Why Variable Annuities Are Bad

If you’re considering variable annuities as part of your investment strategy, it’s essential to understand their potential downsides. Unfortunately, these financial products can be costly, complex, and generally a bad idea for most investors.

Variable annuities are insurance contracts that allow you to invest in a range of subaccounts, similar to mutual funds. While some variable annuities can offer decent returns, they come with many downsides that can outweigh any potential benefits.

In this section, we’ll examine the risks, drawbacks, and disadvantages of variable annuities. By understanding their negative aspects, you can make an informed decision about whether or not variable annuities are suitable for your investment strategy.

Key Takeaways

  • Variable annuities can be costly and complex financial products with hidden fees.
  • They typically have limited liquidity and flexibility compared to other investment options.
  • Market risks and volatility can significantly impact investment performance within variable annuities.
  • Surrender charges and penalties can limit your ability to change your investment strategy.
  • Alternative investment options may provide a more straightforward approach to achieving your financial goals.

Understanding Variable Annuities

Variable annuities are complex financial products that can be difficult to understand. Simply put, a variable annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company. In exchange for an upfront premium, the insurance company promises to provide a stream of future payments immediately or later.

Unlike fixed annuities that guarantee a specific rate of return, variable annuities are securities linked to the performance of underlying investment portfolios, usually mutual fund sub-accounts. The value of your investment and the payout you receive will depend on the performance of these sub-accounts.

Variable annuities offer investors some benefits, such as tax-deferred growth and the potential for lifetime income. However, investors must understand numerous drawbacks and risks before committing to this type of investment.

risks of variable annuities

The Structure of Variable Annuities

The structure of variable annuities can vary depending on the insurance company and the specific contract. However, most variable annuities have similar features:

  • Investment options – Variable annuities typically offer a range of underlying investment options. Investors can choose from different asset classes and investment strategies.
  • Death benefit – Variable annuities may provide a death benefit to the beneficiary if the annuitant dies before receiving payments from the annuity.
  • Guaranteed minimum income benefit (GMIB) – Some variable annuities offer a GMIB, which guarantees a minimum income level regardless of how your underlying investments perform.
  • Surrender charge – If you want to withdraw funds from your variable annuity before the term expires, you may face a surrender charge. Surrender charges can be substantial, limiting your ability to change your investment strategy.
  • High fees – Variable annuities often come with high fees and charges that can eat into your investment returns.

It’s crucial to read and understand the terms and conditions of the variable annuity contract before investing. Consider the fees, charges, and restrictions associated with the contract and how they may impact your finances. Seek advice from a financial professional and compare alternative investment options to determine what’s best for your investment strategy.

High Fees and Charges

Variable annuities may appear attractive at first glance, but they often come with hidden fees and charges that can significantly impact your returns. These fees can be challenging to understand and compare, making it difficult to make informed decisions about your investment strategy.

Some of the fees associated with variable annuities include:

Fee TypeDescription
Mortality and Expense (M&E) feeCharges for insurance and investment management expenses
Administrative feeCosts for maintaining the annuity’s records and providing customer service
Investment management feeCosts associated with managing the investments within the annuity
Surrender chargesPenalties for withdrawing funds before the end of a specified term
Rider feesAdditional charges for adding optional riders to the annuity contract

These fees can add up quickly and eat into your investment returns, leaving you with much less than you may have expected. Plus, some fees may be challenging to spot, making variable annuities appear less expensive than they are.

Integrity Now Insurance Brokers recommends that investors carefully consider the potential impact of fees on investment performance before investing in variable annuities. It’s essential to read the contract carefully and understand all the costs associated with the annuity before deciding.

hidden fees

Integrity Now Insurance Brokers, an independent insurance agency, advises caution when considering variable annuities and suggests alternative investment options that may provide more favorable returns with lower risks.

Alternative Investment Options

Considering the risks and pitfalls of variable annuities, there are alternative investment options to consider that may provide more suitable and straightforward approaches to achieving your financial goals. Integrity Now Insurance Brokers, an independent insurance agency, suggests exploring the following options:

Investment OptionAdvantages
Mutual fundsTypically, they have lower fees and higher liquidity than variable annuities, providing greater flexibility for investors.
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)Like mutual funds regarding investment opportunities, ETFs often have even lower fees and are more tax-efficient.
Bonds and bond fundsFixed-income investments that provide steady returns for investors while also offering greater liquidity and flexibility.

These are just a few examples of alternative investment options to variable annuities. It’s critical to speak with a financial advisor to determine the investment strategies that align with your specific financial goals and risk tolerance.

pitfalls of variable annuities


Considering variable annuities as part of your investment strategy, carefully weigh the pros and cons. As explored in this article, variable annuities can come with high fees, lack of flexibility, market risks, complex structures, surrender charges, and no guarantees. All these drawbacks and downsides of variable annuities make them a bad investment choice.

It’s important to remember that there are alternative options to variable annuities that may provide a more suitable and straightforward approach to achieving your financial goals. Integrity Now Insurance Brokers is an independent insurance agency that can help you evaluate your investment options and choose the best one for your needs.

In conclusion, variable annuities are bad investments, and you should carefully evaluate all the drawbacks and downsides before considering them as part of your investment strategy.


Why are variable annuities considered bad investments?

Variable annuities are often considered bad investments due to their high fees and charges, lack of flexibility and liquidity, exposure to market risks and volatility, complex product structure, surrender charges and penalties, and the absence of guarantees on investment performance or income.

What are the disadvantages of variable annuities?

The disadvantages of variable annuities include hidden fees, limited access to funds, market risks, complex structures, surrender charges, and the lack of guarantees. These factors can negatively impact investment returns and hinder financial goals.

What are the risks associated with variable annuities?

Variable annuities expose investors to market risks and fluctuations, which can result in a loss of principal. The performance of investments within variable annuities is not guaranteed, and investors may face the potential of lower returns and volatility in their portfolios.

Why do variable annuities have high fees and charges?

Variable annuities have high fees and charges to cover various expenses, including administrative, investment management, mortality and expense, and rider fees. These fees can significantly reduce investment returns and erode the value of the annuity over time.

How do variable annuities lack flexibility and liquidity?

Variable annuities typically have restrictions on withdrawals and limited access to funds. Investors may face penalties and surrender charges if they need to withdraw money before a specified period. This lack of flexibility and liquidity can limit an individual’s ability to meet their changing financial needs.

What are surrender charges and penalties in variable annuities?

Surrender charges and penalties are fees imposed by insurance companies if investors need to withdraw funds from their variable annuities before a predetermined period. These charges can be substantial and may discourage investors from changing their investment strategy.

Are there any guarantees with variable annuities?

Unlike other types of annuities, variable annuities do not provide guarantees on investment performance or income. The value of the investments within the annuity is subject to market fluctuations, and there is no assurance of positive returns or a guaranteed income stream.

What are alternative investment options to variable annuities?

There are various alternative investment options available that may be more suitable for investors compared to variable annuities. These options include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and other investment vehicles that offer greater transparency, lower fees, and more flexibility.

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