Pros and Cons of Annuities: Are Annuities a Good Investment Choice?

Written By
G. Dautovic
September 19,2023

In the modern world of retirement planning, numerous investment options promise a safe and secure financial future. Amidst this ever-growing sea of choices, annuities have carved a notable niche for themselves, emerging as a favored financial instrument for those desiring a structured income during their post-retirement years.

Actually, 2022 saw annuity sales hit an all-time high, climbing to $311 billion—a notable jump of 22% from the year before.

However, as with any financial tool and offer out there, it's better not to outright jump on the bandwagon, and first familiarize yourself with any potential disadvantages that can come with annuities.

What Are Annuities?

In essence, annuities are a financial contract signed between an individual and an insurance company. They represent a unique blend of insurance and investment, designed to address the concern of many individuals nowadays, and that’s outliving their savings. This is why annuities serve both as a strategic investment tool and as a safety net, and why they’ve become so valuable with people planning their retirement.

When someone chooses an annuity, they funnel their funds, either in a single payment or over time, into the insurer's annuity offering. In return, the insurer commits to making periodic disbursements back to the individual.

Unlike other investment options where the primary goal is wealth growth leading to a sizable lump sum at maturity, annuities focus on income distribution. They are structured to provide a steady and reliable stream of income, which can be beneficial during retirement years when regular income sources usually start to diminish.

Types of Annuities

The annuity domain is varied, presenting a range of options tailored to diverse financial aspirations and risk appetites. Primarily, there are two main annuity types: fixed and variable annuities.

  • Fixed Annuities are predominantly favored by retirees or those nearing retirement. Offering a guaranteed interest rate over a defined duration, fixed annuities ensure consistent and predictable payouts. In 2022, the fixed annuity market in the US burgeoned to $208 billion, reflecting a 60% growth from the prior year.
  • Variable Annuities, on the other hand, witnessed diminished popularity in 2022, with total sales tallying up to $102.6 billion—a decline of 18% from 2021. Given that the payouts from variable annuities hinge on the performance of chosen investments, they're inherently more volatile, entailing greater risk, elevated fees, and potentially higher returns.

Both fixed and variable annuities can be further categorized into immediate or deferred annuities.

  • Immediate Annuities: Tailored for those desiring prompt returns on their investment. After a lump-sum premium payment to the insurer, payouts commence within a year of the purchase. This type is ideal for retirees intending to transform a segment of their savings into a steady, guaranteed income stream immediately.
  • Deferred Annuities: Contrasting with immediate annuities, this variant caters to those favoring a longer-term approach, allowing their investment to mature before initiating payouts. As implied, with deferred annuities, disbursements are postponed, often for several years. During this deferral phase, your funds grow tax-deferred. By 2022, sales of fixed-rate deferred annuities had more than doubled from the previous year, marking a 111% growth, indicating its rising preference among near-retirees.

Advantages of Annuities

Annuities, with their unique structure and promise, offer a range of benefits that cater to diverse financial needs:

  1. Steady Cash Flow: This is probably the biggest attracting factor when it comes to annuities. Retirement more often than not limits the stable income sources, so having a reliable inflow of money to your bank account much in the manner of a monthly paycheck can provide a sense of stability.
  2. Income Assurance: Some annuities come with a minimum income guarantee, meaning that regardless of market volatility and fluctuations or other external factors, you will be assured a baseline income. Income assurance in annuities offers you a sort of a financial cushion and provides a peace of mind during the times of economic uncertainty.
  3. Tax Benefits: As touched upon before, annuities stand out for their distinct tax perk: the tax-deferred growth of your investment. Your earnings through an annuity plan will not be taxed until you withdraw them, allowing your investment to grow over time and lead to potentially bigger returns.
  4. Market Shield: Fixed and indexed annuities offer a high level of protection against market downturns, shielding you from significant losses during market lows, even though you might not reap massive gains during the highs.
  5. Unbridled Contributions: Unlike retirement accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs which come with annual contribution limits, annuities allow you to invest as much as you want, giving you not only a greater potential for growth, but also more flexibility.

Disadvantages of Annuities

While annuities offer numerous benefits, they also come with challenges that potential investors should be aware of:

  1. Cost Implications: Annuities can sometimes prove to be a highly costly option, since there are some additive costs that can prove to be a significant impact to your overall return on investment. Some of the biggest fees that influence this are mortality and expense risk charges, administrative, management and other fees, depending on the insurance agency of your choice.
  2. Access Restrictions: Because annuities are inherently designed for long-term growth, accessing your funds prematurely can be costly. Many annuities impose strict surrender charges if you withdraw your funds before a specific period has passed, and this lack of liquidity means that you need to be sure about your set investment timeline.
  3. Possibility of Modest Returns: Even though annuities provide you with stability, they might not always lead to the highest returns, especially during the periods when the market is experiencing a bull run, in which case other, riskier investment avenues, might outperform annuities.
  4. Intricacies and Nuances: Some annuities, especially variable ones, come with intricate structures and investment options, meaning that you will have to be prepared to invest time in understanding their nuances or seek expert advice in this field.
  5. Scam Alerts: Like with any other financial product, there’s a potential for malpractice. Some agents might push annuities that aren’t in your best interest, which is why it’s crucial to conduct thorough research and have a deep understanding of the product and the credentials and reputation of the insurer that you want to work with.

Who Can Benefit the Most From Annuities?

With life expectancies being ever on a rise, annuities represent a safety net which ensures that you don’t outlive your life savings. These financial instruments are best-suited for those on the brink of retirement or already basking in their post-work phase. Annuities are especially invaluable for retirees or near-retirees that won’t have access to a traditional pension, allowing you to emulate that consistent income through them.

In Conclusion

Annuities, with their promise of stability interspersed with growth potential, can be a linchpin in many retirement portfolios. But the fact is that they demand discernment. Annuities are not a magic answer for all financial ailments. By understanding the intricacies of annuities and knowing how they work, one can craft an informed strategy that aligns seamlessly with retirement aspirations.


How much does a $100 000 annuity pay per month?


The answer is multifaceted, hinging on the annuity type, demographic factors, and the prevailing economic climate.  The data from 2023 indicates that with a $100,000 annuity, you might receive monthly payments amounting to between $500 and $1,500 for life. 

Is there a notable downside to annuities?


While annuities have their perks, they aren't without drawbacks. A significant concern for many is the array of fees and costs that come attached. On top of that, annuities might tie up your funds, making it expensive if you need to dip into them earlier than planned.

Do the rich invest in annuities?


While annuities are not the go-to savings choice for individuals with extreme wealth, they come with certain advantages that can appeal to affluent investors. Annuities, for example, offer tax-deferred growth, and the predictable income stream can prove beneficial for philanthropic work and estate planning.

About author

I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I began my career as a data operator with a large fintech firm. This position proved invaluable for learning how banks and other financial institutions operate. Daily correspondence with banking experts gave me insight into the systems and policies that power the economy. When I got the chance to translate my experience into words, I gladly joined the smart, enthusiastic Fortunly team.

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