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I have a variable annuity through TIAA-CREF. That, for educators, is the only option, or used to be when I was an educator.

If I die before I start collecting, my beneficiaries will collect a good chunk o' change. If I collect, however, I have to elect the payout method. As I understand it, I may not change my mind once I do.

I am single, and I would maximize my up-front payments by choosing the 1 life, 10 year guaranteed option. But if I do that, and I get married after starting to collect, then if I keel over after 6 years, my wife only gets 4 more years of payments.

At the other extreme, if I choose a co-annuitant to whom I am not married (think of Daddy Long Legs until the closing scene of that movie) and she is 25 years or more younger than I am, I may only choose the 2 life option with 50% survivorship.

Now, the TIAA-CREF rules may be different for the general public. But, as intercst points out, you really want to make sure you understand when the money runs out with an annuity.
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