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Life insurance companies offer annuities as a way to provide you a steady or immediate source of income. While the value of an annuity is often paid out to a beneficiary in the event the owner passes away they are not the same as life insurance policies. Annuities are designed as a retirement solution not an end of life solution.

Depending on how close you are to retirement the type of annuity can determine how you are paid over time. Here are a few common options:

  • Immediate Annuity - If you are closer to retirement this type of annuity will begin payments immediately. The payment is in one lump sum to the insurance company and distributions begin immediately.
  • Deferred Annuity - If you are years from retirement this option makes more sense so you can build up more value in the asset. You would make regular payments to the annuity for many years until the end of the accumulation period. After this period the disbursements would begin.
  • Lifetime Annuity - These annuities are started with a lump sum payment and continue payments to the holder until death. In most cases any remaining value left in the annuity at the time of death would go to the insurance company.
  • Variable Annuity - This type of annuity is deferred until a given time and the distribution is determined by the investment return on the underlying portfolio of assets. Annuity owners can choose to invest in money-market funds, equity funds and bond funds. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before making any investment decisions.

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Get Educated on Annuities

Annuities can be complex insurance instruments so having a good education will help in finding the right product for you. Do your research online to begin with then find a broker that will help you better understand which annuity type is right for you. Here is a checklist to find a qualified annuity broker:

  • Check the NASD website for any complaints on certain brokers. If they do have complaints this can be for many reasons. Many times new brokers will not have any complaints due to the time they have been in business but this does not make them more qualified than someone with a few complaints. Even if a broker has a few complaints but has been doing business for 10 years this may be a better source for you.
  • Visit a couple different brokers to see which one you feel better about. Often people will get a better vibe from one broker versus another so compare a few.
  • Work with trusted companies. There are hundreds of insurance companies that offer annuities but you will always be better off with a company that has a proven track record.


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