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Annuities are contracts issued by life insurance companies.  Most annuities are regulated at the state level, with variable annuities being classified as a security and overseen by FINRA and the SEC.

Even though annuities have some form up back-up type insurance, you should primarily base your decision on the claims paying ability of the issuing life insurance company.  You should look at the 4 primary ratings services (A.M. Best, S&P, Moody's, Fitch), and also look at the COMDEX scores as well.  

You should also do your homework on the overall financial status of the issuing life insurance company by examining their balance sheet, bond holdings, and all public information available.  You are transferring risk to that carrier, so you need to make sure that the specific annuity company can handle that risk.

The primary fixed annuity types are Single Premium Immediate Annuities (SPIAs), Deferred Income Annuities (DIAs), Qualified Longevity Annuity Contracts (QLACs), Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs), and Multi-Year Guarantee Annuities (MYGAs).  Those policies are backed up and insured to certain dollar amounts by State Guaranty Funds.  You can see your specific state coverage here.

Variable Annuities (VAs) are classified as a security and backed by SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation) coverage even though they are issued by life insurance companies as well.

Charitable Gift Annuities (CGAs) are issued by charities, universities, 501c3's, and non-profit organizations.  They are backed up in full by the claims paying ability of the issuing organization. 

Contact Stan The Annuity Man to get the best and highest contractually guaranteed quotes with all carriers using Stan's proprietary annuity calculators.  You can also receive Stan's 6 Annuity Owner's Manuals for free and under no obligation.