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## Annuities 101

**What is a fixed annuity, variable annuity?**

In simple terms, both fixed annuity and variable annuity are amounts paid each year. Specifically, they are contracts offered by insurance companies that allow you to accumulate funds for retirement on a tax-advantaged basis and then receive a guaranteed income for life or for a certain period of time, such as five, ten or twenty, if you wish. year. Payments are usually made monthly, but many companies offer to pay quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Most of this discussion focuses on fixed annuities.

**How do they work?**

Both a fixed annuity and a variable annuity are vehicles for accumulating retirement savings. You pay the insurance company a premium and they promise to pay you interest. Unlike other retirement savings vehicles, you don’t have to pay income tax on your gains as long as you keep your money with the insurance company.

This is called tax deferral. Only when you decide to withdraw your money will your profit be subject to income tax. A fixed annuity differs from other retirement savings plans in another important way. If you decide to withdraw your money, the insurance company gives you the opportunity to receive a guaranteed income for the rest of your life.

**What are the advantages?**

All fixed annuity variations have three main benefits: tax deferral, probate avoidance and guaranteed income for life.

**Who offers fixed annuity products?**

Fixed annuities are only offered by insurance companies licensed for life insurance and annuities in your country of residence. Most insurance companies have financial requirements that determine the required reserves that the company must maintain on its policies.

**Who sells them?**

Only agents licensed by states to sell life insurance can sell you a fixed annuity. This includes all licensed life insurance agents in your state, as well as most financial planners and stockbrokers.

**Why is guaranteed income for life an advantage?**

Annuities are the only savings vehicle that offers guaranteed income for life. With any other type of accumulation plan, you can never be sure that your income will continue for as long as you live. The insurance company calculates the guaranteed income payout based on your age, life expectancy and interest rates. This payment is guaranteed for as long as you live.

Most insurance companies also offer a guaranteed fixed income rate for a certain period, such as five to twenty years. A guaranteed lifetime income can be based on your life alone or on the life of both you and a joint annuitant, usually your spouse. With a joint annuity, the monthly income from your fixed annuity continues until the death of the last survivor.

**What does tax deferral mean?**

A tax-deferred fixed annuity receives special tax benefits. Under current tax laws, interest and profits are not taxed until you actually start receiving the income, i.e. the tax due on the profits is deferred. So, because you don’t pay tax while your money is compounding, you earn interest in three ways – interest on the principal, interest on the interest, and interest on the taxes you would have paid had the tax not been deferred. This results in increased earning power of a deferred annuity compared to a bank CD or other fully taxable income.

**Why is avoiding inheritance an advantage?**

Another major advantage over most other investment vehicles that all annuities have in common is the ability to transfer the proceeds directly to a beneficiary upon your death. Probate is a court proceeding to determine the validity of a will. Assets in the estate usually cannot be passed on to the heirs until the probate court has determined the validity of the will and authorized the executor to distribute them. Because probate is a legal process, it can take six to twelve months to complete and court costs can be significant.

In contrast, proceeds from annuities and life insurance do not belong to a will and can go directly to your designated beneficiary without a will.

What is required of the insurance company to fulfill its obligations?

In order to protect the financial resources of its policyholders or policyholders, an insurance company must meet strict financial requirements. Most importantly, these requirements include the creation of a reserve that must always be equal to the withdrawal or surrender value of the total package of variable and fixed annuity policies or contracts.

In other words, the insurance company must set aside funds equal to the surrender value of each existing annuity contract (principal plus interest less early withdrawal or surrender charges). In addition to reserve requirements, state laws also require certain levels of capital and surplus to further protect policyholders or policyholders.

**Immediate annuity**

An immediate annuity provides for fixed annuity payments to begin immediately after the purchase date. Payments can be made monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually according to prior agreement.

Often, the proceeds from a life insurance policy or the sale of a home are used to fund an immediate annuity. Such annuity payments provide immediate regular income for a specified period (5, 10, 15, 20 years) or for life, depending on the choices made by the immediate annuitant.

**Deferred annuity**

A deferred annuity stipulates that payments will begin at a future date called maturity. A deferred annuity has an accumulation period and a payout or distribution period.

For example, a middle-aged wage earner could secure an income supplement in his retirement years by purchasing a deferred fixed annuity. Fixed or regular payments are deposited into the annuity account as it accumulates, then at age 65 when the annuity matures, there is additional income through scheduled annuity payments.

**Single premium annuity**

A fixed annuity can be purchased with a single premium, where a single cash payment closes the contract.

The most common sources of such lump sums are the proceeds of a life insurance death benefit, the sale of a home, or a lottery win.

**Flexible premium annuity**

A fixed annuity can be funded over time with an initial premium, plus additional flexible premiums.

Both the amounts and frequency of insurance premiums can be flexible, adapting convenient financing plans such as salary deductions over several years of employment, as well as changes in the owner’s financial situation.

**What is a Fixed Indexed Annuity?**

A fixed indexed annuity (also called an index annuity, indexed annuity, or stock-indexed annuity) is a fixed annuity that has higher earning power and is a guarantee against a decrease in principal. Its returns are linked to a stock or stock market index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Composite Stock Price Index or simply the S&P 500. A Fixed Indexed Annuity (FIA) has four guarantees:

1. The initial premium is guaranteed

2. Minimum rate of return

3. Account for a market uptrend (up), not a correction (down).

4. Profits are locked in every year

**How are they different from other fixed annuities?**

The main difference between a fixed indexed annuity and other fixed annuities is how the annuity rate or income is deposited into your account. A traditional fixed annuity credits interest with an annuity calculator that is specified in the contract and may or may not be market adjusted. A fixed indexed annuity results in an interest crediting formula based on changes in the stock market to which it is linked. This formula describes how interest is calculated, credited, how much extra interest you get, and when you get it.

The insurer issuing the fixed indexed annuity also promises to pay a guaranteed minimum interest. Even if the indexed income is less, the minimum guarantee will apply and your account value will not fall below the guaranteed minimum. Both flexible premium and single premium deferred annuity contracts provide a minimum interest rate, often between 1.5% and 3%, based on 90% to 100% of premium paid. The insurance company’s annuity calculator adjusts account values at the end of each period.

**What are the features or moving parts of the contract?**

The amount of additional interest credited to a fixed indexed annuity is most affected by the method of indexing and the participation rate, such as form and function.

THE INDEXING METHOD is a design that measures the amount of change in an index. For example, a method that measures the difference between an index’s baseline and one-year anniversary levels is annual point-to-point. If this design increases the account value (new principal) with each year’s gains, the indexing method includes an annual reset feature. Currently, the industry’s best-selling equity-indexed annuity is Allianz’s MasterDex Annuity Series, which features a more gradual monthly point-to-point design with annual resets. The functional differences between the indexing methods are explained in more detail below.

Like a faucet, the PARTICIPATION RATE determines how much of the increase in the index goes into the value of the annuity account. Let’s say the fixed annuity calculator shows a 12% increase in the index, but your participation rate limits you to 70% of the gain. Your annuity growth rate would be 70% 12% or 8.4%. Participation rates are variable and may be guaranteed only for a certain period or guaranteed not to change below a specified minimum or above a specified maximum. One of the most popular fixed indexed annuities is Sun Life Financial’s Keyport Index Multipoint, which guarantees a 100% participation rate throughout the life of the contract.

Some fixed indexed annuities set a CAP or cap on the annuity rate, setting a cap on the annuity. For example, an annuity with an index-linked interest rate of 9% may only be capped at 7%, which would be the amount of the increase that would be credited.

Some annuities use AVERAGING to smooth out the highs and lows of an associated stock market index. For example, monthly averaging would use an annuity calculator that combines the index closing value divided by 12 for each month.

Some annuities reduce the index-linked interest rate by subtracting the SPREAD, MARGIN or FEE and crediting the balance. A positive index change of 11%, for example with a management fee of 2.5%, would result in a net increase of 8.5%. Carriers selling annuity products with spreads, margins or fees will only have such amounts deducted if the change in the rest of the index is a positive rate of return.

**Indexing methods**

Annual reset: The return is determined annually by comparing the index value at the end of the contract year with the index value at the beginning of the contract year. The positive difference, if any, is the return your fixed indexed annuity earns over the year. Each new positive (not negative) account value is reset to provide a new starting point for the upcoming year. Compare this formula to owning a variable annuity or direct stock investment in a bear market. In the case of variables and stocks, the owner may have a deep valley to climb out of before reaching zero.

High-Water Mark: The return is determined by the increase in the value of the index in contract anniversary points during the term. The positive difference, if any, is determined by comparing the highest index value with the index value at the beginning of the period.

Point-to-point: The return, if any, is determined by comparing the difference between the value of the index at the end of the term and the value of the index at the beginning of the term. The positive difference is added to the value of your annuity account at the end of the term.

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