Buying an annuity contract is a major financial decision which should be considered carefully. The prospective purchaser of an annuity contract should consider the offerings of as many different companies and agents as possible.
In addition to receiving this Buyer's Guide, you must receive either a Preliminary Contract Summary or a Contract Summary prior to the time you pay the initial premium. If you did not receive a Contract Summary with this Buyer's Guide, you must receive one when the contract is delivered or you can ask for one now. You should review the contract summary thoroughly.
Accumulated values and surrender values under the contract are illustrated for various years on this summary. During the first few years, these values may be less than premiums paid. This is why an annuity contract should not be purchased for short term purposes.
Also illustrated are the yields on gross premiums at specified times. Yields takes into account not only the interest credited under the contract, but also the effect of all charges. The yield on gross premiums is a figure you can use to compare annuity contracts. Be careful in comparing this yield with yields available on other investments. The tax treatment of annuity earnings is usually substantially different from that of earnings from other investments.
One reason for buying an annuity contract is to obtain an income, so you should review the life income figures.
Values and income figures may be shown on both a "guaranteed" and an "illustrated" basis. The guaranteed basis shows the minimum values and income which would be paid under the contract. The "illustrated" basis shows the values and income which would be paid if the current interest and benefit rates were to continue in effect. Since it is impossible to predict future interest and benefit rates, you will have to decide whether to rely on any illustrated basis values when making your purchase decision.
Other Points to Consider
Be certain you understand all charges that will be made and how they may reduce the value of the annuity.
Be certain you can afford the premium payments.
Check whether the annuity contract allows you to change the amount and frequency of your premium payments. Find out what happens if you stop paying premiums.
You may want to obtain and compare Contract Summaries for similar contracts from several companies. Comparing these should help you in your selection.
If you are buying an annuity contract for an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or another tax deferred retirement program, make sure that you are eligible. Make sure that you understand any restrictions and tax implications connected with the program.
If you are shown a presentation which illustrates tax savings, be sure the assumptions, such as the tax bracket, apply in your case.
Some companies offer deposit fund arrangements with their life insurance policies or annuity contracts. These arrangements allow you to pay amounts in addition to your premiums that will be accumulated at interest in much the same way as under a deferred fixed annuity contract.
There are potential tax implications if an annuity contract is surrendered. Make sure you understand any tax penalties that would be imposed on surrender. If in doubt, consult your tax advisor.
Read the Contract
When you receive your new annuity contract read it carefully. Ask the agent or the company for an explanation of anything you do not understand.
If you have a specific complaint or cannot get the answers you need from the agent or company, please contact your State's Commissioner of Insurance