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The Variable Annuity versus The Mutual Fund

10:57, 19/12/2007 .. Link

Get ready for the battle of the new millennium, the variable annuity versus the mutual fund. Over the past few years, the variable annuity has come under extreme attack, as an investment vehicle for retirement because of its expenses and taxes laws regarding withdraws. Actually, many articles have compared the features of the fixed annuity to a mutual fund, but unfortunately; that is like comparing a wagon to a jet ski. On the other hand, the variable annuity experiences market risk and so does your mutual fund; therefore, this provides us with a fairer comparison.

The variable annuity takes a lot of criticism, since individuals pay ordinary income taxes on withdrawn earnings. Also, the variable annuity is subject to stringent tax rules such as early withdraw penalties before age 59 1/2 with a few exceptions; even if the plan is classified as a non-qualified account. Mutual fund taxes are based on the fund manager's classification of the dividend. If the gain is considered a short-term capital gain in the mutual fund, this amount will also be taxed as ordinary income.

There has been some discussion over the high expenses associated with the variable annuity. Most variable annuity plans average a "mortality and expense" charge of about 1.2% a year and each separate account you choose may add another .8 % to .9% a year plus administrative costs. Mutual funds also have fees. Some funds require you to pay a sales charge when you purchase it, while others require you take a number of years to pay off its sales charge or are considered to be no-load mutual funds. Regardless of the mutual fund you choose, you will have to pay internal fees which may include management and those pesky 12(b)1 fees. The average yearly mutual fund fees generally run .75 to 1.3%, depending on the fund. By now you are wondering why anyone would use a variable annuity for retirement planning? Actually, that is for you to decide not me. F.Y.I., those investment specialist crying about an annuities' surrender charges should never sell B-share mutual funds, because there is not much difference.

The variable annuity has one defensive stand left? Let us say two people invested $20,000 in a variable annuity and the other in XYZ Mutual Fund. Both of these people die before spending a dime of their retirement accounts. At the time of death, each person had the same asset allocation model and $14,000 in their account. Whose beneficiary will get the most money? If your variable annuity has a death benefit that guarantees your original investment minus withdraws, you would have done better with the annuity. However, there are many other scenarios to consider, and the tax rules regarding non-qualified annuities and surrender charges may not allow easy access to your money before age 59 1/2. You decide which is a better retirement investment for you. The most important thing you can do is something, instead of nothing at all.

Disclaimer: The information in this article should be construed to be insurance advice. Always consult a financial or insurance professional or tax accountant to determine what coverage is right for you.

Mr. Jason Cunningham is the lead writer for http://www.financial-shopper-network.com and http://financialshoppernetwork.blogspot.com

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