Annuities

Overview

Americans are living longer than ever, many 20 to 30 years after they retire. A solid financial plan for retirement means more than just setting—and reaching—a savings goal. It’s important that you have enough money to meet your financial needs for many years.

One way to guarantee a steady stream of income for life is through an annuity. An annuity is an insurance contract that can help you build savings for retirement and convert your savings into income you cannot outlive.

With an annuity, an insurance company agrees to make a series of income payments—or payouts—to you in exchange for the premium(s) that you pay. An annuity is a long-term retirement security product. It is not meant to be used to meet short-term financial goals. An annuity is the only financial product that can guarantee lifetime income.

Retirement Security

Planning for retirement -- and keeping that plan on track -- can be difficult. You have to make sure your money grows so that it lasts as long as you do. There's a product offered by life insurers that helps people with this challenge. It's called a variable annuity. [read more]

Public Policy

Policy-makers should continue to explore ways to encourage Americans to plan for a lifetime income in retirement. ACLI supports educational initiatives that highlight the role annuities can play in helping workers save and guarantee lifetime income in retirement—especially those without access to workplace retirement plans.

Today's workers face two hurdles: how to accumulate savings for retirement and how to manage savings to last throughout retirement. Annuities offer solutions to both sides of the retirement equation. They provide ways to save and then can turn savings into a steady stream of income for life.

There has been increased interest among policy-makers about the role annuities play in creating lifetime income in retirement. In 2014, the IRS and U.S. Department of Treasury made it easier Americans to access guaranteed lifetime income options. New rules were released to encourage Americans’ use of longevity annuities—products that protect those planning for the long-term by providing payments at later ages, for example, at age 85. The new rules enable these products to be provided in 401(k) plans and IRAs.

Notably, our nation's largest employer—the federal government—in 2011 began to annually illustrate to participants in its defined contribution plan (the Thrift Savings Plan) how much monthly annuity income workers can expect in retirement from current account balances.

We support initiatives that encourage defined contribution plan sponsors to include annuity distribution options in their plans. ACLI also supports the Lifetime Income Disclosure Act, which would require defined contribution plan sponsors to provide workers with an illustration of how their retirement savings translate into guaranteed monthly income payments in retirement. This provision, as well as provisions that would clarify the current annuity selection safe harbor and provide lifetime income portability, were included in the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act of 2016, which unanimously passed the Senate Finance Committee on September 21, 2016.

Types, features & tax treatment

Types: There are different types of annuities and many options available to meet a variety of financial objectives. [Read more]

Features: The unique features of annuities make them the only retirement security product that can provide a guaranteed income for life. [Read more]

Access to Your Money: Annuities offer flexibility in the way you can receive payouts or withdraw your money during the accumulation phase. [Read more]

Costs and Fees: The ability to guarantee income for life, and other features, such as death benefits, are included in the cost of an annuity. [Read more]

Tax Treatment: A variety of factors can affect the tax treatment of an annuity. [Read more]

Consumer Protections: Life insurance companies that issue annuities are regulated by state insurance departments to protect consumers. [Read more]

Buying Tips: Questions to ask before and after purchasing an annuity. [Read more

Publications & resources

Variable Annuities: Consumer Information. A variable annuity is a unique retirement product offered by life insurers that helps people grow their savings tax-deferred and offers a guaranteed stream of lifetime income in retirement.

The Individual Annuity: A Resource In Your Retirement.This guide has been prepared to help retirees understand what an individual annuity contract is, what options are available, and how the right choice might enhance retirement security.

Purchasing Tips. An annuity is a long-term financial contract. You should enter into an the annuity arrangement only after a thorough review of your personal finances and retirement goals. To help you better understand what to consider before purchasing, review these tips.

Gallup Survey of Owners of Individual Annuity Contracts (PDF). This survey authored by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc. provides a profile of the demographic characteristics of owners of non-qualified annuity contracts, as well as insight into attitudes toward saving for retirement.