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I appreciated this most thorough explanation of annuities, but still have some questions.

As a school employee, a 401k isn't avaialable to me, but a 403(b) is, which to my understanding is similar to a 401k. On the other hand, the term "tax-sheltered (or deferred) annuity" seems to be used somewhat interchanagbly when talking about a 403(b). Maximizing a 401k is emphasized, but a variable annuity isn't. To my understanding I can't invest directly in stocks through my 403(b) (though I do in my IRA), so I have no choice but to invest in mutual funds. And since I can only invest $2000/yr in an IRA, doesn't it make sense to invest in a 403(b)/TSA so that I can invest $10,000/yr tax-deferred, as opposed to investing that money directly in stocks that I will have to pay taxes on?

I know this reply is somewhat stream-of-consciousness. Any help/answers greatly appreciated.
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