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How to Live a Minimalistic Life to Achieve Financial Freedom

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Our goal is to help you achieve financial freedom, and that doesn’t just mean we will help you properly manage and earn more money, we will help you change your attitude towards it. A great way to see life, in general, is through the minimalistic lens. It helps us understand what should truly be valued.

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Minimalism is to most of us a necessity. According to CNN, 76% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, and since popular culture tells us money is the answer to most of our problems, these Americans will live their lives going after it. Some people work 60 hours a week, live on what little time they have left while trying to manage anxiety, stress, loneliness and depression – so that they can buy what they believe will make their lives better.

As bestselling author Bryant H. McGill puts it:

“The folly of endless consumerism sends us on a wild goose-chase for happiness through materialism. “

When most think about minimalism they imagine people who live on as a little as possible in order to save every cent they get their hands on – this isn’t even close to the truth. Minimalism is, according to pioneers Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fills Millburn, about making room for more of what we truly need. It’s about getting rid of materialism to have time and energy to enjoy our health, our relationships, and our experiences.

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Since minimalism is all about making room for more, minimalists attempt to keep only what adds value, and get rid of everything that doesn’t. Most people fill up their houses with things they cherish, but for some reason, never really use. These aren’t adding value, as they are literally just aging in the corner. What adds value depends on your lifestyle: to some it might be a large house and a nice car, while to others it might be a good phone and great kitchenware. It’s up to you to determine what adds value to your life.

Here you can learn from what minimalistic pioneers had to say at Ted Talks:

Adopting minimalism to achieve financial freedom

So how can you start living a minimalistic lifestyle to have time for yourself and those you love, and more money in the bank? The transition isn’t easy, as popular culture tells us materialism is the norm, but on the other side of the road – financial freedom awaits.

Step #1: Start budgeting

Before adopting a minimalistic lifestyle, you need to be in charge of your finances; it’s important to know where your money is going and how you can use it wisely. To do so, you need to set up a budget: we’ve written a step-by-step guide on how to do it. Check it out here.

Step #2: Ask yourself: how might your life be better with less?

The answer to this question will help you understand the benefits of minimalism. It will help you simplify your life and allow you to have time for what you find important. Think about how you can do more with less. The answer could revolve around making your life better with less time spent working, and more time spent exercising or reading, for example, as investing in yourself is always a great idea.

Approx. 90% of rich individuals read educational articles or books more than 30 minutes a day while only 2% of poor individuals do the same.

The principle of living with less should apply to material possessions as well. Examine your possessions, and keep only what truly adds value and sell everything that doesn’t. The money you get can be deposited into your savings account or be used to invest with.

Remember: the goal is to make room for more of what’s important to you. Your health, your family, your friends, and your freedom should be your priorities, and every decision must be geared towards having more time (and money) to invest in your priorities.

Step #3: Take up challenges

Have you ever heard of Project 333? It’s a minimalistic fashion challenge that invites you to use only 33 items or less for 3 months. The challenge will help you be more sustainable and better understand the principles of minimalism by allowing you to determine why you like certain pieces, and why they add value to your wardrobe. Most members on Hacked.com are males, but the same challenge could be applied to us (and it would probably be easier for us!)

A year into the challenge, a participant felt more analytical about new purchases, more versatile, and started to prefer quality over quantity. Here’s what she had to say about her experience:

If you aren’t comfortable starting off with a fashion-related challenge, then we suggest you go with the 30-day challenge. In it, you essentially invite a family member of a friend to join you on your journey and both pick one month. On the first day, both get rid of one thing; on the second, two things, and so forth. Anything goes in this challenge, so you are free to pick any type of items you’d like, as long as you are comfortable and believe you are getting rid of clutter.

To get rid of your stuff, have a yard sale or list your items on an online marketplace like eBay or Craigslist. You will be surprised at how much money you had sitting idle around at home.

Step #3: Question every purchase

Now that you only have what you need, it’s important to keep it that way. Every time you consider making a purchase, think it through and attempt to see how it will fit into your lifestyle. You should question your purchases even when at the check-out counter. Before stepping in line look at your item for 10 seconds and think about the value it will bring: Does it add true value?

You should always consider the long-term benefit of every purchase. Keep in mind that not purchasing anything will mean more disposable income you can use to save or invest.

Step #4: Give back

Embracing minimalism, at first, will help you see how much time and money you were wasting on things that didn’t add any value. You’ll be thankful for the free time, disposable income, and freedom you are going to get but, soon enough, you will get used to it. So how can you keep feeling grateful and maintain inspiration?

Giving back is the answer. Helping those in need is going to help you see how lucky you are even to be able to consider minimalism. It will empower you and help you avoid unnecessary items, and let you see how important and rare financial freedom truly is. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

What are your thoughts on minimalism?

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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  1. sambkf

    April 23, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Good reminder ! Works for physical object for sure. But what about the 100 thousands pictures we store ?
    A good topic to cover: How to emotionally let go of losses and get over things lost for ever to the arcanes of the akashic record.

    • Edward Talliot

      April 23, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      Good input. I think that pictures could be saved digitally, and then you can have the one that gives you value in your apartment. The main idea with this article is more material things like having the latest TV or the latest garment.

  2. Gabriel

    April 30, 2017 at 2:47 am

    Great article. I agree with the issue about pictures, haha.
    I often take too many pictures and never have time to process them, and all these duplicates or similar pictures make it hard to fully enjoy the good pictures. I guess some amount decluttering needs to happen there too.

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Financial Freedom

Considerations For Choosing An Immediate Annuity

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When it comes time to retire, one method for receiving income from your savings is to purchase an immediate annuity. The purpose of an immediate annuity is to provide a regular payment over a certain period of time or over the investor’s lifetime.

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An immediate annuity can preserve a minimum level of income that you cannot outlive. Allocating a portion of your retirement money to an option that will provide income for life can make sense for many retirees.

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So how does an investor decide what immediate annuity to purchase?

The scenarios discussed in this article apply in the United States. Readers are encouraged to consult their accountants about tax considerations related to buying annuities.

It’s also important to consider that when earnings from an annuity are withdrawn, they will be taxed as ordinary income, no matter how long the owner has owned the account.

Different Types Of Immediate Annuities

Steve Vernon, a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, writing for CBS News’ “Money Watch,” noted that immediate annuities can be fixed, inflation adjusted and variable and guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit (GLWB). GLWB combines the features of traditional annuities and systematic withdrawals.

Once you purchase a fixed or inflation adjusted immediate annuity, your payout is locked in, Vernon noted. Your payments will not be adjusted based on changes in capital markets.

The monthly payout on a variable annuity, by contrast, will change based on the annuity’s stock and bond portfolio. The owner can modify the portfolio even after they start receiving payments. Vernon recommends keeping the stock allocation between one third and two thirds.

When shopping for GMWB annuities, Vernon recommends annuities with management fees around 50 basis points or lower, and insurance fees round 100 basis points.

Vernon encourages people to use online annuity purchase services like www.immediateannuities.com and Income Solutions and Immediateannuities.com to compare different immediate annuities.

Immediate Fixed Annuity Considerations

Steve Goldberg, an investment adviser writing in Kiplinger, thinks of an immediate fixed annuity as term life insurance in reverse, the longer you live, the better you do.

The insurance company pools the premiums from thousands of its annuities and invests them primarily in bonds. The company also makes educated guesses about how long its annuity buyers will live. It then makes monthly payments to policyholders each month based upon both expected longevity and expected investment returns.

In today’s low-interest-rate environment, that’s much better than an investor can do in all but the riskiest bonds, according to Goldberg. It’s also likely better than an investor can do if he put all his money into stocks.

But there is a catch: With an annuity, you don’t get your money back, unless the buyer opts for what’s known as a “certain period annuity” or similar option. Additional features, however, usually bring additional costs.

Goldberg believes immediate fixed annuities usually make sense only for retirees. The older the retiree, the fewer years the insurance company will have to pay the benefits – so the bigger the monthly checks.

Immediate annuities seldom make sense for all of an investor’s money, Goldberg notes.

Like Vernon, Goldberg suggests going to ImmediateAnnuities.com to compare different immediate annuities. Plug in the state you live in, your age and your gender, and the website provides quotes from numerous companies.

How Immediate Annuities Are Bought

There are three typical ways to purchase immediate annuities, according to Rich White, a financial writer writing in Investopedia.

One method is the annuitization of a tax-deferred annuity. The purpose of a tax-deferred annuity, unlike an immediate annuity, is to build funds to create an income stream at a later date. Most tax-deferred annuities permit the account to be converted at some point in time to a guaranteed income stream.

Another method is the lump sum payment, in which the investor’s funds are transferred to an insurance company to purchase a revenue stream. Oftentimes, the investor is using cash from a retirement plan distribution, lottery winnings or an award from a personal injury settlement.

A third method is the terminal funding of a retirement plan. Some retirement plans offer annuity payouts. The plan in this case terminates its liability to the participant by transferring the participant’s funds to an insurance company. When retirement plans “pay out” in this manner, a “qualified immediate” annuity of offered for tax efficiency.

These choices all present options. The owner of a tax-deferred annuity who wants to annuitize is not limited to the payout offered by the insurance company, White notes. The policyholder can shop payouts offered by competing companies and conduct a tax-free transfer to the company offering the best terms. This is known as a Section 1035 exchange.

If a retirement plan offers a particular insurance company for terminal funding, the policyholder can shop for others and select the plan they find most suitable.

An annuity payout over a fixed number of years that is purchased with a single sum can be converted to an annual interest rate equivalent, White noted.

If, for example, the policyholder is quoted an annuity of $600 per month for 20 years in exchange for paying a premium of $10,000, an annuity rate calculator will find this payout converts to an annual interest rate of 3.96%. This rate can then be compared to other fixed-period annuity payouts, perhaps over longer or shorter periods, and also to rates available on bonds, money market funds or CDs.

For a lifetime annuity payout, there is no fixed period to evaluate. Death could occur at any time, and the payments would discontinue. White recommends a good starting point is to use the annuitant’s life expectancy as the payout period.

If a 67-year-old female is offered a lifetime payment of $600 per month for a $100,000 premium, her life expectancy would be 17.67 years, based on the 2007 Period Life Table published by the Social Security Administration.

Immediate Annuity Payout Options

One payout option for immediate annuities is income for a guaranteed period, which is also called “certain period annuity,” according to CNN Money, as noted in a previous article on annuities’ role in financial planning. This guarantees a specific payment for a specific time period. If the owner dies before the period ends, their beneficiary receives the remainder of the payments.

Another option is lifetime payments that guarantee a payout for the owner as long as they are alive, but there is no survivor benefit. The payouts can be variable or fixed, depending on the type of annuity selected. The amount of the payout depends on the amount invested and the owner’s life expectancy.

Still another payout option is life with a guaranteed period certain benefit, also known as “life with certain period.” The owner receives a guaranteed payout for life along with a period certain phase. If the owner dies during the certain period, the beneficiary continues to receive the payment for the remainder of that period.

Joint and survivor annuity is one in which the beneficiary continues receiving payments for the rest of their life after the owner dies.

Do Your Homework

It is important to buy an annuity from a company that holds a top credit rating from the three leading agencies of U.S. insurance companies: A.M. Best, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

The considerations for shopping for an immediate annuity are extensive. Investors must spend their time comparing options. Many retirees will find it worth their time to work with a financial adviser.

Those who seek the assistance of an insurance agent must keep in mind that insurance agents are paid commissions by the insurance companies offering the annuities. Investors have the option of working with a non-commissioned financial adviser.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Annuities Versus Mutual Funds: What’s Best For Retirement Planning?

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An annuity, a long-term contract between a buyer and an insurance company that allows the accumulation of funds on a tax-deferred basis for later payout in the form of a guaranteed income, can be part of a retirement plan, as discussed in last month’s article, “Do Annuities Have A Role In Retirement Planning?

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However, it is important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of owning an annuity against other investment options for retirement, such as mutual funds.

Before investing, one should compare the annuity fee structure with regular no-load mutual funds. No-load mutual funds levy no sales commission or surrender charge and impose average annual expenses of less than 0.5% for index funds or around 1.5% for actively managed funds.

It’s also important to consider that earnings from an annuity will be taxed as ordinary income when the earnings are withdrawn, no matter how long the policyholder has owned the account.

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The scenarios discussed in this article apply in the United States. Readers are encouraged to consult their accountants about tax considerations related to buying annuities.

Annuities’ Advantages

Annuities do have some important advantages over other investments in retirement planning. Payouts can be guaranteed for life, regardless of how much the account actually earns, and they often include a guaranteed death benefit.

Income from stocks and mutual funds is not guaranteed, and there is no death benefit.

With mutual funds, the investor pays in an amount that is invested in a number of stocks, bonds, or a mixture of both, to create a stream of retirement income from stock dividends and bond interest.

While mutual funds use investment diversity to limit market risk, this is not a guarantee, according to Howard Kaye of Howard Kaye Insurance. Earnings can fluctuate significantly, and it is possible that no dividends or earnings will be paid out, especially if the principal is reduced.

Annuities have other advantages as well.

Unlike investments in tax-deferred retirement accounts, there is no limit on the amount that can be invested tax-deferred in an annuity, unless it is held inside a tax-deferred account, such as an IRA or a 401(k).

Variable annuities offer the opportunity to earn more than the guaranteed payment, depending on the performance of the investments. A variable annuity is essentially a mutual fund inside of a tax-deferred insurance policy, according to Trust Point, a Wisconsin based wealth management firm. Investments are made within mutual funds or mutual-fund-type accounts offered by the particular annuity, and the earnings grow tax deferred until they’re withdrawn.

Variable annuity investors can also switch from one investment to another within the annuity’s menu of choices without paying taxes. A mutual fund investor cannot switch among taxable mutual funds. Hence, annuity investors have more flexibility in adjusting their portfolios.

Annuities’ Disadvantages

Annuities are not without their disadvantages, however.

The earnings from an annuity, when withdrawn, are subject to the ordinary income tax rate, which for many is higher than the long-term capital gains rate that one incurs in owning a mutual fund, according to Daniel Kurt, writing in Investopedia.

If you buy a qualified annuity – that is, one you purchase with pretax dollars – you’ll have to pay ordinary income taxes on 100% of the disbursements you receive, Kurt noted. With a non-qualified annuity, some of the payment is considered a tax-free return of principal; only the earnings portion is subject to tax.

Stock dividends, by contrast, will be taxed at the capital gains rate rather than as ordinary income.

Trust Point offers the example of someone in a high-ticket tax bracket, who pays 39.6% on gains when they withdraw their money from their variable annuity, instead of the lower 15% or 20% long-term capital gains rates. This will be true regardless of whether the withdrawn dollars are a result of income dividends or capital gains distributions.

In addition, variable annuities can hit the policyholders’ heirs with a big unexpected income tax bill. If a $25,000 investment grows to $100,000 over the years and the policyholder dies, their heirs will owe income taxes on $75,000. If the policyholder is in a lower tax bracket than their heirs, it might make sense for a retiree to take distributions before death if there are no surrender charges.

In contrast, if they owned taxable mutual funds or other securities, the heirs would not have to pay taxes on the $75,000 in gains because taxable mutual funds enjoy a “stepped-up” basis at death for tax purposes, Trust Point noted.

The tax treatment of annuities is one reason why Kurt encourages people to buy as much income protection as needed – that is, expenses minus whatever they receive from Social Security or a pension. That way, you can invest the rest of your assets in an account that benefits from the capital gains rate.

The income guarantees of variable annuities add an expense that can clip the total return earned by the variable annuity investor, according to Trust Point.

As with mutual funds, payments from variable annuities fluctuate up or down depending on the performance of the underlying investments.

Fixed Indexed Annuities

Another choice investors have is the fixed indexed annuity. These annuities use financial indexes as a benchmark for earnings. The funds in the annuity are not directly invested in the stock market. Instead, the earnings are based on the earnings within an index, such as S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, etc.

(A fixed indexed annuity should not be confused with a fixed annuity, which provides a fixed amount every month for the rest of the annuitant’s life.)

While fixed indexed annuities use stock market indexes as benchmarks for earnings, the investor’s funds are not directly invested in the stock market. Instead, the earnings are based on the earnings within an index.

Like variable annuities, fixed index annuities have both advantages and disadvantages compared to mutual funds and other investments.

While they offer a market-risk-free opportunity, fixed indexed annuities aren’t as liquid as cash, noted Kaye of Howard Kay Insurance.

They are, however, more liquid than most CDs or bonds, Kaye noted. In fact, nearly all offer “free withdrawals” every year. Once the surrender period is over, all of the funds are fully liquid.

Should the policy holder die during the annuity period, it’s possible that there won’t be much left for heirs. Such products are best suited for someone looking to supplement income and already has an estate plan in place for their heirs.

The decision of whether to invest in a variable annuity, fixed indexed annuity or a taxable mutual fund will depend on individual factors such as age, expected lifetime, the reason for the investment, liquidity needs, fees, estate plan and the overall portfolio.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Do Annuities Have A Role In Retirement Planning?

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Annuities are contracts issued by insurance companies that have some tax advantages. They are often used in retirement planning because they can provide an income stream after generating earnings on a tax-deferred basis.

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Bob MacDonald, founder of LifeUSA, writing in Forbes, defines an annuity as a long-term contract between a buyer and an insurance company that allows the accumulation of funds on a tax-deferred basis for later payout in the form of a guaranteed income, the core strength being the safety the guarantees. MacDonald believes annuities have a place in a retirement plan.

There are many types of annuities. This article will describe the main types of annuities and the ways they can be used in retirement planning.

The scenarios discussed in this article apply in the United States. Readers are encouraged to consult their accountants about tax considerations related to buying annuities.

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CNN Money encourages people to consider an annuity after they have maxed out other tax-advantaged retirement investment vehicles, such as IRAs and 401(k) plans. If a person has additional money to set aside for retirement, an annuity’s tax-free growth can be beneficial, especially if the investor is in a high-income tax bracket.

Annuities have drawbacks, CNN Money notes. The money cannot be withdrawn for a period of time without incurring a penalty fee and taxation. Typically, if the owner makes a withdrawal within the first five to seven years after buying the contract, they will have to pay a surrender charge of up to 7% or more on the withdrawn amount. Annuities sometimes charge other fees as well.

Immediate And Deferred Annuities

There are two basic types of annuities: immediate and deferred.

The purpose of an immediate annuity is to provide income for the owner right after buying the annuity. People typically buy an immediate annuity as a way to have a guaranteed income.

The purpose of a deferred annuity is to grow the funds to provide future income. Deferred annuities can be converted to immediate ones when the owner wants to begin collecting their payments.

Annuities have different payout options.

One option is income for a guaranteed period, which is also called “certain period annuity,” according to CNN Money. This guarantees a specific payment for a specific time period. If the owner dies before the period ends, the beneficiary receives the remainder of the payments.

Another option is lifetime payments that guarantee a payout for the owner as long as they are alive, but there is no survivor benefit. The payouts can be variable or fixed, depending on the type of annuity. The amount of the payout depends on the amount invested and the owner’s life expectancy.

Still another payout option is life with a guaranteed period certain benefit, also known as “life with certain period.” The owner receives a guaranteed payout for life along with a period certain phase. If the owner dies during the certain period, the beneficiary continues to receive the payment for the remainder of that period.

Joint and survivor annuity is one in which the beneficiary continues receiving payments for the rest of their life after the owner dies.

The primary factors taken into account in the calculation of annuity payments are the current dollar value of the account, the age of the owner, the expected future inflation adjusted returns from the assets in the account, and the annuitant’s life expectancy based on industry standard life expectancy tables, according to Investopedia.

Surrendering Annuities

An annuity can be surrendered. If the owner surrenders their annuity before a specific time period, there will likely be a surrender fee. The surrender charge usually declines by one percentage point per year after the annuity is purchased until it disappears completely, usually after seven or eight years.

It is possible to exchange an existing annuity for a new one. These are known as 1035 swaps under the IRS code in the U.S., according to CNN Money. There are no taxes incurred when exchanging one annuity for another. However, when exchanging an old annuity for a new one, the owner begins a new surrender period.

In addition, the spousal provisions in the annuity contract are also considered.

Fixed And Variable Annuities

Annuities are usually either fixed or variable.

A fixed annuity offers an assured amount of payment over the payment term or the annuitant’s life and carries little risk. The annuitant usually receives a fixed amount of money every month for the rest of their life. However, the price for removing risk is limiting growth opportunity. Should financial markets have a bull market, the annuitant misses out on these additional gains.

Variable annuities, on the other hand, allow the annuitant to participate in the potential appreciation of their assets while still drawing an income from their annuity. With a variable annuity, the insurance company typically guarantees a minimum income called a guaranteed income benefit option and offers an excess payment amount that fluctuates based on the performance of the annuity’s investments.

Variable annuities can provide a balance between guaranteed retirement income and continued growth exposure, according to Investopedia.

Variable annuities usually have management fees. The ongoing investment management and other fees oftentimes amount to 2% to 3% a year.

The fee structures can be complex. Insurance agents and others who sell annuities often tout the positive features and downplay the drawbacks, making it important for the purchaser to carefully review the annuity before buying.

Not all annuities have high fees, however. “Direct sold annuities” that are not sold by insurance agents do not charge a sales commission or a surrender charge, according to CNN Money. Companies offering “direct sold annuities” include Schwab, Fidelity, Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, Ameritas Life and TIAA-CREF.

Before investing, one should compare the annuity fee structure with regular no-load mutual funds. No-load mutual funds levy no sales commission or surrender charge and impose average annual expenses of less than 0.5% for index funds or around 1.5% for actively managed funds.

It’s also important to consider that earnings from an annuity will be taxed as ordinary income when the earnings are withdrawn, no matter how long the owner has owned the account.

For some investors, it is critical to secure a risk-free income for their retirement. Other investors are less concerned about fixed income than about continuing to enjoy the capital gains of their funds. These needs determine it is better to choose a fixed or variable annuity.

The factors in deciding between an annuity and a mutual fund will be addressed in a future article.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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