ULTIMATE GUIDE TO RETIREMENT

What are the different types of annuities?

There are two basic types of annuities: deferred and immediate. With a deferred annuity, your money is invested for a period of time until you are ready to begin taking withdrawals, typically in retirement.

If you opt for an immediate annuity you begin to receive payments soon after you make your initial investment. For example, you might consider purchasing an immediate annuity as you approach retirement age.

The deferred annuity accumulates money while the immediate annuity pays out. Deferred annuities can also be converted into immediate annuities when the owner wants to start collecting payments.

Within these two categories, annuities can also be either fixed or variable depending on whether the payout is a fixed sum, tied to the performance of the overall market or group of investments, or a combination of the two.

Are there tax benefits to annuities?

Yes. Money that you invest in an annuity grows tax-deferred. When you eventually make withdrawals, the amount you contributed to the annuity is not taxed, but your earnings are taxed at your regular income tax rate.

What are the advantages of annuities?

The biggest advantages annuities offer is that they allow you to sock away a larger amount of cash and defer paying taxes.

Unlike other tax-deferred retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs, there is no annual contribution limit for an annuity. That allows you to put away more money for retirement, and is particularly useful for those that are closest to retirement age and need to catch up. All the money you invest compounds year after year without any tax bill from Uncle Sam. That ability to keep every dollar invested working for you can be a big advantage over taxable investments.

When you cash out, you can choose to take a lump-sum payment from your annuity, but many retirees prefer to set up guaranteed payments for a specific length of time or the rest of your life, providing a steady stream of income.
The annuity serves as a complement to other retirement income sources, such as Social Security and pension plans.

What payout options do I have?

When you invest in your annuity you also choose how you want your eventual payouts to be calculated. Your options include:

Income for guaranteed period (also called period certain annuity). You are guaranteed a specific payment amount for a set period of time (say, five years or 30 years). If you die before the end of the period your beneficiary will receive the remainder of the payments for the guaranteed period.

Lifetime payments. A guaranteed income payout during your lifetime only; there is no survivor benefit. The payouts can be fixed or variable. The amount of the payout is determined by how much you invest and your life expectancy. At the time of death all payments stop – your heirs don’t get anything.

Income for life with a guaranteed period certain benefit (also called life with period certain). A combination of a life annuity and a period certain annuity. You receive a guaranteed payout for life that includes a period certain phase. If you die during the period certain phase of the account, your beneficiary will continue to receive the payment for the remainder of the period. For example, life with a 10 year period certain is a common arrangement. If you die five years after you begin collecting, the payments continue to your survivor for five more years.

Joint and survivor annuity. Your beneficiary will continue to receive payouts for the rest of his or her life after you die. A popular option for married couples.