This guide explains major differences in different kinds of annuities to help you understand how each might meet your needs. But look at the specific terms of an individual contract you’re considering and the disclosure document you receive. If your annuity is being used to fund or provide benefits under a pension plan, the benefits you get will depend on the terms of the plan. Contact your pension plan administrator for information.
Single Premium or Multiple Premium
You pay the insurance company only one payment for a single premium annuity. You make a series of payments for a multiple premium annuity. There are two kinds of multiple premium annuities. One kind is a flexible premium contract. Within set limits, you pay as much premium as you want, whenever you want. In the other kind, a scheduled premium annuity, the contract spells out your payments and how often you’ll make them.
Immediate or Deferred
With an immediate annuity, income payments start no later than one year after you pay the premium. You usually pay for an immediate annuity with one payment. The income payments from a deferred annuity often start many years later. Deferred annuities have an accumulation period, which is the time between when you start paying premiums and when income payments start.
Fixed or Variable
During the accumulation period of a fixed deferred annuity, your money (less any applicable charges) earns interest at rates set by the insurance company or in a way spelled out in the annuity contract. The company guarantees that it will pay no less than a minimum rate of interest. During the payout period, the amount of each income payment to you is generally set when the payments start and will not change.
During the accumulation period of a variable annuity, the insurance company puts your
premiums (less any applicable charges) into a separate account. You decide how the
company will invest those premiums, depending on how much risk you want to take. You may put your premium into a stock, bond or other account, with no guarantees, or into a fixed account, with a minimum guaranteed interest. During the payout period of a variable annuity, the amount of each income payment to you may be fixed (set at the beginning) or variable (changing with the value of the investments in the separate account).
– National Association of Insurance Commissioners.