What is Equity-indexed Annuity?

Legal Definition
An indexed annuity (the word equity previously tied to indexed annuities has been removed to help prevent the assumption of stock market vesting being present in these products) in the United States is a type of tax-deferred annuity whose credited interest is linked to an equity index — typically the S&P 500 or international index. It guarantees a minimum interest rate (typically between 1% and 3%) if held to the end of the surrender term and protects against a loss of principal. An equity index annuity is a contract with an insurance or annuity company. The returns may be higher than fixed instruments such as CDs, money market accounts, and bonds but not as high as market returns. Equity Index Annuities are insured by each State's Guarantee Fund; coverage is not as strong as the insurance provided by the FDIC. For example, in California the fund will cover "80% not to exceed $250,000." The guarantees in the contract are backed by the relative strength of the insurer.

The contracts may be suitable for a portion of the asset portfolio for those who want to avoid risk and are in retirement or nearing retirement age. The objective of purchasing an equity index annuity is to realize greater gains than those provided by CDs, money markets or bonds, while still protecting principal. The long term ability of Equity Index Annuities to beat the returns of other fixed instruments is a matter of debate.

Indexed annuities represent about 30% of all fixed annuity sales in 2006 according to the Advantage Group.

Equity-indexed annuities may also be referred to as fixed indexed annuities or simple indexed annuities. The mechanics of equity-indexed annuities are often complex and the returns can vary greatly depending on the month and year the annuity is purchased. Like many other types of annuities, equity-indexed annuities usually carry a surrender charge for early withdrawal. These "surrender periods" range between 3 and 16 years; typically, about ten.

See Indexed annuity
-- Wikipedia