Annuity Terms You Need to Know

    Annuity Terms You Need to Know

    By Chris Coburn

    If you are new to the world of annuities, you might bump into some financial terms you’ve never met before. Since Financial Literacy Month is here, we thought it’d be useful and timely to explain some of the more common annuity language.

    First, we’ll start with a rundown of the types of annuities out there…

    Fixed Annuity

    The simplest form of an annuity, a fixed annuity, guarantees a stream of fixed payments over a certain period of time and/or a person’s lifetime  Prior to this income phase, the insurance company credits interest that will never be less than the rate guaranteed by the annuity.

    Indexed Annuity

    An indexed annuity links its return potential to a specific market index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. The performance of the index over a specific time frame will determine the interest credited to the annuity. 

    By guaranteeing that the credited interest will never be less than zero, the insurance company assumes the risk associated with negative index performance. However, the credited rate is typically limited in some way to help the company offset this risk. So an index annuity offers the potential to earn more than a traditional fixed annuity, while offering some protection against loss.

    Variable Annuity

    Variable annuities offer a selection of funds whose performance is driven by various investment markets.

    Variable annuities offer more growth potential than fixed or indexed annuities; however, negative returns are also possible. Many variable annuities offer “riders,” which are features that can be added to provide additional benefits (at an additional cost). Some riders offer an enhanced death benefit, a guaranteed accumulation amount, or a guaranteed withdrawal amount – no matter what happens in the markets. However, there are typically requirements and restrictions around riders, so it’s important to understand them before adding them to an annuity.

    Income Annuity

    In all of the examples above there is an accumulation phase where funds grow and remain liquid until they are turned into income stream or withdrawn. Income annuities, however, provide an income stream immediately or at a specified future date which is not dependent on the growth of funds during the accumulation phase.

    Now, let’s take a look at some terms that get applied to the different types of annuities …

    Deferred or Immediate

    You may also hear annuities being referred to as immediate or deferred: What’s the difference?

    Deferred — A deferred annuity has accumulation phase between the date the contract is issued and the date you begin receiving income payments. During this phase your funds grow depending on the type of annuity.

    Immediate – In an immediate annuity the purchase payment is immediately turned into a stream of annuity payments. There is no accumulation phase.

    Single or Flexible Premium

    Single Premium — A single premium annuity allows for only one purchase payment.

    Flexible Premium  — A flexible premium allows you to add funds to the policy after the contract’s inception date. As long income payments have not started, you can continue to add funds.

    In some cases an annuity could have a modified flexible premium where multiple payments can be made but only for a set amount of time after the contract’s inception date.

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