Variable Annuity

Variable Annuity Definition

Variable annuity is a contract between a person and the insurance company and also serves as a tax saving investment with the insurer which has multiple benefits with regards to the periodic payments at the time of retirement and also the death benefit to the beneficiary in case the person dies before the expiry of the contract.

The investment option for the variable annuities is typically mutual fundsMutual FundsA mutual fund is a professionally managed investment product in which a pool of money from a group of investors is invested across assets such as equities, bonds, etcread more that, in turn, invest in the equity markets, thereby providing higher returns to the investors as compared to the fixed annuity plans.


  • It can be availed either by doing a lump sum payment or a series of payments over the years.
  • It is different from a fixed annuity, which promises fixed payments to the investor holding the instrument at the time of retirement and after that.
  • It offers a range of options to the investor to select the strategy of investment. Accordingly, the value of the contract also changes depending upon the risk of the investor.
  • The three main important features of a variable annuity are the insurance benefit, tax savings for the investor, and the periodic income stream that gets generated.

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How does Variable Annuity Work?

Example #1

Let’s assume that a person wants to invest $10,000 in a variable annuity with the insurance company. In this case, the company will offer the investor the plans/strategies used to invest the client’s money. Some plans may invest 70% of the funds into equity, and 30% into debt, while some may invest 50% into equity, 30% into debt, and 20% into mutual funds. The investor needs to select the plan, and accordingly, the value would be decided depending upon the risk appetiteRisk AppetiteRisk appetite refers to the amount, rate, or percentage of risk that an individual or organization (as determined by the Board of Directors or management) is willing to accept in exchange for its plan, objectives, and more of the fund. Since it is a variable annuity plan, the value of the investment may vary daily.

Example #2

Suppose a person invests $10,000 in a variable annuity plan, which invests 50% into debt and balances 50% into equities. The debt investment provides a return of 10%, whereas the equity investmentEquity InvestmentEquity investment is the amount pooled in by the investors in the shares of the companies listed on the stock exchange for trading. The shareholders make gain from such holdings in the form of returns or increase in stock more provides a return of 15%. In this case, the investment portfolio of the investor would be valued at $12,500 due to the upside in the instruments. It gives the investor the returns, which are higher than the fixed instrument provided by the fixed annuity plans, which generally are equal to the fixed deposit rate provided by the banks and financial institutionsFinancial InstitutionsFinancial institutions refer to those organizations which provide business services and products related to financial or monetary transactions to their clients. Some of these are banks, NBFCs, investment companies, brokerage firms, insurance companies and trust corporations. read more.

Variable Annuity Fees

They refer to the fees and expenses set up by the regulators in the interest of the investors and the fund as well. In the case of a variable annuity plan, who has an expense ratio and a surrender charge of 5% for pre-mature withdrawals will take down the value of the investment.

E.g., Mr.A has invested $10,000 in a variable annuity with an insurance company. The surrender charge is 5% after 1 year. If the person tries to withdraw all the money after one year, $10,000*5% = $500 would be deducted from his payout, and he will be remitted a sum of $9,500 only into his account.

  • Fees can also be in the form of expenses charged by the regulators and also the other charges, which may in the form of AMC charges, fund expenses, etc.
  • The insurer may also deduct the administration charges of the fund to run the fund smoothly.



  • The major disadvantage is the death of the investor since the insurer will have to give to the beneficiary of the insurer the guaranteed minimum amount even if the total investment made in the account is more than the market value.


A variable annuity is an investment concept, as the name suggests, it is variable in nature, unlike fixed annuities where the returns are guaranteed but in this type of investment, there can be superior returns as well as the investment can become nil due to risk exposureRisk ExposureRisk Exposure refers to predicting possible future loss incurred due to a particular business activity or event. You can calculate it by, Risk Exposure = Event Occurrence Probability x Potential Lossread more to instruments in the financial marketsFinancial MarketsThe term "financial market" refers to the marketplace where activities such as the creation and trading of various financial assets such as bonds, stocks, commodities, currencies, and derivatives take place. It provides a platform for sellers and buyers to interact and trade at a price determined by market more.

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