The Different Types Of Annuities

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Annuities have been vital in financial portfolios since 2009, offering a secure and steady income stream, especially during retirement. Understanding the different types of annuities and their features is crucial for anyone looking to make informed decisions regarding their financial future. This guide is designed to walk you through the annuity landscape, helping you make sense of this versatile financial product and highlighting the benefits each type can bring to your financial stability. We aim to provide clear, people-first content that empowers you with knowledge and fosters confidence in navigating annuity contracts.

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Understanding Annuity Phases: Accumulation and Distribution

An annuity contract undergoes two main phases: the accumulation phase and the distribution phase. During the accumulation phase, you pay annuity premiums to an insurance company, allowing your money to grow on a tax-deferred basis. The distribution phase begins when you start to receive regular income payments, typically during retirement.

Accumulation Phase

In this phase, the money invested in the annuity earns interest based on a fixed or variable rate, depending on the type of annuity chosen. For example, a fixed annuity guarantees a minimum interest rate, providing a safe and predictable growth.

Distribution Phase

Once the accumulation phase concludes, the distribution phase commences, offering a guaranteed income stream. An immediate annuity, for instance, begins the distribution phase shortly after a lump sum payment is made, providing immediate income payments.

What Are The Different Types Of Annuities?

Delineating the Different Types of Annuities

When exploring the financial industry regulatory authority’s guidelines and consulting with a financial advisor, it is essential to understand the different kinds of annuities available. Here, we delve into various annuity types and features, clarifying how each one can accommodate distinct financial needs and goals.

Fixed Annuities

Fixed annuities offer a guaranteed interest rate and a steady income stream, making them a suitable choice for risk-averse individuals. A multi-year guaranteed annuity (MYGA) is a type of fixed annuity that provides a guaranteed interest rate for a specified period.

Variable Annuities

Variable annuities allow you to allocate money to different investments like mutual funds, money market funds, etc., meaning the annuity payouts can vary depending on the investment performance. For example, someone seeking potentially higher returns might choose a variable annuity, understanding the associated risks.

Indexed Annuities

Equity-indexed annuities, or simply indexed annuities, earn interest based on the performance of a market index. These provide a unique blend of risk and potential reward, offering more growth potential than fixed annuities and less risk compared to variable annuities.

Types Of Annuities In Insurance

Death Benefit and Survivor Annuities: Providing for Loved Ones

Annuity contracts often include a death benefit rider, ensuring that your beneficiaries receive the remaining annuity income or a lump sum payment in the event of your death. Joint and survivor annuity options also ensure that your spouse continues to receive income payments after your passing.

Death Benefit Rider

This feature can be particularly reassuring for those looking to leave a financial legacy. For instance, a life insurance policy holder with a death benefit rider can be assured that their loved ones will have financial support in unforeseen circumstances.

Joint and Survivor Annuity

These annuities are ideal for couples seeking guaranteed lifetime income for both partners. They ensure a steady and uninterrupted flow of income, alleviating financial worries for the surviving spouse.

Types Of Annuity Accounts

Evaluating Annuity Payouts and Withdrawal Penalties

Understanding annuity payouts and early withdrawal penalties is crucial to optimize the benefits of your annuity contract. Periodic payments offer a regular and reliable income stream, while the right planning can help avoid unnecessary penalties on early withdrawals.

Regular Income Payments

Whether fixed-period or lifetime annuities, regular income payments form the backbone of annuity contracts. These payments can provide a sense of financial security, offering peace of mind through consistent support.

Early Withdrawal Penalties

Withdrawing money before a future date might subject you to penalties. For example, withdrawing from a deferred annuity before the agreed-upon date can lead to significant financial losses due to penalties, reducing your overall annuity income.

Example Of An Annuity

The lottery payout is an example of an immediate annuity in which an individual receives a guaranteed income stream for a predetermined period (typically 30 years).

Annuity Types At A Glance

BenefitVariableFixed IndexFixedImmediate
Principal ProtectionNoYesYesYes
Access To PrincipalYesYesYesNo
Control Over MoneyYesYesYesNo
Tax-Deferred GrowthYesYesYesNo
Guaranteed GrowthNoYesYesNo
Guaranteed IncomeYesYesYesYes
Inflation ProtectionYesYesNoYes
Death BenefitYesYesYesYes/No
LTC HelpYesYesYesNo


Annuities, with their myriad types and features, present a robust option for those seeking financial security and a steady income stream, especially during the golden years of retirement. Understanding each type is pivotal in making well-informed decisions, whether it’s the reliability of fixed annuities or the growth potential in variable and indexed annuities. Including death benefit riders and joint and survivor annuities further enhances the appeal, reassuring you and your loved ones. By considering the different types of annuities available and consulting with a trusted financial advisor, you can tailor your retirement income to your unique needs and aspirations, securing a prosperous and worry-free future.

Type Of Annuity

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 3 types of annuities?

The three types of annuities are Fixed Annuities, Variable Annuities, and Indexed Annuities.

What is the safest type of annuity?

Fixed annuities are generally considered the safest type as they provide guaranteed income, unlike variable annuities.

Which is the most riskiest type of annuity?

Variable annuities are typically the riskiest type due to investment in market securities, leading to potential gains or losses.

Who regulates variable annuities?

Variable annuities are regulated by the state insurance commissioners, FINRA, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Who regulates fixed annuities?

State insurance commissioners primarily regulate fixed annuities through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

Other Types Of Annuities

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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