May 17


IRA vs. Annuity: Which One Is Right for You?

Both IRAs and annuities are strategies to save for retirement, but they are not the same. You must first grasp their distinctions to determine the best approach to saving money for retirement.

There are two main ways to save for retirement: individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and annuities. Depending on your specific demands and situation, both have advantages and disadvantages. It would help if you thought about what will work best for you.

Here is some information about annuities and IRAs to decide on better retirement planning for you.

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Annuity vs. IRA: The Basics

An annuity and an IRA are two different ways to save money for retirement. Annuities and IRAs have various features.

An IRA account is a type of account that gives people tax breaks when they save money for their retirement. People usually have many different investment options with this kind of account. They can choose what they want to invest in, as long as it is something that the account custodian offers or something that is allowed by the rules for IRA accounts. Annuities can also be held in IRA accounts. Still, usually, this is not a good idea because annuities are not suitable investments.

An annuity is a sort of insurance in which you receive a monthly payment. You pay money into the account, and then you can take out the money that has been saved plus any interest it has made. There are various annuities, but they all function in the same way.

Let’s look at these two retirement strategies in more detail.

How Does an Annuity Work?

Insurance firms are the ones who issue and sell annuities. An annuity is not a type of insurance. An annuity is not an insurance policy. Annuities are contracts between the annuity purchaser and the insurance company. The agreement says that the lump sum of your premiums will be turned into a future source of income. Annuities can be attractive because they offer a stream of income that may not run out, depending on your choice of annuitization. There are different annuities and different annuitization and distribution options to choose from.


Annuitization is when you take money out of your contract regularly. It can be monthly or other ways, depending on what you want.

  • Lifetime: The payments will continue as long as the account holder is alive. A single-life or life-only annuity is what it’s called. When the annuitant dies, the payments stop. The money stream is over if they annuitize and die a month later.
  • If one person dies, the annuity will be paid to the other for the rest of their lives. It is a common choice among married couples.
  • Period certain: Payments last for a set amount of time. If the person making the payments dies during this time, the fees will continue for the rest of the period to one or more people chosen to receive them.
  • Life and period are particular: For instance, life and a 20-year period are certain. Payments are made for the annuitant’s lifetime. Still, if they die before 20 years, their beneficiaries receive payments for the rest of the 20-year term.

Types of Annuities

When choosing an annuity, you must decide whether you want it to be variable or fixed.

  • Variable annuities let you invest your premium dollars in different accounts, similar to mutual funds. You can also choose an account based on what you want to achieve. The money you contribute can grow based on how well the money is in the different accounts.
  • A fixed annuity pays a set interest on the premiums you contribute. This amount accumulates over time until you start taking payments from the contract.
  • Indexed annuities are investments that give you returns based on how well the stock market does. The most your investment can earn a set percentage of how well the stock market does. There is usually also a guaranteed minimum interest rate you will make.

You will be able to choose the type of annuity payment schedule you’d like:

  • Immediate annuities start to pay you soon after you make your deposit. You may only have to wait one month for payment if you pay monthly.
  • Deferred annuities don’t start paying out right away. You have to wait for a date set by the contract holder.

Fees and Expenses

Fees for annuities can be costly and complicated. Internal costs are typically comparable to the expense ratio on products like mutual funds. It reduces the net return on the money invested.

Annuities might also have a surrender charge. You have to pay a fee if you try to leave the annuity or transfer it to another product within a set period. The cost usually decreases over time.

The fees for an annuity can vary a lot depending on the company you buy it from and the type of annuity. The money stream is over if they annuitize and die a month later. Your agent will be paid by commission, and how much they earn will be based on a percentage of your deposited funds.

Tax Implications of an Annuity

A qualified annuity is an annuity that you fund with pre-tax money. The money is usually put into an IRA or 401(k). It will count as income and be taxed when you take the money out.

Non-qualified annuities are investments where you pay taxes, but you don’t have to pay taxes on any money you make. The tax you have to pay is based on an exclusion ratio. You might wish to speak with a tax accountant to understand this further.

Pros and Cons of Annuities

  • Annuities can provide you with a consistent supply of income for the rest of your life.
  • Annuities are only taxed when monies are withdrawn.
  • Money invested in the annuity can increase tax-free over time.
  • Many annuities contain a lot of fees.
  • If you wish your money back immediately, you may have to pay surrender fees.
  • Annuities can be complicated to comprehend.

How does an IRA work?

A brokerage firm can help you open an IRA or a retirement account. Many mutual fund companies, banks, or even Robo-advisors. You can put your money in most investments, such as mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, stocks, and bonds. People choose these accounts because they offer tax benefits.

You need to earn income from a job or business to contribute to an IRA account. The amount you contribute must be equal to or more than your earnings.

There are two types of IRA accounts:

  • Traditional IRA: You can put money into a Roth IRA before or after taxes. Generally, people make contributions with pre-tax dollars. The earnings in the account grow without being taxed. However, when you withdraw the money, you will have to pay taxes on it, except for the amount of any after-tax contributions you made. With a few exceptions, you will have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you take the money out before turning 59 1/2.
  • Roth IRA: When you contribute to your Roth IRA, you use after-tax money. The money has already been taxed and will not be taxed again. The money in the account will also grow tax-free. You can withdraw the funds from the account without paying taxes if you follow specific rules. If you withdraw the money before age 59 1/2, you may have to pay taxes and a 10% penalty.

You can put $6,000 into an IRA for the tax year 2021. For the 2021 tax year, IRA contributions are limited to $6,000. It includes an additional $1,000 for those 50 or over.

If your income is above a specific limit, you may not be able to contribute as much money to a Roth IRA. Suppose you are covered by a 401(k) or similar workplace retirement plan. It may be impossible for you to make pre-tax contributions to a regular IRA in such a circumstance. However, there are other things that you can do, like doing a 401(k) to IRA rollover.

Pros and cons of IRAs

  • The ability to invest in a variety of financial instruments
  • The growth that is tax-deferred or tax-free
  • Anyone with a source of income can help.
  • Money can be rolled over from 401(k) plans and other retirement accounts (k)
  • Annual contribution rates that are relatively modest
  • Required minimum distributions apply to traditional IRAs (RMDs)
  • Roth IRA contributions and pre-tax regular IRA contributions are subject to income restrictions.

Annuity vs. IRA: How To Decide Which Is Right for You

An IRA might be a good choice for you if you are comfortable managing your investments or if you work with a financial advisor. IRAs are also suitable for people with 401(k) money to roll over.

An annuity might be a suitable method for generating a lifetime income source. This type of income starts at a certain point in the future and is designed for people looking for a pension-like payment.

You can have an IRA and an annuity at the same time if this is what makes the most sense for you. When making this decision, you should think about your life as a future retiree and your current financial situation.

IRA vs. Annuity: An Overview

Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and annuities are both tax-advantaged strategies to save for retirement, but they differ in significant ways. Firstly, an IRA is not an asset in and of itself; rather, it is a vehicle for owning financial assets such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. In contrast, annuities are assets, specifically insurance contracts that produce income.

Key Takeaways

Both IRAs and annuities offer tax-advantaged retirement savings options.

An IRA is a retirement investment account, whereas an annuity is an insurance policy.

Typically, annuity contracts have higher fees and expenses than IRAs, but there are no yearly contribution limits.

Your annuity payments are taxed differently depending on whether you purchased the annuity with pre-or post-tax dollars.

By purchasing and maintaining an annuity within a Roth IRA, annuity payouts can avoid taxation.


An IRA can be viewed as a tax-advantaged individual investment and savings account. You establish an IRA for yourself, hence the name individual retirement account. If you have a spouse, you must open separate accounts; if one partner earns minimal or no wages. You can utilize the family income to open a spousal IRA for the benefit of that partner, so doubling the family’s retirement savings possibilities.

Importantly, an IRA is not an investment in and of itself. It is a place where you can store investments like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. You get to choose the account’s investments and can modify them as you see fit, subject to some restrictions.

Your return is contingent on the performance of the IRA’s investments. An IRA continues to accrue contributions and interest until you reach retirement age, which means you could keep an IRA for decades before withdrawing funds.

IRA Rules

The IRS defines and regulates IRAs, establishing eligibility requirements and constraints on how and when contributions and withdrawals can be made and determining the tax treatment of the various IRA kinds.

There are two primary IRA types: traditional and Roth. Traditional IRA contributions are made with pre-tax monies and are deductible in the year they are contributed. Withdrawals are subject to income tax. Roth IRA contributions are made with post-tax monies, while withdrawals are tax-free.

In 2021 (as in 2022), the maximum contribution you can make to a conventional or Roth IRA is the lesser of $6,000 ($7,000 if you are 50 or older) or your taxable income for the year.

Due to the SECURE Act, most individuals’ minimum distribution start date is not until 72.

Individuals with a traditional IRA can begin withdrawals at age 5912; however, the IRS permits early withdrawals under specific conditions. You can make contributions at any time if you have a Roth IRA. Still, you will incur a penalty if you withdraw investment earnings or interest before the account matures. 10% is the early withdrawal penalty for both forms of IRAs.


Annuities provide monthly, quarterly, annual, or lump-sum retirement income. An annuity pays monthly for a set period or until a certain event (for example, the death of the person who receives the payments). An annuity grows tax-deferred until withdrawal.

An annuity can be co-owned, unlike an IRA. Annuities don’t have annual contribution limits or income restrictions.

Annuities are available. An annuity can be “financed” with a single premium or over time.

Fixed payments begin immediately with an immediate payment annuity (sometimes called an income annuity). Deferred annuities grow until withdrawals begin, usually at retirement. 5 As with IRAs, early withdrawals from deferred annuities incur a penalty.

Payments for Annuities: Fixed or Variable?

Fixed or variable rates can be used for immediate and deferred annuities.

The financial institution manages a fixed annuity. You have no control on fund investments. An annuity pays a set amount in a lump sum, over time, or for life.

Variable annuities offer a choice of investments.

7 Mutual funds, bond funds, and money market accounts may work. An equity-indexed annuity tracks a stock index like the S&P 500. Choosing a variable interest rate increases risk and profits.

Similar to IRAs are variable annuities. Both are tax-protected investment funds. Variable annuities cost more than IRAs yearly.

Annuity Fees

Because an annuity is essentially a financial instrument within an insurance policy, fees can be rather expensive. You must pay insurance premiums, investment administration costs, surrender charges, and rider fees, optional additions to the basic contract, as one that guarantees a minimum annual increase in annuity payments.

In contrast, an IRA typically incurs a nominal custody fee imposed by the financial institution holding the account. Mutual funds within an IRA are subject to annual management costs, known as expense ratios.

Taxes on Pension Income

Taxable annuity payouts? It’s probably a top priority right now. This depends on whether the annuity was bought with pre-tax or after-tax funds, terms IRA participants know. Taxes on an annuity distribution depend on the untaxed component. Annuities in IRAs?

This makes you wonder if your IRA should be in an annuity.

IRA regulations supersede annuity requirements when purchased within an IRA. Any adverse tax treatment is irrelevant if the annuity is held in an IRA. An annuity can provide a continuous, guaranteed, tax-free income source during retirement.

This is payment-related. Investing growth is murkier, especially if you’re young (or decades from retirement) and buying a deferred annuity. In this case, you’d put a tax-advantaged instrument (the annuity) within a tax-sheltered account (the IRA).

Also, illiquidity. Most annuities have steep surrender costs if you remove and reinvest the cash. 10 You can’t choose how a fixed annuity is invested. Variable annuities limit investment options.

These fees are larger than the annual expense ratios of mutual funds or ETFs (ETFs). Many annuity contracts feature charge spikes by the insurer, which you can’t prevent without surrender fees.

Final Thoughts

IRAs are a type of account that lets you save money for retirement. You can choose to put your money into many different investments and get some tax advantages. However, there are yearly savings limits. You may not be able to invest your entire retirement income in an IRA. If you have another kind of retirement account, like a 401 (k), you might be able to roll over the money into your IRA.

Annuities are insurance products that can provide you with a guaranteed lifetime income. However, annuities can be very complex and expensive, so it’s essential to do your research before investing your money in an annuity contract.

If you don’t know which product is best for you, or if you do want to buy both, you may wish to consult a financial professional. This consultant can assist with retirement and tax preparation.

Click here to discover more about how to save for retirement.

Frequently Asked Questions About IRA vs. Annuity

Is It Better To Have an Annuity or an IRA?

IRAs and annuities are insurance products that offer a way to save for tax-advantaged retirement. An IRA is an account where you can put your retirement investments. They usually have higher fees and expenses than IRAs, but you don’t have any limits on how much money you can put into them each year.

What Is the Difference Between IRA and Annuity?

An IRA is a way to put your money into an account to help you save on taxes. An annuity is a sort of insurance that can help you maintain a consistent income during your retirement years.

Should I Put My IRA in an Annuity?

Placing an annuity inside a Roth IRA can help reduce the risks associated with retirement savings. Additionally, this will provide tax-free lifetime income during retirement.

Can I Convert My Annuity to an IRA?

You can rollover a qualified variable annuity into a traditional IRA. Employers often set up qualified employee assistance as part of a retirement plan.

Is a 401k Better Than an IRA?

The 401(k) is a better retirement savings plan than an IRA. The employer-sponsored plan allows you to add more money to your retirement savings. In addition, if you are above age 50, the 401(k) catch-up contribution maximum is increased (k).

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