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An annuity is a financial product that offers a stream of payments in exchange for an initial investment. It functions as a retirement planning tool, designed to provide a steady income stream to the investor, typically after retirement.

Here’s how it works in relation to IRAs:

  1. Investment Phase: An individual invests money into the annuity, either through a lump sum payment or a series of payments. This investment can be made with pre-tax dollars if the annuity is held within a traditional IRA, or with post-tax dollars in the case of a Roth IRA.
  2. Accumulation Phase: The funds in the annuity grow on a tax-deferred basis. This means that any gains or interest earned on the investment are not taxed until they are withdrawn.
  3. Distribution Phase: Upon reaching retirement or a specified date, the annuity starts making regular payments to the individual. These payments can be set up in various ways, such as for a guaranteed period (e.g., 20 years), for the lifetime of the individual, or for the joint lifetimes of the individual and their spouse.
  4. Tax Treatment: The tax treatment of the withdrawals depends on the type of IRA. For traditional IRAs, the payments are typically taxed as ordinary income since the contributions were made with pre-tax dollars. For Roth IRAs, the payments are generally tax-free, as contributions were made with after-tax dollars.

Annuities within IRAs can provide a predictable income, which can be reassuring for retirees who want to ensure they have a steady cash flow throughout their retirement years. However, it’s important to consider the fees associated with annuities, the financial stability of the annuity provider, and whether the investment aligns with your overall retirement strategy.