Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: Is a variable annuity right for me?

Rob Oliver
by Rob Oliver, The Garrett Network  (@OliverPlanning)

Let me guess. You've been approached by a "financial adviser" who is "trying to sell you ..." I mean, is recommending that you buy a variable annuity. I've seen it 100 times. As we say in the fee-only adviser community, variable annuities are sold, not bought.

The problem with variable annuities is that most are very complicated and quite expensive. These characteristics break two tenets of investing: (1) understand what you are investing in, and (2) keep your expenses low. There are more simple and cost-effective ways to invest, namely through low-cost mutual funds or ETFs.

READ: Are old variable annuities the best?

Still, there are legitimate reasons people buy annuities. Some want guaranteed benefits later in life or for beneficiaries despite market volatility. Others seek the ability to create an annuity stream at a specific time in the future. If you are willing to pay for these guarantees, then a variable annuity might be for you.

Seek out the help of a fee-only financial adviser who will not have any skin in the game of your annuity purchasing decision. He or she can help you get quotes that are suitable for you, weigh the costs and benefits, and explore other options.


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Rob Oliver is the founder and principal of Oliver Financial Planning, LLC, a Fee-Only financial planning and Registered Investment Advisory firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He earned Masters of Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Michigan.