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Annuity vs. Mutual Fund — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Fiza Rafique — Published on May 27, 2024
An annuity is a financial product that provides a fixed or variable income stream, typically for retirement, while a mutual fund is an investment vehicle pooling money from many investors to buy securities.
Annuity vs. Mutual Fund — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Annuity and Mutual Fund


Key Differences

An annuity, offered by insurance companies, guarantees income for a specified period or for life, making it a popular choice for retirement planning. Investors can choose between immediate annuities, providing income shortly after investment, or deferred annuities, which start paying out at a future date.
Mutual funds, managed by financial institutions, invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other securities. Investors own shares of the mutual fund, with the performance of the investments directly affecting their return. Annuities offer a sense of financial security with potential guaranteed income, while mutual funds provide the opportunity for capital appreciation and income through investments in various markets, albeit with more risk.
Annuities often have higher fees and expenses, including surrender charges and administrative fees, compared to mutual funds, which charge management and operational fees. The tax treatment also differs: annuity payments can be partially tax-free as they are considered a return of principal, whereas mutual fund earnings are subject to capital gains tax and dividends tax.
Annuities are primarily used for retirement income, offering options like fixed, variable, or indexed payments, while mutual funds are chosen for wealth accumulation and portfolio diversification, allowing for more flexibility in investment strategy and access to funds.
Choosing between an annuity and a mutual fund depends on individual financial goals, risk tolerance, and the need for guaranteed income versus the desire for investment growth and liquidity.

Comparison Chart


Financial product offering income stream.
Investment vehicle pooling money for securities.


Provide fixed or variable income for retirement.
Capital appreciation and income generation.


Guaranteed income stream.
Depends on market performance.


Higher fees, including surrender charges.
Management and operational fees.

Tax Treatment

Payments can be partially tax-free.
Earnings subject to capital gains and dividends tax.

Investment Options

Fixed, variable, or indexed annuities.
Wide range of securities, including stocks and bonds.


Lower risk with fixed annuities; higher with variable.
Varies with market conditions.


Less liquid, with penalties for early withdrawal.
Generally more liquid, with easier access to funds.


Retirement planning and income.
Wealth accumulation and portfolio diversification.

Compare with Definitions


A contract providing regular income payments.
She purchased an immediate annuity to secure a steady income post-retirement.

Mutual Fund

Pools money from investors to buy a portfolio of securities.
Their mutual fund invests in a mix of stocks and bonds for diversification.


Higher fees and surrender charges may apply.
Early withdrawal from her annuity incurred a significant surrender charge.

Mutual Fund

Offers professional management.
The mutual fund's portfolio is managed by experienced investment advisors.


Can be fixed or variable based on investment performance.
He opted for a variable annuity for the potential of higher returns.

Mutual Fund

Performance varies with market conditions.
The mutual fund's value fluctuated due to volatile stock market conditions.


Includes options for lifetime payments.
They chose a lifetime annuity to ensure financial stability throughout retirement.

Mutual Fund

Allows for regular contributions and withdrawals.
He makes monthly contributions to his mutual fund for long-term growth.


Offers tax-deferred growth.
Contributions to a deferred annuity grow tax-deferred until withdrawal.

Mutual Fund

Capital gains and dividends are taxable.
Gains from the mutual fund were subject to capital gains tax upon selling shares.


The annual payment of an allowance or income.


The right to receive this payment or the obligation to make this payment.


A right to receive amounts of money regularly over a certain fixed period, in perpetuity, or, especially, over the remaining life or lives of one or more beneficiaries.


A sum of money, payable yearly, to continue for a given number of years, for life, or forever; an annual allowance.


Income from capital investment paid in a series of regular payments;
His retirement fund was set up to be paid as an annuity

Common Curiosities

What is an annuity?

An annuity is a financial product that guarantees a steady income stream, often used for retirement planning.

What are the fees associated with mutual funds?

Mutual funds charge management fees and other operational expenses.

What is a mutual fund?

A mutual fund is an investment vehicle that pools money from many investors to purchase a diversified portfolio of securities.

Can I access my money easily from an annuity?

Annuities are less liquid, often imposing penalties for early withdrawals, unlike mutual funds which offer more flexibility in accessing funds.

How do annuities provide income?

Annuities provide income through fixed, variable, or indexed payments, based on the terms of the annuity contract.

Can I lose money in a mutual fund?

Yes, the value of a mutual fund can decrease if the investments within the fund perform poorly.

Which is safer, an annuity or a mutual fund?

Fixed annuities offer lower risk with guaranteed income, while mutual funds' risk varies with market conditions and the types of securities invested.

How do I choose between an annuity and a mutual fund?

The choice depends on your financial goals, risk tolerance, and the need for guaranteed income versus the desire for investment growth and liquidity.

Are annuity payments taxed?

Annuity payments can be partially tax-free, as they are considered a return of the principal investment.

How do mutual funds generate income?

Mutual funds generate income through dividends, interest, and capital gains from the securities within the fund's portfolio.

Are there different types of annuities?

Yes, there are several types, including fixed, variable, and indexed annuities, each offering different benefits and risks.

What are the tax benefits of annuities?

Annuities offer tax-deferred growth, meaning you don't pay taxes on the earnings until you withdraw the money.

Is a mutual fund a good option for retirement?

Mutual funds can be a good option for retirement savings, offering the potential for growth and income through diversified investments.

Can mutual funds be part of a retirement plan?

Yes, mutual funds are often included in retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs for their growth potential and diversification.

Why might someone prefer a mutual fund over an annuity?

Someone might prefer a mutual fund for its potential for higher returns, flexibility in investment choices, and easier access to funds.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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