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Which is better: Cash up front or payments over time?

Use this calculator to help determine whether you are better off receiving a lump sum payment and investing it yourself or receiving equal payments over time from a third party.

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Annuities are essentially insurance policies with a twist. While life insurance pays a death benefit and protects from the risk of dying prematurely, annuities' distinction is that they can ensure a source of income for as long as a person lives; annuities protect one from the risk of outliving one's assets. The other attractive aspect of annuities is that their values grow on a tax-deferred basis. An annuity is an insurance contract and can be offered only by a licensed insurance agent.

There are two basic kinds of annuities:

  • Fixed annuities are based on both guaranteed and current interest rates that are declared. The value of a fixed annuity can never fluctuate downward.
  • Variable annuities build value based on the performance of the underlying investments in the fund, which are not guaranteed.
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Determining Your Risk Tolerance

Many investment advisors have developed questionnaires designed to help determine an investor's risk tolerance (a Web search will give you lots of examples of questionnaires you can take online). They vary from the brief to the meticulous, but they all tend to feature similar kinds of questions and attempt to place you into one of three categories based on your investment risk tolerance:

  • Conservative investors are those who put a premium on conserving their capital and are willing to accept lower returns in exchange for safety.
  • Aggressive investors seek to get the highest possible growth in value from their investments and are willing to risk suffering losses in the short term to meet their objectives.
  • Moderate investors are (surprise!) somewhere in between.
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Simple And Compound Interest

Perhaps you have heard of the miracle of compounding. Innumerable investors have used it to their advantage to make their money grow faster than would be the case with simple interest. The great thing about compounding is that it doesn't require additional work on your part: you just sit back and watch your money grow. How's that for an investment strategy?

There are two basic types of interest: simple and compound. Simple interest is the amount of interest earned on the original amount of money invested. Simple interest is paid out as it is earned and does not become part of an account's interest-bearing balance. The invested amount is called principal. Let's say you invest $100 (the principal) at a yearly interest rate of 5 percent. Multiplying the principal by the interest rate gives you an interest payment of $5. This is your simple interest. The next year and each year thereafter, you will be paid $5 of interest on the principal of $100.

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This information may help you analyze your financial needs. It is based on information and assumptions provided by you regarding your goals, expectations and financial situation. The calculations do not infer that the company assumes any fiduciary duties. The calculations provided should not be construed as financial, legal or tax advice. In addition, such information should not be relied upon as the only source of information. This information is supplied from sources we believe to be reliable but we cannot guarantee its accuracy. Hypothetical illustrations may provide historical or current performance information. Past performance does not guarantee nor indicate future results.