When evaluating the purchase of a variable annuity, you should be aware that variable annuities are long-term investment vehicles designed for retirement purposes and will fluctuate in value; annuities have limitations; and, investing involves market risk, including possible loss of principal.
A variable annuity is a contract you buy from an insurance company. It's designed to help accumulate assets to provide income for retirement. It will fluctuate in value based on the performance of the underlying investment options. You should also know that all guarantees and protections of a variable annuity are subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. They don't apply to the investment performance or safety of the underlying investment options. Underlying subaccounts are only available as investment options in variable insurance contracts issued by life insurance companies. They are not offered directly to the general public.
You may be charged a penalty if you take your money out early, if you're not yet 59½ (additional 10% tax penalty), or both. Variable annuities have fees and charges that include mortality and expense, administrative fees, contract fees, and the expense of the underlying investment options.