Are annuities safe? 

Learn what makes annuities a safe and secure option for retirement and discover alternatives for lifetime income streams.

Older couple enjoying pottery

If you’re planning for retirement, being able to retire comfortably is probably your main goal. Annuities can help ensure that you’ll have guaranteed* monthly secure income for as long as you live. Many people use this income for everyday expenses during their retirement. It can also give you confidence in knowing you’ll have what you need when you need it the most. 

Annuities provide options depending on your needs, risk appetite, and financial goals. To determine what type of annuity you should purchase, think about when you will need retirement income and whether you need retirement income now or will need it later. New York Life offers several guaranteed income annuities to match your needs. These options include lifetime income annuities that start paying right away, deferred income annuities that start paying at a future date, and fixed deferred annuities that provide both income and some access to your money. Some of these options are also eligible for dividends**.

What is the safest type of annuity?

Income annuities and fixed annuities are among the safest financial solutions available. Variable annuities, on the other hand can be volatile as they invest in equities or bonds and therefore their performance is tied to the markets.

Can you lose your money in an annuity?

You can lose money in a variable annuity. Variable annuities are investment-based retirement savings products. This means that you earn returns based on your investment portfolios’ performance. (You will be offered a choice of equity, bond, and income options to put together a portfolio, or you can choose from several model portfolios.) If these investments don’t perform well, you could lose money. Some variable annuities offer the option to invest in index-linked accounts which track the performance of an index up to a cap, with principal protection. There is a potential to lose money if you choose to allocate your money in the variable investment option sleeve of the product, but money allocated to the index-linked account has a floor that limits how much you could lose each year. You can’t lose money in a fixed annuity, fixed index annuity, or deferred income annuity. 

Two young brothers playing on the floor

What happens if an annuity provider goes bust?

Insurance companies are regulated by states, and state law requires them to maintain reserves in case the worst happens. Laws vary from state to state, so check with your agent or financial professional to find out what the legal requirements are in your state. Reinsurance and guaranty associations also help reduce risk. Insurance companies rarely fail, but should it happen, it is possible to miss payouts for a while or lose a portion of your purchase.  

It’s important to remember that any guarantees are related only to fixed annuities and are backed by the claims paying ability of the issuer. Guarantees do not apply to allocations to the investment options in a variable annuity since these allocations are subject to market risk and will fluctuate in value. 

It’s important, therefore, to make sure that you do business with an insurance company that is built to withstand financial shocks. The company’s financial strength is a key indicator. New York Life has the highest financial strength ratings currently awarded to any U.S. life insurer from all four major credit agencies A.M. Best (A++), Fitch Ratings (AAA), Moody’s Investors Service (Aaa) and Standard & Poor’s (AA+). (Ratings commentary as of 10/20/2020).

New York Life and its subsidiary New York Life Insurance and Annuity Corporation take a conservative and prudent approach to make sure we can withstand shocks of all kinds. In carefully balancing what we earn against the promises we’ve made, we have accumulated a company-record surplus. This gives us an additional cushion of support, on top of the reserves already set aside to meet our financial obligations. Plus, we regularly “stress test” our financial position against various market scenarios, so our policy owners can be confident that we are positioned to meet all of our commitments. 

Related Articles 

Want to learn more about annuities?

A New York Life financial professional can help determine what’s right for you.


Annuities contain certain fees, risks, limitations and restrictions; Please speak with a financial professional for costs and complete details.  Withdrawals may be subject to ordinary income taxes and, if made prior to age 59½, may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty; Surrender charges may also apply.

Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before purchasing a variable annuity. The prospectus contains this and other information and can be obtained from a financial professional.  Read the prospectuses carefully before you invest or send money.

*The guarantees of life insurance are based solely on the claims-paying ability of the issuer. Guarantees remain in place as long as all premiums are paid. Annuity products are issued by New York Life Insurance and Annuity Corporation and its parent company, New York Life Insurance Company, 51 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10010.  All guarantees are dependent on the claims-paying ability of the issuer. Available in jurisdictions where approved.

Variable annuities are offered by NYLIFE Securities LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC, a licensed insurance agency and New York Life company.

**Dividends are not guaranteed.

Mutual Income Annuity products are issued by New York Life Insurance Company, 51 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10010.  All guarantees are dependent on the claims-paying ability of the issuer. Available in jurisdictions where approved.  The policy form number for the New York Lifetime Mutual Income Annuity is 214-P200.  The policy form number for the New York Future Mutual Income Annuity is 215-P200.  State variations may apply.