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For the most part, the IRS doesn’t have limits on how much money can be placed inside an annuity, giving people more opportunity to take advantage of the contractual guarantees. And if you want more growth potential for your money, fixed annuities and fixed index annuities can earn higher interest while protecting your principal.
However, one limitation that annuities have is their liquidity. Annuity owners give up having complete liquidity in exchange for these benefits, and if their money is in fixed-type annuity contracts, that is a very safe place with the dollar-for-dollar reserves that insurance companies must maintain.
So, are annuities a liquid asset? Yes, they offer some liquidity, but not as much liquidity as you might find in other types of assets in today’s markets. It’s a trade-off for those rock-solid, guaranteed benefits that they provide.
Even so, there are some provisions for liquidity in annuity contracts. You might access your money in a variety of ways: free withdrawals, cumulative free withdrawals, and waivers of surrender charges (where you get your money back in a qualifying situation) are a few.
Let’s talk about the liquidity of annuities in more detail.
One of the chief criticisms of annuities is their relative lack of liquidity. This is true in some respects. Annuity owners give up complete liquidity in exchange for other benefits, including insurer guarantees for lifetime income, guaranteed growth, or protection from downside risk.
Many annuities now come with guaranteed income riders that can be turned off and on while letting you still access at least some principal. And most contracts do offer something called "free withdrawals."
A free withdrawal is a payment you can take out of your annuity without having to pay a penalty, or a surrender charge, as the insurance company calls it. In most cases this free withdrawal amount will be equal to a given percentage of your annuity's accumulation value each year, such as 5% or 10%.
If you withdraw more than this amount in a given year, then you will have to pay a back-end surrender charge on the excess amount.
So, say your contract allows you to withdraw 5% per year and you withdraw 7%. Then you will have to pay a surrender charge on the excess 2%.
Of course, you will generally have to pay taxes on the amount you withdraw. Since annuities are intended as retirement savings vehicles, you might also face a 10% early withdrawal penalty on any money you take out before age 59.5.
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