Annuities are our specialty

How to Find the Best Fixed Annuities

As investors continue to search for safe and predictable alternatives for their long term retirement dollars, the demand for fixed annuities is surging as is the proliferation of fixed annuity product choices. In today’s uncertain economy, if you are a life insurance company, you want to be able to capture a share of investor funds that are searching for a safe haven from volatility. And, to the consternation of investors, there are dozens of life insurance companies that offer fixed annuities. So, the challenge for investors is how to find the best fixed annuities.

To add to the confusion, fixed annuities are offered through a number of different sources. You are likely to see them offered through your bank or brokerage firm, and you have probably encountered a number of ads from direct annuity sellers on the internet. With all of these sources willing to answer your questions on fixed annuities, it’s like getting your information from a fire hose – it’s much more than you can consume.

The good news is that the fixed annuity market is highly competitive, so, even though there is information overload, when you know what it is you are looking for, and you can pinpoint the right sources, you are likely to find the best fixed annuity product for you. It does require that you do your own homework, however, the time spent there, will save you much more time and frustration later.

What to Look for in the Best Fixed Annuities

The Best Interest Rates

Fixed annuities are purchased as much for their competitive fixed yields as they are their security, and, as with bank CDs, the yields are their primary competitive feature. So, life insurers that want to attract your investment must put forth their best rate. The danger is that some life insurers are willing to “buy” your business by offering above market rates as an enticement only to drop them to below market rates once they have your money. It is important to check the fine print.

Most fixed annuities come with guaranteed rate set for a period of time, say, five years. After five years, the rate will be adjusted based on a formula, or based on prevailing rates at the time. In some cases, it may be better to go with a slightly lower rate if the terms are better for rates in the long run. And, beware of “bonus” rates that tack on an extra half or full percentage point in the first year. While these may be very appealing, it would be important to check the minimum rate guarantee in future years. Also, some of these products load up on expenses, to offset the cost of the bonus rate.

Fixed annuity rates are often tied to a tiered structure that includes the size of the deposit and the length of the rate guarantee period. Essentially, the larger the deposit, and the longer the guarantee period, the higher the rate you can earn. Because the difference in rates between lower tiers and higher tiers can be as much as 1%, it is worthwhile to consider the higher tiered annuities, but it is important to compare them carefully.

Account Access

Fixed annuities should be considered as long term investments. You should expect to commit your funds for at least a ten to twenty year period of time. But, life happens, and there may be a change in your circumstances that requires emergency access to your annuity. Fixed annuities do allow for an annual withdrawal of funds, free of charge as long as it doesn’t exceed 10% of the accumulation account. If it does, then you will be charged a surrender fee as high as 12% if the withdrawal occurs within the surrender period (typically 5 to 10 years) stated in the annuity contract.

This is a key differentiator among fixed annuity products. Even though most annuity investors understand that annuities are long term commitments, they don’t necessarily like the idea that they could lose a portion of their money to fees if they need to access it. Recognizing that, some annuity providers try to make their products more attractive by lowering their surrender fees and shortening the surrender period.

If you don’t think you will need to access your funds in a five to ten year period, then the surrender fee and the length of the surrender period may not be of concern to you. Otherwise, this is an area that should be compared carefully between annuity products.

Safety and Security

Aside from the tax advantages that fixed annuities offer, the number one reason behind their popularity is the overall peace-of-mind they provide. Fixed annuities are laden with guarantees: minimum interest rate guarantee, return of principle guarantees, and, ultimately, a lifetime income guarantee. That’s a lot of guarantees which should eliminate the need for sleeping pills. It is important to realize, however, that those guarantees are only as good as the financial condition of the life insurer offering them.

While annuities are considered to be among the safest of investment vehicles, the extra measure of security that everyone is looking for can only be provided by the strongest and most stable life insurance companies. With huge number of life insurers offering annuity products, there really isn’t any good reason not to limit your search to the most highly rated companies. Currently, there are 20 companies that have been assigned the highest ratings from three different ratings agencies, and, the chances are, their annuity products are just as competitive as the lower rated companies.

Finding the Best

The internet has made searching, information gathering and comparing too easy not to invest a small amount of time to help you narrow your choices. Annuity websites that aggregate data from all of the top annuity providers can provide you with quick side-by-side comparisons on a number of features, including interest rates, expenses, surrender fees and financial ratings. It is highly recommended that you first develop your list of 10 or 20 life insurers that meet your standards for financial strength and ratings, so that you can streamline your search.

From there, you should be able to narrow your list of the best fixed annuities down to a few. You can purchase your annuity from the direct seller on the website, or through a financial professional. Either way, you will be in control so that you’ll know when you find the best fixed annuity product.

Immediate vs Deferred Annuities

Annuities has a long and historic lineage dating back to ancient times when Roman citizens and soldiers would receive an “annua”, or annual stipend, from the government in exchange for a lump sum of money. Since then, the family tree of annuities has sprouted into several different bloodlines with variations in their structure and use. Immediate annuities, which are offered through life insurance companies, are the most direct descendent of annua, but its popular cousin, the deferred annuity, shares many of its characteristics along with an additional component that allows for multi-dimensional retirement planning.

Characteristics of Immediate Annuities

For investors, immediate annuities are a form of insurance to protect them against the risk of living too long, beyond their income sources. While Roman citizens weren’t expected to live much beyond the age of 30, today’s retirees are expected to live into their 80s, and many of them are concerned with the adequacy of their income sources.

Like its ancient ancestor, immediate annuities are designed to generate a stream of income that can last a lifetime. Instead of the Roman Emperor receiving the lump sum of money, today, a life insurance company collects a deposit from an investor who, in return, wants to convert the lump sum into a series of periodic payments. The payments can be made for a specific period of time designated by the investor, or they can be spread out over his or her lifetime.

The basic structure of an immediate annuity is fairly simple: When a lump sum deposit is received by the life insurer, it calculates the amount of money that can be paid over a period of time assuming a certain rate of interest, sort of like a mortgage payment plan in reverse. If period of time is to be the lifetime of the investor, the life insurer uses actuarial table to determine the the number of payment periods for the investor’s life expectancy. Should the investor live beyond life expectancy, the insurer is obligated to continue the payments for as long as he lives. This is the insurance component of immediate annuities.

Immediate annuities should be considered by anyone who needs an immediate source of income, and who has concerns as to how long their income sources will last. Because the income is guaranteed and predictable, immediate annuities are also used to stabilize an income portfolio that might include more risk oriented investments such as bonds or dividend paying stocks.

Characteristics of Deferred Annuities

During the Great Depression, as the banking industry was crumbling, people turned to life insurance companies for their security needs including saving for the future. It was then that life insurers began to allow individuals to sock away their savings into annuities before they needed the income. So, deferred annuities derive their name from the deferral of income until a later date when it is needed.

Essentially, a deferred annuity is no different than an immediate except that it includes an accumulation component of the front end. The funds that are deposited reside in an accumulation account that is credited, annually, with a rate of interest. Because annuities are treated similarly to qualified retirement plans in the tax code, the earnings in the accumulation account are not currently taxed which allows them grow faster. The primary difference in tax treatment is that contributions to annuities are not tax deductible.

As with qualified retirement plans, the IRS wants to make sure that annuities are used for their intended purpose, as retirement vehicles, so it will assess a penalty of 10% on any withdrawals made before age 59 ½. Still, investors are allowed to make withdrawals from their accumulation account if they need access to the funds. As long as the withdrawals don’t exceed 10% of the account value, they won’t be charged.

Deferred annuities are ideal accumulation vehicles for investors seeking tax advantaged growth of their retirement funds in addition to their qualified retirement plans. The advantage of accumulating funds in a deferred annuity is that, at any point, it can be converted into an immediate annuity. In essence, investors can easily transition from guaranteed accumulation period to guaranteed income, thus extending the deferral of taxes throughout the payment period.

Apples and Oranges? Or, Two Peas in a Pod

Since immediate annuities are best suited for people who need an instant source of income, and deferred annuities are more appropriate for people with time to save, the two vehicles are generally thought to be separate and distinct in the realm of retirement planning. But, for investors who plan strategically, both types of annuities can be utilized effectively to create a more secure and stable retirement future.

Creating a Ladder of Income

Because no one can predict the future, it is important to have some flexibility in your retirement income plan that can adjust to changing circumstances, yet still provide the essential guarantee of predictable, stable income for as long as it is needed. Using the best characteristics of both immediate annuities and deferred annuities, together in an income strategy can generate maximum income without sacrificing security.

Pairing an immediate annuity with a deferred annuity, a strategy referred to as a “split annuity” can create a ladder of income that takes advantage of the guarantees and favorable tax treatment of both. Instead of depositing the complete lump sum into an immediate annuity to generate a lifetime income, the deposit is split with a deferred annuity. A specified payment period of, say, 10 years is selected for the immediate annuity, so that the entire annuity balance, both principle and interest, is paid out over the ten years.

The second part of the deposit is left to accumulate within a deferred annuity so that it grows to amount equal to the original deposit within the immediate annuity. And then the process is repeated. The result is a higher net monthly income due to the fact that the majority of it is a return of principle. Meanwhile, the deferred annuity, with its tax deferred accumulation account, rebuilds the principle that is then converted into an immediate annuity. Split annuity strategies can be somewhat complex involving certain assumptions and calculations that should be considered with the guidance of a financial professional.


While immediate annuities and deferred annuities are used for two distinct financial objectives, their unique characteristics can be applied together in a long term strategy that can maximize income, minimize taxes and offer end-to-end financial security.

Pros and Cons of Variable Annuities

Within the financial community, the mere mention of “variable annuities” launches a heated debate over their value as an investment vehicle. Over the last several decades, variable annuities have ridden a roller coaster of controversy and popularity leaving divided opinion in its wake. About the only thing that one could conclude from this is that variable annuities are bipolar in terms of their pros and cons with the final determinant being an individual’s specific financial circumstances.

The pros and cons of variable annuities really must be considered in the context of an individual’s financial profile as they will nicely conform to the investment needs of one person while they may completely run counter to those of another person. This feature-by-feature evaluation of variable annuities can be applied individually to determine their pros and cons for your particular circumstances.

Variable Annuity Feature Evaluation

Professionally Managed Separate Accounts

Much like their investment cousins, mutual funds, variable include a family of professionally managed funds, called separate accounts. These accounts enable investors to direct their funds to any combination of stock, bond, real estate or fixed yield portfolios. Investors can create a portfolio mix that suits their investment needs, and funds can be transferred between accounts several times a year. Variable annuities are protected and regulated by various state and federal agencies, like the SEC and NAIC.


Professionally managed; selection of portfolios from different asset classes for balance and diversification; easy transfer between funds; some variable annuity accounts are mirror images of top mutual fund families


Narrow selection of funds with some variable annuities; variable annuity account performance is not reported as are mutual funds; turnover of account managers is a little higher than of mutual fund managers

Upside Investment Potential

With the ability to invest in stock, bonds and real estate, investors have the potential to generate higher returns on their annuity funds. Over time, a combined investment portfolio of these three assets classes have performed well and the long term trend continues upward.


Unlimited upside potential: Can tap into the potential of different asset classes to take advantage of changing market cycles.


Some managed accounts, such as stock, bond and even real estate funds are subject to market fluctuations, and, therefore, market risk. While investors can only incur a loss if they actually sell the units of their account, they still might have to endure periods of time when their account values are below the principle amount.

Annuities Taxation

Considered to be one of the top benefits of owning an annuity, the tax deferral on earnings can make variable annuities look especially attractive, especially for investors in the higher combined federal and state income tax brackets. Transferring funds between accounts does not result in taxes either. The earnings are eventually taxed, when they are withdrawn, as ordinary income. Also, annuity death benefit proceeds are taxed when received, as ordinary income in addition to being includable in the estate.


Tax deferral allows for faster accumulation; if a variable annuity is annuitized for periodic payments, the tax deferral is extended as taxes are only paid on the earnings portion of the monthly payment.


Earnings are eventually taxed as ordinary income as opposed to the more favorable capital gains tax rate of mutual funds, although mutual fund owners pay taxes each year on gains and dividends that occur inside the fund; Double whammy of ordinary income taxes due on death proceeds and their inclusion in the estate tax calculation. Additionally, annuities death proceeds do not receive a favorable step-up basis calculation for determining the estate tax.

No Maximum Investment

Unlike IRAs or other qualified retirement plans, variable annuities have no upper limit for contributions.


Investors who seek maximum tax deferral on their assets can invest as much as they want.


Over investment with anyone investment type, or particular annuity product. This can be remedied by spreading investment funds among several different annuity products.

Account Access

As with all annuities, variable annuities allow for investors to withdraw a portion of their funds without charge. Withdrawals of up to 10% of the account value can be made in any one year. Excess withdrawals made within the surrender period will be charged a fee which can be as high as 12% in the first year. The fee is reduced by a point each year of the surrender period until it vanishes.


Provides liquidity and some flexibility for current finance needs;


Surrender fees can take a significant bite out of annuity funds; Withdrawals made prior to the age of 59 ½ may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty.

Guaranteed Lifetime Income

Variable annuities can be annuitized for income at anytime at which point the annuitant can receive a monthly payment for a specified period of time, or for life. With variable annuities, the payout amount is tied to the performance of the accounts in which the funds are invested, which creates the potential for income to increase as the markets rise.


Investors will receive an income they can’t outlive; Income can potentially increase to fight of inflation.


Once an annuity is annuitized, the account balance is irrevocably committed to the life insurer; variable income means that the payout amount can also decrease.

Guaranteed Death Benefit

All annuities include a guaranteed death benefit which entitles the named beneficiary to receive at least the principle amount of the contract. For variable annuity holders, this means that, even if the account values decline below the principle, the beneficiary will still receive the original investment.


Investors can protect their financial legacy for their heirs;


Some variable annuity contracts will only pay the principle as a death benefit as opposed to the entire account value if it is higher. Many variable annuity contracts include options to insure the entire account balance.

Fees and Expenses

Annuity contracts are known for their fees and expenses for mortality costs and administrative costs. Some are lower than others, but there are costs associated with providing death benefits, and other guarantees. All variable annuity contracts include a management fee which covers the cost of managing the investment accounts. You can usually find a differential I the size of the fee when comparing various variable annuity products.


Fees can be offset over time through the deferral of taxes; more and more variable annuity products are lowering their fees and eliminating their sales loads.


With some fee combinations reaching as high as 2.25%, they can eat into returns over the long run;

Some Other Pros and Cons

Asset Protection:

Depending on your state, annuity investments may be protected under its liability laws. Some states don’t exempt annuities from liabilities, while others protect the full value so long as there is no intent to defraud.

Minimum Required Distributions:

Unlike IRAs and other qualified retirement plans, which require that income distributions commence by the time the investor turns 70½, there are no minimum required distributions on variable annuities.

Probate Avoidance:

Generally, annuities are excluded from probate proceeding upon the death of the annuity owner. The benefit is that the proceeds can pass quickly to heir and not add to the cost of the proceedings.


Every investor is different, and variable annuities, as with any investment, need to be examined only within the context of the individual investor. Generally, variable annuities should not be considered for people who have not reached a point where they are maximizing their contributions to their qualified retirement plans. Nor should pre-retirees with short time horizons consider them unless they are willing and able to hold them for at least 10 to 15 years. But, for others who can take advantage of the tax deferral and, ultimately, are concerned with outliving their income, variable annuities can be the ideal investment.

How to Allocate Funds Inside a Variable Annuity

Variable annuities combine some of the key features of mutual funds with those of deferred annuities to produce a unique investment vehicle that is ideal for long term retirement planning. Like mutual funds, variable annuities include a family of funds, called separate managed accounts that invest in various portfolios of stocks, bonds, real estate, and fixed yield investments affording investors the opportunity to achieve market-based returns. The primary difference is that the earnings from variable annuity managed accounts are allowed to accumulate tax deferred. Optimizing both the returns and the tax advantages of variable annuities requires a sound asset allocation strategy tailored for each investor.

Variable Annuity Investment Characteristics

A variable annuity is a form of a deferred annuity in which investors are allowed to choose from among a family of professionally managed accounts to invest their funds. Typically, the family of accounts is comprised of a variety of stock and bond accounts with varying investment objectives. For instance, the stock accounts might include a growth stock account, an aggressive growth account, and an international stock account.

The bond accounts might include a corporate bond account, a high yield bond account and a government bond account. You might also find a balanced account that combines stock and bond investments, and accounts that invest in real estate investment trusts are also common. Finally, the family might have a cash account or a fixed yield investment.

Each of these accounts fall within a specific part of the risk/reward spectrum, with some offering potentially high returns with a commensurate level of risk. On the other end are accounts that focus on minimizing risk with lower or more stable returns. As with type of investing, no one single account is going to meet the overall investment objectives of an investor, nor will it likely satisfy his or her risk requirements. Therefore, the best investment approach is to allocate investment funds among several different asset classes, and diversify within those classes in order to create a more stable portfolio with the potential for consistent long term returns.

What is Asset Allocation?

Asset allocation is an investment strategy that considers a combination of asset classes for investors’ portfolios that best match their objectives, preferences and risk tolerance. Since asset classes tend to perform differently, within their own investment cycles, owning several asset classes will have the effect of stabilizing the overall portfolio. For example, when stock prices increase, bond prices tend to decline. Because no one can accurately project the movements of either, the best strategy is to allocate a portion of funds to each.

The more a portfolio consists of assets that don’t necessarily correlate with one another, (in other words, the price movements of one are independent of another), the less volatile the overall portfolio will be. For example, real estate is an asset that doesn’t necessarily correlate with stocks. The prices of real estate tend to move independent of other markets.

Modifying Risk

Additionally, each asset class has a corresponding amount of risk, whether it’s market risk, inflation risk, taxation risk, interest rate risk or liquidity risk. An effective allocation strategy accounts for all forms of risk by using one type of asset to offset the risk associated with another. For instance, an investment in fixed annuities is vulnerable to the long term effects of inflation. By combining that investment with an investment in a precious metals fund or a real estate fund, the potential risk of inflation is countered. Conversely, the fixed yield account can have a modifying effect on any volatility associated with the other funds.

Creating an Individual Asset Allocation Strategy

Using a combination of asset classes, investors can create a total investment portfolio that more closely matches their specific objective, priorities, preferences and risk tolerance. The asset mix of any one investor is going to be different than the next, so there is no one perfect portfolio allocation. Rather, investors need to consider their own allocation in light of their individual financial circumstances:

Goals and Priorities

: Without a clear target, it is difficult to know where to aim. And, because most investors have a limited amount of funds to invest, priorities must be set.

Risk Tolerance

: It’s important to understand your ability to withstand market fluctuations. More importantly, all types of risks need to be considered.

Investment Preferences

: Some investors have an aversion or a preference towards certain types of investments. For instance, some will only invest in the stock socially responsible companies.

Time Frame

: Understanding your investment time frame is important for determining the proper balance of conservative and more growth oriented investments. That balance will change over time as your time frame shortens.

Asset Allocation in Motion

Once you have determined the best allocation for your portfolio, it is vitally important to review it regularly. Your financial circumstances, including your outlook and risk tolerance will evolve over time, and you can count on the fact that the financial markets and the economy will change as well.

A big mistake investors make is to let the gains in any one asset class to run, which will throw their allocation out of balance. For instance, they may have allocated just 40% of their funds to stock accounts. Yet, after a long stock market rally, the gains achieved push that allocation up to 60% of their portfolio. Their portfolio is now exposed to more market risk than, perhaps, they were willing to assume initially.

An asset allocation strategy is definitely not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. It is important to make sure your portfolio is correctly balanced and properly diversified to match your current financial profile. With variable annuity investors are allowed to transfer funds between accounts as many as four to six times a year, which is plenty to make any necessary adjustments.

Understanding Fixed Annuities

It is not too big of a stretch of the imagination to compare the last twelve years of the stock market to a huge roller coaster ride which is an experience that few people can stomach: Up, down, loop-d-loop, climb and then crash. The really unnerving part is that, when the ride starts up again, it will do exactly the same thing. How fun is that? Not much if that’s your retirement nest egg going for the ride. Meanwhile, fixed annuity owners have been happily floating along on their merry-go-round, grabbing the brass ring with each rotation.

The Importance of Fixed Annuities in Retirement Planning

Fixed annuities have been providing investors with portfolio stability and long term guarantees for decades. Smart investors, especially those with a retirement time horizon, invest in a combination of growth investments like stocks and stable investment like fixed annuities. The result for a retirement portfolio is a much smoother ride and more stable long term returns. Once pre-retirees understand how fixed annuities work, they realize their value to the overall performance of their retirement portfolio.

Key Characteristics of Fix Annuities

There are many ways to add stability to a retirement portfolio. CDs and government bonds can add safety and stability, but only fixed annuities offer a mix of guarantees and flexibility that can ensure the long term stability and security that retirees need. Its unique characteristics of tax advantages, competitive interest rates, minimum rate guarantees, withdrawal provisions, and, ultimately, secure lifetime income, combine to provide investors with a portfolio foundation upon which they can more confidently add some growth oriented investments.

Tax-Deferred Accumulation

If all other aspects of fixed yield alternatives were equal, the tax deferral of earnings inside fixed annuities gives them an edge as a long term accumulation vehicle. Consider two equivalent vehicles, a taxable CD and a fixed annuity, both yielding 4%. For an investor in a 40% combined tax bracket, the after tax return on the CD is actually 2.4%. Over the long term, the difference could amount to thousands of dollars of additional accumulation with a tax deferred fixed annuity. Withdrawals from annuities are taxed as ordinary income, and any withdrawals made prior to age 59 ½ may be subject to a 10% penalty by the IRS.

Competitive Yields

Fixed annuity yields are typically compared with those of bank CDs, yet, historically, fixed annuity yields tend to be higher. The difference can be attributed to the type of financial institutions from which they originate as well as the methods for determining the yields. CDs are time deposits offered through banks. Because bank deposits are used by the bank to loan money, their yields are based on prevailing short term interest rates, which makes them very sensitive to interest rate movements.

Annuities are offered through life insurance companies who invest the deposits with their general account. The general account is invested in a portfolio of short, intermediate and long-term bonds, which, when managed effectively, can generate a higher yield, a portion of which is applied to the annuity accounts.

Minimum Rate Guarantee

The initial yields on fixed annuities are usually guaranteed for a specific period of time, from one to five years, after which they are reset based on a formula or the current interest rate environment. The risk with any fixed yield vehicle is that, if interest rates, in general decline, the possibility exists that the new applied rate will be much lower than the initial rate. Fixed annuities include a minimum rate guarantee which acts a floor below which the new rate cannot drop. As compared with other fixed yield vehicles, this feature offers investors more predictability on the growth of their funds.

Withdrawal Provisions

One of the criticisms of annuities is that they require a long term commitment before investors can access their funds. Setting aside the fact that they are designed as long term retirement vehicles, annuity contracts do include a withdrawal provision that allows investors to take out a portion of their funds each year without charge.

Up to 10% of the accumulated funds can be withdrawn, and amounts in excess of that will be charged a withdrawal fee. The fee, ranges from 7% to 12% in the first year, and then decreases by a point each year, so that, when it declines to zero, there are no more withdrawal fees. Again, withdrawals made prior to age 59 ½ may be subject to a penalty unless certain conditions exist, such as disability or hardship.

Secure Lifetime Income

Annuities originated long ago primarily as income vehicles. In return for a lump sum deposit a life insurance company promises to pay a guaranteed income stream for the life of the annuitant. Fixed annuities were introduced to allow for an accumulation period in which a lump sum can grow over time before it is converted into income.

At the time the income is needed, a fixed annuity can be “annuitized” to generate a monthly income which is fixed for a certain period of time or a lifetime. Once the income begins, the annuity balance is irrevocably retained by the life insurer who guarantees the income, for as long as the annuitant is living. This becomes the income “safety net” that allows investors to continue to assume some risk with the rest of their portfolio in order to achieve higher yields.

How Fixed Annuities Deliver All of That

Annuities are insurance contracts issued by life insurers which, in essence, protect you against the risk of living too long (as opposed to dying too soon with life insurance contracts). So, all of the guarantees and provisions discussed here are bound in the contract which consists of an accumulation phase and a distribution phase. In return for your deposit, the life insurer is obligated to return to you a minimum amount of money, either in the form of accumulated funds, or as a guaranteed monthly income.

Life insurers have been fulfilling this obligation for a couple of centuries without fail. It is the unique structure of life insurance companies that creates the security that annuity owners enjoy. Life insurers are regulated by state insurance commissions who apply very strict investment and financial guidelines that must be followed. Essentially, life insurers are required to maintain a reserve of funds that can always pay all of its future obligations, with interest. And, in most states they must also operate with a capital surplus which ensures the security of its reserve.

As secure as fixed annuities are, investors can add another layer of security by working with life insurers who rank highly based on the strength of their financial condition. Rating agencies, such as A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s regularly evaluate all life insurers and apply a rating. With dozens of insurers offering competitive annuity products, there’s no reason not to work with the top companies.