retirement

Variable Annuities for Retirement Savers Go Back to Basics

Even with today's simplified variable annuities, you need a good grasp of the pros and cons before putting part of your nest egg into one.

After years of making variable annuities more complex and expensive, some insurers are offering products that have fewer bells and whistles, are easier to understand and have lower fees.

If you have a higher-cost variable annuity, you might consider rolling the assets to a lower-fee annuity through a tax-free “1035 exchange.” But first check if you would be subject to a surrender charge, which can cost up to 7% to 10% of your balance if you leave the annuity in the first 7 to 10 years. The income rider won’t transfer if you cash out or switch annuities, so be wary of giving up guaranteed income based on a benefit-base balance that is higher than your investment value.

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