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Note: Any reference to the word guarantee is based on the claims paying ability of the underlying insurance company.
An annuity is a contract issued by an insurance company. It is a unique financial product that provides tax deferral of interest and capital gains and the option (if funds are annuitized) of a guaranteed monthly income for life.
Although annuities can serve various needs, the primary purpose of an annuity is that of a retirement vehicle for the annuitant, the person who will usually receive the annuity benefits. The annuity is an attractive retirement vehicle because the money accumulating in an annuity, grows on a tax deferred basis. There are two parts to an annuity: the accumulation phase and the distribution phase.
After accumulating money in an annuity it is not mandatory that the annuitant exercise the annuitization option and relinquish control of his or her cash value and enter into the annuity distribution phase, the annuitant can simply cash out of his or her annuity.
More info on Annuities – Introduction to Annuities