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What are annuities?

One of the biggest financial worries most people have is providing for a comfortable retirement. After a life of hard work, the thought of poverty in our old age terrifies most of us.

But with the days of pensions and retirement funds long a thing of the past for most of us, we are left with only a few options when it comes to providing income during retirement.

Sure, there are still some of us that can rely on pensions from government or military jobs, but if you are under the age of 50, chances are Social Security will be your old steady monthly check once you retire, and not a very big check at that (assuming Social Security survives, we've all heard the stories of the dwindling surplus and possible reduced future benefits).

401Ks are the biggest retirement savings vehicles today, but those don't generate specific levels of income -- instead they are invested in the stock market (normally) and you withdraw a portion of the capital each year to live off.

You can also put savings into stocks and bonds that pay regular interest and dividends. But what if you want a steady stream of income for the rest of your life, even if you live to be 110 years old (since your 401K may be long empty by then..)?

What if you just sleep better at night knowing your money is not tied to the gyrations of the stock market? If so, you might want to consider investing in annuities.

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