An annuity is a financial product that provides a steady stream of income payments over a specified period of time. However, not all annuities are created equal, and it’s important for consumers to understand the different types available to them before investing their money.

The three main types of annuities are fixed annuities, variable annuities, and indexed annuities. Each type has its own unique features, benefits, and drawbacks.

Fixed annuities offer a guaranteed rate of return on the money invested. The insurance company that issues the annuity assumes the investment risk, and the annuity holder receives a fixed income stream for the duration of the contract. Fixed annuities can be a good choice for investors who want a predictable source of income and are willing to sacrifice some potential returns in exchange for safety.

Variable annuities, on the other hand, offer investors the opportunity to invest in a range of mutual funds or other investment options. The returns on variable annuities are not guaranteed and are tied to the performance of the underlying investments. Variable annuities can be a good choice for investors who are comfortable with market risk and want the potential for higher returns.

Indexed annuities are a hybrid of fixed and variable annuities. They offer a guaranteed minimum rate of return, like a fixed annuity, but also have the potential for higher returns tied to the performance of an underlying stock market index, like a variable annuity. Indexed annuities can be a good choice for investors who want some exposure to the stock market but are not comfortable with the potential for significant losses.

In addition to these main types of annuities, there are also several subtypes, such as immediate annuities, deferred annuities, and annuities with riders or add-ons. Immediate annuities provide income payments immediately after the initial investment, while deferred annuities delay the start of income payments until a later date. Riders or add-ons can provide additional features, such as a death benefit or long-term care coverage.

When considering an annuity, it’s important to carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each type and subtype, as well as the fees and charges associated with the product. Annuities can be a valuable addition to a retirement income plan, but only if they align with the investor’s goals and risk tolerance. Consulting with a financial professional can be a helpful step in determining which type of annuity is best suited for an individual’s needs.