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Exploring the Pros and Cons of Annuities: A Comprehensive Guide

By Jake Oyler
March 26, 2024
Pros and Cons of Annuities

Annuities are products issued by financial institutions and insurance companies. Individuals who buy annuities exchange lump sum payments or monthly premiums for a promised future stream of fixed payments. Annuities have been around for a long time and can be complex products. If you’re planning for retirement or legacy planning, understanding the pros and cons of annuities is crucial. Chances are, at some point, you have been or will be approached about purchasing an annuity. Let’s explore some of the factors that should be considered before making that decision.


What Are the Pros and Cons of Annuities? 

As we delve deeper, understanding the nuanced pros and cons of annuities will empower you to make decisions that align with your retirement goals, values, and financial well-being. Before integrating annuities into your investment strategy, let’s explore what you must consider.


What Are the Pros?

Annuities offer certain features that may be beneficial under specific circumstances. Let’s delve into some key aspects of annuities that investors might consider advantageous:


1. Customization:

There are two types of annuities: fixed and variable. Within those two types, there are many variations that can be customized to meet your preferences. It is important to understand that the options you choose can affect the risk level and growth potential. In addition to various growth options that you may choose from, there are riders and provisions that can be added to annuities to make them more enticing and useful. Whether you prioritize guaranteed income, growth potential, or legacy planning, there’s likely an annuity option that aligns with your preferences.

Consider Laura, a woman in her sixties who wants to supplement her retirement income with an annuity. By choosing a fixed-indexed annuity with a guaranteed lifetime income rider, Laura is promised a steady income stream when she retires.


2. Guaranteed Income:

One of the most commonly marketed features of annuities is the idea of predictable income. If you purchase a fixed annuity, you know what rate of return you can expect and the income you should receive from the annuity.

Women often face unique challenges in planning for retirement, including longer life expectancies and lower average earnings compared to men. Annuities promise to provide a guaranteed income stream during retirement years. A single investment or product is rarely adequate to support a person throughout retirement. However, the predictable income from an annuity can be valuable for women who may have fewer sources of income post-retirement.

Sarah is a woman in her fifties who has worked hard throughout her career but worries about her financial security in retirement. By purchasing an annuity now, Sarah hopes to secure a steady income stream for her future, alleviating the stress and uncertainty that often accompanies retirement planning. 


3. Tax-Deferred Growth:

Like other retirement options, annuities offer some tax advantages. Funds in an annuity can grow tax-free until withdrawal. This tax-deferred growth can be especially beneficial for women looking to maximize their retirement savings and minimize their tax burden.

You may be similar to Tonya, a woman in her forties who is focused on building her retirement nest egg. By purchasing an indexed annuity with tax-deferred growth, Tonya can take advantage of potential growth without worrying about immediate tax consequences.


4. Death Benefit:

For women who are concerned about their legacy and providing for their loved ones after their passing, annuities can offer a death benefit feature. Depending on the annuity contract, your beneficiaries may receive a lump sum payment or continued income payments, ensuring that your legacy lives on and your loved ones are financially protected.

Imagine Jessica, a mother of two who wants her children to benefit from her decades of hard work. By purchasing an annuity with a death benefit rider, Jessica can rest assured knowing that her children will receive a guaranteed payout upon her death, providing them with financial stability during a difficult time.


What Are the Cons?

While annuities have advantages, it’s also essential to be aware of their potential downsides. Join us as we review the cons of annuities, providing you with additional knowledge to make decisions that best suit your financial goals and lifestyle.


1. Complexity:

Annuities have many different options and features that make them quite complex. While customization can be enticing, the complexity may make it challenging for the average investor to understand what they are committing to. Without the proper assistance from a trusted advisor, an investor may find themselves buying an annuity that doesn’t help them meet their financial goals.

Hayley prefers simplicity when it comes to her investments. She has always avoided annuities because they are complex, and she doesn’t want to commit to anything she doesn’t fully understand. Hayley found a financial advisor who helped her find solutions that helped her meet her long-term goals and ensured she didn’t commit to anything she didn’t feel comfortable with.


2. Illiquidity:

Annuities are illiquid, meaning that your funds can’t be taken out of the annuity for a certain period of time. This can limit adjustments you may want to make to your investment strategy. Early withdrawals from an annuity usually result in fees and penalties. Annuities may not be a good option for women who prefer access and flexibility with their money. There are many investments that have fixed returns and provide more liquidity than annuities.

Tara decides not to invest in annuities due to their lack of liquidity. As an investor with a long time horizon, she values flexibility and accessibility with her investments. Tara chooses investment options that allow her to adjust her strategy as needed without penalties or restrictions.


3. Limited Growth Potential:

One of the first questions that investors ask when considering a financial product is what their return will be. While annuities have pros that may be useful to some, they may limit growth potential compared to other options. With fixed annuities, for example, your returns are often tied to prevailing interest rates, which may be lower than the potential returns offered by stocks or real estate investments.

Cynthia is a young woman who is progressing quickly in her young career. During her childhood, Cynthia’s parents were very careful with money and never made any impulsive purchases. They always invested in very safe products that had limited returns. While Cynthia is grateful for the financial education her parents gave her, her goals involve investments that have more flexibility and higher growth potential. Because of her goals, Cynthia doesn’t feel that annuities are a good option for her.


4. Fees:

While annuities offer some attractive features, they often come with high fees that can affect your investment returns. These fees may include administrative fees, surrender charges, and mortality and expense fees, among others. It’s also important to note that these are insurance products sold by agents who make a commission when they sell you the annuity. This commissioned structure creates a conflict of interest as the agent only makes money if you buy that product.  Agents are only held to a suitability standard and, as such, may not have your best interest in mind. You must understand these fees and the effect they will have on your returns before you purchase an annuity. You may prefer other investments that produce similar returns but have lower fees and expenses.

Emily, a savvy investor, carefully evaluates the fee structure of various annuities before making a decision. By opting for investments with lower fees and transparent pricing, Emily can minimize the impact of fees on her investment returns, allowing her to keep more of her hard-earned money working for her.


Final Words

Like all financial products, annuities have advantages and disadvantages. Before purchasing this financial product, it’s essential to carefully weigh the pros and cons of annuities and consider how they align with your financial goals and risk tolerance. While this guide is not meant to give recommendations on any financial products, advisors at Colwyn Investments feel that annuities are restrictive and often capitalize on the fear of loss to induce individuals to purchase. Annuities are not risk-free – they are only as stable as the company offering the annuity.

If you value fixed rates and knowing what your return will be, there are many investments available that are less restrictive, less expensive, and more liquid than annuities. Working with a trusted financial advisor will give clarity on the options you have available and help you make informed decisions that will impact your financial success. Your hard work and sacrifice should be supplemented by investment decisions that allow you to have the experiences in life that you deserve.

Would you like to delve deeper into the pros and cons of annuities? Discover how different financial products can fit into your financial plan. Reach out for a complimentary consultation, and let’s tailor a strategy that enhances your financial well-being and aligns with your long-term goals.

Investing From the

Inside Out

If you want to achieve your life goals and secure your assets but don’t know where to begin, questioning yourself can be a good start.

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