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Forms of pensions and the way they work

19, 2021

Read 11 minutes

This story originally appeared on Due

The other day I felt like having tacos. The hunger was great. So I decided to go to my favorite Mexican restaurant to quench my appetite.

I usually choose between coconut prawns or carnitas. But on this special day, I wanted to try something different. But I was quickly overwhelmed by the possibilities.

Granted, this was a chiptole situation where I apparently had 655,360 combinations to choose from. But still the decision wasn't easy. And while I was standing in line, I got to think. This is a bit similar to annuities.

This may seem like a stretch. But it is true. When it comes to buying a taco, you have several options depending on your preferences and dietary needs. The same goes for pensions. There are several types that are tailored to your specific retirement needs.

So let's examine what the different types of pensions are and how they work so that you can choose the best one.

The main types of pensions

In general, there are two basic types of pension, immediate and deferred. The main difference between them is your withdrawal options. In the case of an immediate pension, you will receive payments immediately. A deferred annuity must wait until a future date to receive your money.

It can get hairy here. Within these basic categories there are three other types of pensions;

Fixed. As a result of the contract, you will receive a fixed amount based on an interest rate.
Variable. This is a tax-privileged pension that allows you to put funds in sub-accounts.
Indexed. The return is based on the performance of a stock index such as the S&P 500 Composite Stock Price Index.

Still confused? No problem. Let's further explain what these types of pensions are and how they work.


The lowest risk, most predictable, and most straightforward retirement option. In the case of permanent annuities, the interest rate is guaranteed and does not change after the conclusion of the contract. For example, if a fixed annuity is due, you will receive 3% on every dollar deposited.

However, there are some fixed annuities where the interest rate will go up and down. Interest rates are often adjusted after a certain period of time.

In short, a mixed annuity behaves like a certificate of deposit (CD). Like a CD, a fixed pension offers fundamental protection. As such, it is a low risk investment. This is at the expense of the higher growth potential. When due, you can collect your money at a guaranteed minimum rate.

However, this is where the similarities end. In most cases, CDs are used for short-term goals, such as paying a down payment on a house. Fixed annuities, on the other hand, are long-term investments that you wait and see when you retire.

How does a fixed pension work?

An insurance or pension plan will sell you a fixed annuity. You have the option of paying this in installments or as a one-off payment. In return, you will receive a certain interest rate that the company guarantees.

It is during the accumulation phase that tax deferred growth occurs. And how much you get depends on the following factors:

Amount of the premium
The current interest rate
How old are you and how long are you likely to live
your gender

Or you can save yourself the hassle and just stick with a fixed pension that is transparent from the start. Note: This would be due and there is a 3% guaranteed interest rate.


Like a fixed pension, a variable pension is a contract between you and an insurance / pension company. But it also grows on a tax-defensive basis and offers a guaranteed stream of income for retirement. And it can be bought with either a single payment or a series of multiple payments.

The key difference? With a variable annuity, you can choose from a variety of investment options, the so-called sub-accounts. As a result, the value of your annuity will change.

Unlike a fixed annuity, the value of your contract will fluctuate. It depends on how your investments are fair. In most cases, your investment options will be mutual funds made up of stocks, bonds, and money market instruments. Often times this will be a combination of these investments.

This means that the potential growth with a variable annuity is higher than with a fixed annuity. However, you can also lose money with a variable annuity, making it a riskier option. You can attach drivers that you have to pay for that can protect you from market losses.

Because variable annuities offer unique benefits not available in other insurance products or investment options, they are different. Just note that this uniqueness comes at a price in the form of expensive retirement fees.

How does a variable annuity work?

Buying a variable annuity doesn't mean you are in the dark about your available investment options. When buying a variable annuity, there are generally three types of mutual funds; Stocks, bonds and money market. In addition, you may be able to choose other attachments, such as: B. Investment funds with stable earnings value.

You don't have to worry about the savings period when you opt for an instant variable annuity. This is because you will receive payments as early as one year after signing the contract.

However, deferred variable annuities do not follow the same rule. If you choose this option there are two phases, an accumulation phase followed by a withdrawal phase. In short, that means you will get your money on the streets at some point.


Also known as stock-indexed annuities or fixed-indexed annuities, index annuities combine the best of both fixed and variable annuities. But it also stands on its own in that it offers unique features. This includes the provision of a guaranteed minimum interest rate in addition to an interest rate linked to a market index.

Annuities are generally based on known and broad indices. The Standard & Poor’s index with 500 stocks is the most popular. However, some bond contracts are based on other indices such as the Nasdaq 100, the Russell 2000, and the Euro Stoxx 50.

In addition, some of these indices may represent specific segments of the market, while others allow investors to choose from multiple indices. In addition, thanks to the guaranteed interest rate, you have more risk but less growth potential than with a fixed pension. However, they are not as risky or profitable as variable annuities.

How does an indexed pension work?

Indexed annuity holders are more likely to achieve higher returns than other annuity holders. It is clear that indexed annuities will only offer a better return than fixed annuities if the markets are performing well. In addition, they offer some protection against market declines, which makes them less risky than variable annuities.

As with other types of pensions, you have promised a guaranteed stream of income that will grow with tax deductions. You can also finance an indexed pension with a lump sum or recurring payments over time. However, you can decide when to start withdrawals.

When buying an indexed annuity contract, choose an index like the S&P 500. The annuity company invests that money in that specific index. However, never put all your eggs in one basket. Hence, you should diversify your portfolio by investing your money in different indices.

How is the interest rate on an indexed pension calculated? You choose an index that reflects the change over the previous year. Alternatively, it can be based on a 12 month average profit. Overall, a certain index is used to index pensions.

There is one major problem with indexed pensions, however. And that means you may not get all of the benefits of increasing the index. The reason? Potential gains can be limited. This is commonly referred to as the “participation rate”. With a participation rate of 100%, all winnings will be credited to your account. However, the percentage can only be 25%. Typically, indexed annuities offer at least 80% to 90% participation rates.

Pension Disbursement Options

If you forget, pensions can be immediate or deferred. What differentiates these two types is when you start receiving payments.

Immediate pension

An instant annuity pays out payments within a year of purchase and is sometimes called an income annuity. An example of this could be a lottery win or an inheritance. Or maybe you've hidden a large sum of money.

Regardless of this, you acquire an immediate pension with one payment. From there you will receive guaranteed payments either for life or for a specific period of time. This is better for people who are retired or who have already retired.

Why should people buy an immediate pension? Well, it can stop them from spending that large amount of cash. And it's also an effective way to top up other retirement incomes like social security.

Deferred pension

With a deferred annuity, investors receive future payments. In most cases, this happens when an investor retires. During this time, the investment grows tax-deductible.

Deferred annuities are a better option for younger investors who have the time to let their savings accumulate. The disadvantage? If you need this money before the age of 59 ½ you will be hit with a 10% IRS penalty fee.

How long are pensions paid?

Annuities usually offer longevity protection. This means that annuities offer a lifelong income that the owner cannot survive. However, there are a variety of options for you to choose from.

Lifelong pensions

These are guaranteed streams of income over the lifetime of the pensioner. For some lifelong pensions, beneficiaries can continue to receive payments even after the beneficiary dies. Pension payments are based on the health and age of the pensioner.

Fixed-term annuities

A fixed term annuity, also known as a term annuity, is like winning the lottery. You can either collect the cash now or receive payments that are made over multiple overs. Typically, payments are spread over a period of 20 or 30 years. One advantage of this type of pension is that it does not take into account the age or state of health of the pensioner.

Are there other retirement options?

To make matters even more complicated, the following pension options are available depending on whether or not you have entitlements.

Pensions that are paid only for the life of the pensioner are known as lifelong pensions. It is possible to make provisions for your spouse or even a refund.
Certain annuities will continue to be paid even if the beneficiary dies before the end of the term.
In the case of joint and surviving dependents' pensions, both the pension recipient and a beneficiary receive lifelong payments.

And something else. Pensions can be either qualified or not qualified.

"A qualified pension is funded by pre-tax dollars," says Deanna Ritchie in a previous Due article. “Contributions to a qualified pension depend on your income. Therefore, you must also follow the required minimum distribution rules that also apply to traditional 401 (k) s and IRAs. This means that you have to start paying minimum distributions from the age of 70 ½ years. "

"For non-qualifying annuities, you use after-tax dollars to fund the annuity," adds Albert Costill in another due article. "That means you've already paid taxes on the money you used to buy it."

"Also, there are no mandatory minimum payouts," he says. “So in a way it is similar to a Roth individual retirement savings account. Unlike a Roth IRA, however, income that is deducted from unqualified annuities is taxable at your regular tax rate. "

“And the IRS has no limits on how much you can contribute to an ineligible annuity annually. Please note, however, that the insurance company that sold you the pension can set an annual contribution cap. "

Which pension should you buy?

Before deciding on a type of pension, think about your specific goals and needs. You should also consider your level of risk. And you could also ask the following questions;

Is your goal long-term growth or guaranteed income?
When do you plan to retire?
Do you have other sources of income?
Do you have a plan for potential lifestyle changes and steady loss of income?

For example, a fixed pension might be the best choice if you are hoping for a reliable, lifelong, low-risk, low-cost income. A variable annuity is worthwhile if you are willing to take the risk of making higher returns.

In addition, you can add drivers to adapt the contract to your needs, e.g. B. long-term care insurance. As an example, leave a legacy for loved ones. If so, consider adding a passenger who will allow you to designate beneficiaries.

Ultimately, you want to speak to a trusted financial professional before buying any type of annuity. They can help you decide which option is best for you and your financial future.

The article Types of Annuities and How They Work first appeared on Due.

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