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It's not smart to have annuities within IRAs or other retirement funds. That may or may not be the case in your situation, but that's what I assumed from reading your post. I recently talked to someone at Fidelity and asked them about this, because one of my old 401ks is a variable annuity. They told me Fidelity won't allow their customers do have an annuity within a retirement account, because you are putting a tax-deferred instrument (annuity) in a tax-deferred account (IRA or 401k, etc.). It doesn't make sense to double up on the tax-deferred status.

Trust your gut. If it doesn't smell right, it probably isn't. Look into everything carefully regarding the annuities. Don't stay in an investment just because it costs money to get out. It's more important to do the right thing, generally speaking. It might make sense for them to have annuities that are NOT housed in an IRA, but then again maybe not, depending on their situation (maybe ask someone at Vanguard?). Opening an account at Vanguard sounds like a smart move.
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