Variable Annuity Advantages & Disadvantages

Variable Annuity Advantages & Disadvantages

You often hear in the media about the high costs of variable annuities, and the fact is, they generally do have higher fees than mutual funds. However, these fees go to pay for much more–such as the insurance guarantee that should you die, your beneficiary will receive at least as much as you originally invested.

The table below is a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of variable annuities:


  1. Multiple investment options.
  2. Variety of professional money managers.
  3. Tax-deferred growth.
  4. Tax-free transfer privileges.
  5. No annual contribution limits.
  6. Option for a guaranteed lifetime income.
  7. Guaranteed death benefit for beneficiaries.
  8. May continue making contributions past age 70½.
  9. Do not have to begin mandatory distributions at age 70½.
  10. Do not have to file annual 1099 forms for capital gains.
  11. Avoid the expense and delays of probate for death benefit.


  1. Earnings, when withdrawn, are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate, as opposed to the lower capital gains rate.
  2. Administrative and insurance fees–also called “mortality and expense” fees–are typically substantially higher than mutual fund fees.
  3. If you begin annuitization payments and die prematurely, your account balance may be forfeited to the insurance company.
  4. Although most annuity contracts allow you to withdraw a portion of your earnings each year, any withdrawals beyond those amounts are subject to the 10% federal penalty tax.
  5. Most variable annuities impose early withdrawal charges on withdrawals made within the first 5 to 7 years of owning the policy.
  6. Variable annuities are complex investments and should only be considered upon the advice of a trusted financial advisor.