associated charges, can impact the account value and should be reviewed diligently.
  4. Explore Contract Details: Scrutinize the annuity contract for features, income options, and any tax implications.
  5. Applying: Work with the annuity provider and broker to apply for and sign the annuity contract.
  6. Pay the premium: Transfer the money for the annuity premium payment after signing the contract. Payment can be made with cash, retirement funds, or from a brokerage account. Consider the tax consequences of each payment type before making the payment.
  7. Free-look Period: Review the annuity contract during the free-look period, which starts once the contract is issued. This period usually lasts 10 to 30 days, allowing cancellation and a refund. Ensure the contract meets all your objectives during this time.

Dos and Don’ts:

  • Do involve a financial advisor in your annuity shopping to align your investment with your overall financial planning. We can help you with this at no charge to you.
  • Don’t lose control over your money. Understanding the terms of your annuity contract ensures you are aware of the accessibility of your funds.
  • Do be mindful of the tax consequences. Nonqualified annuity payments are made with after-tax dollars, whereas qualified annuity payments have tax deferral benefits.
  • Don’t invest in annuities with high annuity fees that can erode your future income.
  • Avoid the risk of losing money in your annuity if you can’t afford to lose money in the market.

Where to Buy:

Invest in annuities through reliable insurance companies, reputable brokerage accounts, or mutual fund companies. Research extensively and consult an annuity broker (like The Annuity Expert) to avoid annuity companies with less-than-ideal reputations.

Additionally, most annuity products are terrible and do more harm than good which is why using an independent expert like ourselves is critical when buying an annuity.

Tip: Avoid annuity websites that sell your information to financial advisors as leads. You could end up with the wrong annuity as they sell personal information to anyone.


When is the best time to buy an annuity? It largely depends on individual retirement assets, financial needs, and market conditions. Deferred income annuities like QLAC (Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract) can be beneficial if purchased when the interest rates are high.

Questions to Ask:

  • What are the annuity payouts and income annuity options available?
  • What are the potential tax consequences of purchasing an annuity?
  • How will the annuity income affect my overall retirement income?
  • Is there a lifetime income rider or other additional features that suit my needs?

Who Should and Should Not Buy an Annuity?

Annuities can be advantageous for those seeking a reliable income stream and financial security in retirement. However, they may not be suitable for those who prioritize liquidity and control over their funds due to the restrictive nature of some annuity contracts.


Buying an annuity is a substantial decision that requires careful consideration and a thorough understanding of your financial landscape. From immediate annuities offering swift income to deferred annuities allowing tax-deferred growth, the diverse spectrum of annuities caters to varying financial needs and goals. To ensure the optimal alignment of your annuity with your retirement plan, delve deep into the contract details, consult with financial advisors, and select an annuity provider with proven reliability. Approach annuity purchase with informed confidence, balancing risk and return, and you will be well on your way to securing a stable, fulfilling retirement.

This guide aims to help you make informed, beneficial decisions in your annuity purchasing journey, providing insights and clarifications to navigate the intricate landscape of annuities effectively. By making well-researched, well-advised choices, you can ensure that your annuity aligns seamlessly with your retirement vision, bringing you peace of mind and financial stability in your golden years.

Annuity Companies To Avoid And The Do'S And Don'Ts Of Shopping And Buying Annuities.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I purchase an annuity?

You can purchase an annuity through a financial institution, such as a bank, insurance company, or brokerage firm (like The Annuity Expert).

Is it a good idea to buy an annuity at age 40?

Buying an annuity at age 40 can be a strategic move for retirement planning. The forecasting allows you to invest money now in return for a guaranteed income stream in the future, providing clarity on your retirement income. With the power of compounding, your money has more time to grow, which can translate into higher income during retirement.

Do you have to buy an annuity in full when purchasing?

No, you don’t necessarily have to buy an annuity in full when purchasing. There are two common ways to fund an annuity: a lump sum payment or periodic payments over time. A lump sum payment means paying the entire amount upfront, while periodic payments involve making contributions at regular intervals until the annuity begins to pay out.

How do I buy a pension annuity?

To purchase a pension annuity, start by identifying your financial needs and goals for your retirement. Understanding the different types of annuities and their unique benefits is integral to this process. It is advisable to consult a financial advisor who can guide you in choosing the right annuity based on your individual circumstances. Once you’ve decided, select a reliable annuity provider, considering their financial strength and reputation. Finally, you must submit an application with your chosen provider, specify the annuity terms, and make the required payments.

How does an annuity work as a buyer?

As a buyer, when you purchase an annuity, you make an upfront payment or series of payments to the insurance company. In return, the company agrees to make future payments to you, either immediately or starting at a certain point. These payments may last a specific number of years or for the rest of your life, depending on the annuity contract. Essentially, an annuity provides a means for you to secure a steady income stream in the future, making it a popular choice for retirement planning.

How long does it take to buy an annuity?

Buying an annuity can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. This timeline depends on factors such as the complexity of the annuity product, the responsiveness of the insurance company, and the time it takes for you to complete any required paperwork or medical exams. The insurance company will issue the annuity contract after the application is submitted and approved and the payment is made.

How to buy an annuity for a lump sum payout?

To acquire an annuity allowing a lump sum payout, you must invest in a deferred annuity, such as a fixed, fixed indexed, or variable one. Once the contract period concludes, you can withdraw or transfer the entire account balance as a lump sum.

How to buy an annuity with cash?

Purchasing an annuity with cash involves paying a lump sum to an insurance company. Firstly, assess your retirement needs and understand the different types of annuities. Then, select a trustworthy annuity provider. Submit your application, indicating that you’ll be making a lump sum payment, and transfer the cash to the insurer via a wire transfer or mail in a check.

How to buy a qualified annuity?

To buy a qualified annuity, you use pre-tax dollars often through a retirement plan like a 401k or IRA. Start by identifying your retirement needs and goals. Then, explore the different types of annuities and choose the one that best suits you. Select a reliable annuity provider, complete the application, and fund the annuity using money from your retirement account via a transfer form.

How do you tell if an annuity is good for the buyer?

Assess your financial goals and retirement needs to determine if an annuity is good for you. Consider factors like the annuity’s fees, surrender charges, the insurer’s financial strength, and the annuity’s potential for income growth. Compare these factors with other investment options. Additionally, consider your risk tolerance and the annuity’s payout options.

What portion of your savings to buy an annuity?

The portion of your savings to put into an annuity depends on your financial goals, risk tolerance, and other retirement income sources. A common guideline is to invest enough to cover your necessary expenses in retirement not covered by Social Security and pensions.

Is buying an annuity at 30 a good idea?

Purchasing a fixed indexed annuity at age 30 can be a smart strategy for the safer portion of an investment portfolio. This type of annuity offers a unique blend of potential for growth linked to a market index and protection from market downturns, serving as an alternative to bonds. The earlier purchase allows for a longer accumulation phase, which can lead to a higher income during retirement.

Can I buy an annuity with my 401k?

Yes, you can buy an annuity with your 401k funds. This is typically done by rolling over the funds from your 401k into an individual retirement account (IRA) annuity without incurring taxes. This strategy can provide a steady stream of income in retirement.

Which Annuities Are Safe To Buy Online?

The safest annuity to buy online is a fixed, fixed index, immediate, or long-term care annuity.

Which annuities are better bought with an agent, face to face?

Overall, consulting with an agent is better than buying an annuity because there are many poorly designed annuities or poorly rated annuity companies. Plus, the agent earns a commission from the insurance company instead of charging you fees.
Consult a financial advisor before buying variable annuities. These annuity products are complicated, have investing risks, and can come with high fees.

Should I buy an annuity from a poor-rated insurance company

The short answer is “no”; you shouldn’t buy an annuity from an insurance company that is not A- rated or better. Why? Because there are too many great options with highly-rated annuity companies. Plus, Errors and Omissions Insurance doesn’t cover B-rated companies generally.

Are there benefits to buying from a B rated insurance company?

Despite the risks, there may be some benefits to buying a “B” rated annuity. For example, the interest rates may be higher than those offered for annuities with higher ratings, which could result in a higher overall return on investment. In addition, the premiums for “B” rated annuities may be lower than those with higher ratings, making them more affordable for some individuals.

Can anyone buy an annuity?

Anyone can purchase annuities, including those who receive social security payments. However, annuities are especially suitable for retiring people who want a guaranteed income stream to supplement their retirement savings. They are also suitable for individuals who want to ensure their beneficiaries receive a steady income after death.

Can you buy annuities directly?

Yes, you can buy annuities directly from insurance companies without going through an intermediary. However, consulting a financial advisor, like The Annuity Expert, can help ensure the product fits your financial needs and goals.

What is the primary reason for buying an annuity?

Annuities provide a steady, reliable income that lasts as long as you live. It’s a safeguard against the risk of outliving your savings, a genuine concern in an era where life expectancies are continually increasing.

What annuities have hidden fees?

When purchasing an annuity, sometimes there are hidden fees. Variable annuities can include surrender charges, administrative fees, mortality and expense risk charges, management fees, and other miscellaneous costs that may not be immediately obvious. These fees can vary significantly depending on the annuity product chosen.

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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