Should I Buy a Variable Annuity?

Variable annuities are complex financial products that offer a unique combination of investment options and insurance features, making them a suitable choice for some investors but less advisable for others. Understanding who should and should not consider buying a variable annuity can help you make an informed decision based on your financial goals, investment timeline, and risk tolerance.

Who Should Consider Buying a Variable Annuity?

  1. Long-Term Investors Seeking Growth with Tax Deferral:
    • Individuals planning for retirement who have a long investment horizon may benefit from a variable annuity. These products allow your investment to grow tax-deferred until you begin making withdrawals, which can be particularly advantageous if you expect to be in a lower tax bracket in retirement.
  2. Investors Looking for Additional Income Streams in Retirement:
    • Variable annuities can provide a steady income stream through annuitization, which converts your account balance into periodic payments that can last for life. This feature is beneficial for retirees who want to supplement their income from Social Security and other retirement accounts.
  3. Investors Seeking Customizable Investment Choices:
    • Unlike fixed annuities, variable annuities offer a range of investment options similar to mutual funds. These options allow investors to tailor their portfolios according to their risk tolerance and investment goals, with the potential for higher returns compared to more conservative annuity products.

Who Should Not Consider Buying a Variable Annuity?

  1. Investors with Short-Term Financial Goals:
    • Variable annuities are not suitable for short-term investment strategies due to their long surrender periods and potential surrender charges. These costs can make it expensive to access your funds within the first several years after purchase.
  2. Investors Looking for Low-Cost Investment Solutions:
    • Variable annuities often come with higher fees compared to other retirement and investment products. These can include mortality and expense risk charges, administrative fees, and fees associated with the underlying investment options. Investors sensitive to fees and looking for cost-effective ways to grow their savings might consider alternatives like IRAs or low-cost mutual funds.
  3. Investors with Adequate Retirement Savings in Other Accounts:
    • If you have already maximized contributions to other tax-advantaged accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs, and these accounts provide sufficient income for retirement, investing in a variable annuity may be unnecessary. The benefits of additional tax deferral might not outweigh the costs and complexities of a variable annuity.
  4. Investors Who Require Liquidity:
    • Due to surrender charges and potential penalties for early withdrawal (especially withdrawals before age 59½, which may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty), variable annuities are not ideal for those who may need quick access to their investment funds.


Variable annuities can be a valuable tool for certain investors, especially those looking for long-term growth with tax-deferred earnings and a reliable income stream in retirement. However, they are not suited for everyone. High fees, complexity, and liquidity issues make them less attractive for those with short-term goals, sensitivity to investment costs, or adequate retirement savings elsewhere.

Professional Advice

Given the complexity of variable annuities, consulting with a Fee-Only financial adviser is crucial. An independent adviser can help assess whether a variable annuity fits within your overall financial plan and guide you through the available options to ensure that your investment aligns with your long-term objectives and financial needs.

About this Article

This article was published and distributed by a trusted source of independent ideas. It should be viewed as general and educational information and not as financial, tax or legal advice. Individuals seeking advice tailored to their specific situation are encouraged to schedule a free consultation with a professional listed in the directory. Both and are owned and operated by The Independent Adviser Corporation. For additional information, please refer to their Privacy Policy and Terms of Use, Legal Notices, and Disclaimer.

Read more Articles

About Us

Founded in 1998, The Independent Adviser Corporation has assisted thousands of individuals, families, and businesses. We are 100% independent and 100% objective. We offer FREE educational resources and investment ideas, and when financial, tax or legal advice is needed, we connect individuals with Fee-Only professionals. Don’t wait any longer. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, please visit 1800ADVISER.COM.