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WARNING: Your Variable Annuity Might Not Be What You Thought

Mike Riedmiller

Annuities can offer a number of attractive features for people who are currently working, approaching retirement, or already retired. Each year, Americans purchase billions of dollars of new annuities; they can be a big part of a solid retirement plan.

People choose to add an annuity to their investment portfolio for several reasons, including:

1. Potential upside growth of their money.
2. Lifetime income, either immediately or in the future.
3. Tax-deferred growth.


There are many additional benefits that annuities can offer when structured correctly. Those benefits depend on the type of annuity you decide to purchase.

Three Main Types of Annuities:

1. Variable Annuities – Variable annuities usually have higher fees than other types. Your money still has risk of market loss, so it can lose value when the stock market declines in value.

2. Fixed Annuities – Fixed annuities will usually pay a fixed rate of return that is higher than what the banks are offering. Typically, there are no fees.

3. Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs) – Fixed index annuities offer principal protection since your money is not subject to stock market losses. The fee can vary, and the money in this annuity can increase in value when the market index it follows increases, but will not lose value when the market is down.

I’ve spoken to many people with variable annuities who aren’t aware of the fees they are paying. I’ll usually call the phone number on the front of their account statement to discover their list of charges.

It’s a long list.

Here are just a few of the fees a variable annuity can have:

1. Sub-Account Fee – This fee is the cost for the stock market investments within a variable annuity. Think of it as a management fee you might pay for a mutual fund or stock investment.

2. Mortality and Expense Charge (M&E Fee) – This fee is an insurance-related charge for death benefits associated with the annuity.

3. Riders – Riders are options that can be added to a variable annuity, such as lifetime income, withdrawals, or death benefits.

There can also be administration fees and annual maintenance costs that could add more charges to the variable annuity.

If a person has a $300,000 variable annuity and pays 3% annually, the fees would be $9,000, which could add up to $90,000, or more, in fees over 10 years. If their account value rises, they would have a larger account balance and more in fees each year.

There are solutions.

For people with a variable annuity older than five years, it can be easy to transfer the money out of the variable annuity and into a potentially better investment.

Their money can increase in value when the market index is up and won’t lose value when it decreases. Some of these investors have saved over $25,000 each year in fees, which can add up to $250,000 in the next 10 years. This could mean $500,000 in fees saved over the next 20 years.

Equally important, their money won’t be subject to market downturns, like it could be with a variable annuity.

So, instead of a variable annuity, where they were paying fees and their money was at risk in the market, they now have a fixed index annuity with potentially no fees. Their money can increase in value every year the market indexes are up, and lifetime income payments are possible when structured correctly.

It’s important to note that it can be beneficial to work with an independent financial professional who works with several companies that offer annuities. They can show you options based on your goals and situation so you can choose the best one for you. If a financial professional only works with one company, they likely are not independent, giving you fewer options.

When you find a better annuity option, it’s as simple as a transfer or rollover. Just fill out the needed paperwork, and your money will be transferred. A qualified financial professional can help you with this process by making it run smoother and be more beneficial for you.

Investment advisory services are offered through Fusion Capital Management, an SEC registered investment advisor. The firm only transacts business in states where it is properly registered, or is excluded or exempted from registration requirements. SEC registration is not an endorsement of the firm by the commission and does not mean that the advisor has attained a specific level of skill or ability. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Insurance and annuities offered through Michael Riedmiller, NE license #17294119. DT006766-0220

About the Author:

Mike Riedmiller is the President of Riedmiller Wealth Management, an independent financial firm that is free from the product-focused, sales-driven environment that can be prevalent at other financial institutions. He is a fiduciary financial advisor and the co-author of the book, “The Road To Success.” Since his firm is independent, he has access to annuities from most of the top-rated insurance companies. Mike focuses on retirement planning and is both securities-licensed and licensed for multiple types of insurance, which he feels is important in helping people to have a truly balanced plan based on their needs and goals.


Annuity123 does not offer insurance, investment, or tax advice.  You should always seek the guidance of qualified and licensed professionals concerning your personal insurance, investment, or tax matters.  Annuity123 is simply a platform allowing retirement planning professionals to help educate the community on various retirement planning topics.  Annuity123 does not directly support or take responsibility for ensuring the accuracy of the content displayed in the articles themselves or any feedback that may get added in the Comments section from the community.

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