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Fixed annuities: Risks & benefits to consider

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Fixed annuities can help you save for retirement with a set rate of return and tax-deferred growth. They can also provide lifetime income and help protect you against outliving your savings.

Knowing you have enough fixed income to meet your lifetime needs can provide a valuable sense of security and help you retire with confidence. The stability offered by fixed annuities can potentially help you fulfill your financial goals, enabling you to focus more on volunteering, supporting loved ones, giving charitably and enjoying family life.

What are the risks of fixed annuities?

As with any financial product, fixed annuities come with risks as well as rewards. But compared to some other types of annuities (such as variable annuities), fixed annuities and fixed index annuities have the least risk and may be the most predictable.

The insurer assumes the investment risk with a fixed annuity contract. By comparison, the contract holder (that's you) assumes the investment risk with a variable annuity.

These are some of the risks you should understand before purchasing a fixed annuity.

Payouts may fall behind inflation

No one can predict what may happen to inflation over time. The set payouts from your fixed annuity may not keep up with inflation, meaning their buying power may decrease over time. To lessen this risk, you may be able to choose a payout option that adjusts for inflation or purchase a contract rider for inflation protection.

Inability to earn more with the market

Unlike a stock market investment, a fixed annuity has a set rate of return. You don't lose money when the market goes down, but you also don't earn more when the market goes up.

Lower payouts if you die earlier than expected

The contract holder and the insurance company both assume how long the contract holder may live. They also both take steps to reduce their risk of loss if they're wrong. If you choose a single-life payout and pass away shortly after you start receiving income from your annuity, you might get back less than you paid in premiums. However, you can choose different types of payouts, such as joint-and-survivor or period certain, to make sure someone you care about gets the income you would have received had you lived longer.

Potential to outlive your annuity

A fixed annuity can pay you a set income for life, but it depends on the type of payout you choose. If you choose a period certain payout (such as 10 years of income), your annuity may stop paying income while you're still alive and need a consistent income.

Not FDIC- or SIPC-insured

Are fixed annuities safe? A fixed annuity is an insurance product. It's not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). To make sure the annuity you're considering is safe, look at the insurance company's history and financial strength (as determined by an objective industry rating agency such as AM Best, Fitch, Moody's or Standard & Poor's). Thrivent has been around since 1902 and has earned AM Best's highest financial strength rating of A++.

Penalties for withdrawing early

This is one of the only ways you can lose money with a fixed annuity. Once you pay premiums for an annuity, the insurance carrier expects to hold that money until you're ready to receive regular payments from it. If you decide to withdraw money from your annuity sooner, you usually have to pay a surrender fee (but it may be waived in certain circumstances, like entering a nursing home or getting a terminal diagnosis). The fee is a percentage of the amount you withdraw, and the earlier in your contract you withdraw it, the higher it may be. Depending on when you take a withdrawal and how much you take out, you could lose money and not earn the return you originally planned. Withdrawals before you're 59½ may also trigger a 10% federal income tax penalty.

What are the benefits of fixed annuities?

Buying a fixed annuity can be a practical way to meet your lifetime income needs—or those of a loved one. These are some of the rewards you can expect from a fixed annuity contract.

Tax-deferred growth

If you buy a deferred fixed annuity (as opposed to an immediate fixed annuity), your premiums enjoy faster compound growth than if you held the money in a taxable account that paid the same interest rate. You don't owe ordinary income tax on the growth until you take withdrawals or annuitize. Usually, you do this during retirement, when your income and tax rate may be lower.

Fixed growth

During the fixed period, you earn a minimum set interest rate on your annuity's value, regardless of what happens in the financial markets. That set interest rate can help you plan for retirement and might make you feel comfortable taking on more risk in other parts of your portfolio.

Premium protection

You may choose a fixed annuity with a death benefit so that if you die before you get back what you paid into your contract, your beneficiary gets your premium plus any earnings, less any withdrawals or fees.

Set lifetime income

A fixed annuity may help protect you against the risk of outliving your assets and provide a reliable retirement income stream for as long as you live, depending on the payout type you select.

Multiple annuitization options

You can choose to receive income payments from your fixed annuity for a fixed period or a specified amount. You can also choose single life to get income for the rest of your life or joint life so your spouse continues to receive income after you die.

Low minimum

You may not be comfortable committing six figures to an annuity, especially if you haven't owned one before. Thrivent's fixed annuities have minimums as low as $5,000.

Low cost

Aside from surrender fees, which you can avoid incurring with careful planning, a fixed annuity has minimal costs. With Thrivent, you don't pay a contract maintenance charge, administrative/custodial fee or account service fee unless you take withdrawals that drop your annuity's accumulated value below $5,000. You also don't pay risk charges (no annual mortality and expense charges) or front-end sales charges.

Can you lose money with a fixed annuity?

When you own fixed annuities, you don't have to worry about losing money in a volatile financial market. Fixed annuities protect your principal and deliver a fixed rate of return.

Insurance companies invest your annuity premiums into large, diversified portfolios of stable, high-quality investments, such as bonds. Even if those investments lose money for the insurer, your annuity contract keeps your principal and rate of return.

Further, insurance companies are tightly regulated and have additional backstops to protect their customers should their own stability ever waver.

When you know your retirement income is secure, you can use other portions of your portfolio to meet your other goals, such as giving consistently and generously.

Who should consider a fixed annuity?

If you're building a retirement plan and want to build on the minimum income you're expecting from Social Security or a pension, or if you're concerned about outliving your retirement savings, you might consider buying an annuity. Thrivent offers two fixed annuities: the Security One Fixed Annuity and the Security Plus Fixed Annuity.

Connect with a Thrivent financial advisor who can help you evaluate whether a fixed annuity is right for you and help you create a comprehensive retirement strategy you can feel confident about.

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If requested, a licensed insurance agent/producer may contact you and financial solutions, including insurance, may be solicited.

Thrivent financial advisors and professionals have general knowledge of the Social Security tenets. For complete details on your situation, contact the Social Security Administration.

Thrivent and its financial advisors and professionals do not provide legal, accounting or tax advice. Consult your attorney or tax professional.

Guarantees based on the financial strength and claims paying ability of Thrivent.

Holding an annuity inside a tax-qualified plan does not provide any additional tax benefits.

Surrenders or partial withdrawals/surrenders may be subject to income taxes and/or surrender charges.

The Security One bonus rate annuity may be subject to higher fees and expenses and longer surrender periods than contracts that do not provide bonus rates.

AM Best rating is based on Thrivent’s financial strength and claims-paying ability. Does not apply to investment product performance. For information on this rating, visit www.ambest.com. The rating also refers only to the overall financial status of the company and is not a recommendation of the specific policy provisions, rates or practices of the insurance company.

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