Showing posts with label Annuity (US financial products). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Annuity (US financial products). Show all posts

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Retirement Questions: Four Things You Need to Know About Annuities

retirement (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)
There are so many questions most of us have about retirement, and often, we just push them to the backs of our minds and wish we didn't have to answer them. However, it's important to get prepared as soon as possible. Many looking to prepare for retirement don't know much about annuities, or even know that they exist. This is an important option that should be looked into. Annuities are forms of investments that provide investors monthly payments during retirement. It is important to learn about annuities before purchasing an investment contract. Find out as much as you can about this type of investment. You can learn more by asking the right questions from annuity providers to avoid making bad decisions.

1. Are there fees involved with Annuities?

While annuities are designed to provide investors with ways of creating regular payment during their retirement years, investors have to pay certain amounts of money to purchase annuity contracts. The fees charged for this type of investment vary and are determined by the insurance companies. Investors may have to pay different types of fees including mortality and administrative fees among others. When investing in annuities, research the fees and charges of different annuity providers to make an informed decision.

2. What type of investment is this?

Different types of annuity contracts are available for purchase including fixed, variable, and equity-indexed annuities among others. Fixed annuities offer fixed interest rates on retirement and fixed payment during retirement. Variable annuities offer investors greater control of their investment options. The returns of variable annuities are tied to investment returns of the annuities. Finally, equity indexed annuities are tied to financial indices.

3. How do Annuities affect Investors’ Financial Rating?

Many people view annuities as guaranteed investments. While this is true, the investment is guaranteed by insurance firms themselves. This means that investors have to choose insurance companies with good financial ratings.

Various tools can help investors compare insurance companies. Examples of such tools include financial ratings provided by reputable financial rating entities. These entities provide data on how companies are performing financially and whether investors should be worried about their retirement investments.

4. What Happens to your Money when you die?

Some annuities come with death benefits while others do not provide any form of death benefit for beneficiaries of deceased investors. People should find out if their annuity contracts obligate their insurance companies to pay their beneficiaries for a certain amount of time after they die.

Some annuity investments provide lump sum payments to beneficiaries upon the death of an investor. If an investor’s annuity contract does not have this provision, the insurance company will keep all the money paid in the investment if the investor died before using the money. This can have a significant impact on the financial status of the beneficiaries. Annuities become very important as you prepare to enter retirement. If you set up a fixed annuity now, you would be able to receive the benefits during your retirement period. Fixed annuities offer stability, guaranteed interest, and a set amount of money each year that those who get them can rely upon. It can be difficult to know what exactly is the best place to start with planning for retirement, and even then, it's tough to know what choices to make. Educating yourself more thoroughly on your options is a great place to start, and you should certainly look for answers to all your questions regarding annuities and retirement. Once you're satisfied you at least have an idea what your ultimate goals are, you should likely talk with a professional that can help you sort out how best to treat your personal finances now to be as well off during your retirement as possible. 

Information credit to PNW Annuities Services Seattle.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Understanding Annuities: Fixed Annuities vs. Variable Annuities

With annuities, it's important to know what you're getting into. This is a huge decision that'll determine how much and how often you get paid during your retirement years. Should you go with a fixed annuity or a variable annuity? Let's take a look at some of the differences between fixed annuities and variable annuities, and you can decide which one sounds more along the lines of what you're looking to do with your money.

What Are They?

First things first, let's define them. A fixed annuity is a contract offered by an insurance company. You deposit money and the insurer agrees to pay a certain interest rate over a specified period of time. A variable annuity is an insurance contract that, at the end of the accumulation stage, the insurance company guarantees a minimum payment. The rest of the income payments can vary depending on the performance of the managed portfolio.

Essentially, variable accounts are similar to mutual funds. You can invest in one or more accounts, and those accounts can own stocks, bonds, or a combination of both. Variable annuities have more fees than mutual funds, though, which leads to them having a higher annual operating expense than mutual funds.

The Tax Differences

One important difference between fixed annuities and variable annuities is the way that they're taxed. With both fixed and variable annuities, any earnings remain untaxed as long as they within their annuity. However, if they're withdrawn, the earnings are taxed like normal income. If you draw before the age of 59, you'll pay a 10 percent penalty.

The earnings in your variable annuity are taxed at ordinary income rates instead of long-term capital gains rates. This essentially converts all long-term capital gains to ordinary income, which is a definite disadvantage for variable annuities because it boosts the share of your gains that go to the government. If you pull your money out within the first seven to 10 years, you'll have to pay an early withdrawal penalty. You may need to calculate different types of annuities to see which one works best for you.

The Safety Difference

A fixed annuity offers more security than a variable annuity, but the upside potential is very limited. With variable annuities, you accept more short-term volatility because the value of your investment will fluctuate with the value of the stock and bond markets. You're essentially looking at risk versus return.

With a variable annuity, if the market goes up, you're golden; if it goes down, you lose money. Fixed annuities are also based on the market, but they don't directly participate in it. The interest is paid out at certain intervals based on how well a specific measure of the market is performing.

Rather than just offering a guarantee, variable annuities provide the opportunity for growth. Your return will depend entirely on how well the investment you select does, and may be greater or less than that of a fixed annuity. If you die before you begin receiving annuity payments, your heirs will receive at least as much as the total of your premium payments.

The Hidden Costs

Fixed annuities don't usually have hidden fees. If they do have a fee, it'll be an annual policy fee, which could run $25 to $50 annually, which can be waived if your investment meets a minimum specified amount. Variable annuities, however, have a ton of hidden fees and charges. They have mortality and expense risk charges, administrative fees, sales and surrender charges, and charges for optional benefits and riders.

It basically comes down to risk tolerance and how much control you want over the investment decisions. Fixed annuities have very little risk, but there's no growth potential. Variable annuities provide a much greater potential for growth, but there's a huge risk involved. Your investment decisions can impact the growth of the annuity. There's a lot of management involved with a variable annuity as well.

For a steady stream of income after retirement, a fixed annuity is the way to go. With little risk and a guaranteed minimum return, you know exactly how much you're getting. Variable returns are much riskier and nothing is really guaranteed; you shouldn't rely on variable annuities as a source of income. Sure, your investment could pay off big time, but you could be left without a retirement fund. If you've got the extra money, a variable annuity might be a fun venture, but otherwise, a fixed annuity seems like a much safer option.

Have an annuity tips from first-hand experience? Leave a comment below.

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