An annuity is another way to set aside retirement savings on a tax-deferred basis. Unlike IRAs and Keoghs, an annuity is the actual investment product. To set up an annuity, talk with the investment services representative at your bank.
An annuity is a contract you enter into with an insurance company. For a fixed sum of money, the insurance company promises to pay you income starting today (an immediate annuity), or income sometime in the future (deferred annuity).
- An immediate annuity provides a stream of payments based on your age, gender and the amount of money invested, and the payment option you select. Immediate annuities are primarily for people who require a fixed monthly income and/or may have difficulty managing their own money.
- A deferred annuity allows you to contribute money which grows tax-deferred until you withdraw the money and its earnings at some future date.
Deferred annuities are used for retirement planning. You typically make one or more premium deposits, and the insurance company invests your premiums. You don't pay any tax on the internal buildup of the annuity's value until you begin taking distributions, usually during retirement. A number of payout options are available; the most common offers fixed payments for life.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Annuities are long-term investments. If you begin distributions before age 59½, you may be subject to a 10% penalty on the portion of the withdrawal that represents accumulated earnings. In addition, the earnings are subject to ordinary income tax. Finally, the annuity may impose surrender charges on withdrawals that exceed a certain amount during the early years of the contract) (see the section Understanding the Fees).