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What is an Annuity?

An annuity is a contract in which an insurance company makes a series of income payments at regular intervals in return for a premium or premiums you have paid. Annuities are most often bought for future retirement income. Only an annuity can pay an income that can be guaranteed to last as long as you live. An annuity is neither a life insurance nor a health insurance policy. It’s not a savings account or a savings certificate. You shouldn’t buy an annuity to reach short-term financial goals.

Your value in an annuity contract is the premiums you’ve paid, less any applicable charges, plus interest credited. The insurance company uses the value to figure the amount of most of the benefits that you can choose to receive from an annuity contract. This guide explains how interest is credited as well as some typical charges and benefits of annuity contracts.

A deferred annuity has two parts or periods. During the accumulation period, the money you put into the annuity, less any applicable charges, earns interest. The earnings grow tax-deferred as long as you leave them in the annuity. During the second period, called the payout period, the company pays income to you or to someone you choose.

– National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

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