An annuity definition relates to a contract between an individual and a life insurance company; however, a charity or trust can stand in place of the insurance company. In the most basic definition, an annuity is the agreement for one person or organization to pay another a series of payments. There are several different categories of annuities based upon the nature of the investment, primary purpose, nature of payout, tax status and premium payment arrangement.
When preparing for retirement, many individuals choose annuities as part of their retirement plan due to the benefits that annuities present.
Most investments are taxed at the end of each year; however, the investment earnings from annuities are not taxed until you withdraw money. Similar to 401(k) s and IRA’s but dissimilar in that there are no limits to the amount you can deposit into an annuity. In addition, the minimum requirements for withdrawal from an annuity are much more liberal.
Protection from Creditors
Owning an immediate annuity (which means that you receive money from an insurance company) means that all a creditor can access is the amount of the payments as they are made. Your deposited balance is safe from creditors and collectors. This is because when you deposited the money to the insurance company you gave them the money; it is not yours again until each payment is returned to you. Many states and courts protect even the annuity payments from creditors.
Annuity companies generally offer a wide variety of investment options. Also in the past several years, most annuity companies have created “floors” that limit the decline of investments from an increasing reference point. One example of a “floor” is that an annuity may offer a guarantee that your investment will not fall below the value of its most recent policy anniversary.
Tax Free Transfers
Annuities are very different from mutual funds and other investments in that with annuities you can change how your funds are invested without paying tax consequences. Many financial advisers used a strategy called “rebalancing” for which an annuity is ideal for not incurring higher taxes for simply shifting the money to another investment option.
Lifetime annuities convert your investment into payments that will last as long as you live. Annuities are unique in that they use the pooling method to make your payments. You are essentially receiving money from 3 sources; your investment, investment earnings and the pool of people who are in your group but don’t live as long as forecasted by the actuarial tables. This is what enables annuities to guarantee lifetime income.
Annuities are commonly misunderstood in that people assume when they set up an immediate lifetime annuity and die shortly afterwards that the insurance company will keep all of the investment. This is a possibility but you can prevent it by purchasing a guarantee period with your annuity. This will commit the insurance company to continue the payments to your beneficiaries until the end of the guaranteed period, which is usually 10 or 20 years from when you began the annuity not from your death. In addition, annuity benefits to beneficiaries are not going through probate or governed by a will, they are simply paid out each period to the beneficiary designated.
If you are making your retirement plan and want a safe and secure lifetime income, you should definitely look into all the options that annuities provide.