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Deathmatch: IRAs vs Annuities

Advantage: IRA

The final analysis

The IRA is the winner -- with the qualification that every financial decision depends on your particular circumstances. The IRA's supremacy may be hard to believe at the moment, as your IRA likely has taken a beating in the past several weeks. But a few factors weigh heavily in these accounts' favor.

First, let's acknowledge that the guaranteed lifetime payments from an annuity can eliminate concerns about outliving your retirement funds. The high fees and limited investment options, however, can severely limit your savings' growth potential. For this reason, many advisers recommend investing in a variable annuity only after you have fully funded your 401(k) and IRA accounts.

What's more, the solidity of your variable annuity depends entirely on the financial strength of the insurance carrier. The recent spate of failed financial institutions, not to mention insurance giant AIG (AIG - Get Report), makes that an even bigger concern these days.

Peter McDougall is a freelance writer who lives in Freeport, Maine, with his wife and their dog.
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