What if I decide to withdraw the money?

Withdrawing money from an annuity can be a costly move, so make sure you review your plan's rules and federal law before you do.

If you make withdrawals before you reach age 59 ½ , you will be required to pay Uncle Sam a 10% early withdrawal penalty as well as regular income tax on your investment earnings. (The amount you contributed to the annuity will not be not taxed.)

If your withdrawals come within the first five to seven years that you own the annuity, you probably will owe the insurance company a surrender charge. The surrender charge is typically 7% or so of your withdrawal amount if you leave after just one year, and the fee then typically declines by one percentage point a year until it gets to zero after year seven or eight.

Beware: Some annuities have initial surrender charges that can be as high as 20%. But check your plan's rules, because some annuities allow you to withdraw up to 10% of your investment without having to pay the surrender charge.