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Annuities have, for many years, been the subject of considerable debate among financial planners, insurance agents, financial journalists and academics. While some of this discussion is dispassionate, a surprising amount of it is not. Much of what is written on the subject — especially by those opposed to annuities — is outright polemic. The debate has become, for many, a feud — as if one must either be for annuities or against them.

This is both unfortunate and absurd. It is unfortunate because the tone and level of discussion regarding the appropriateness and value of annuities in financial planning often sinks to the point of mere diatribe, in which the search for genuine understanding is abandoned for the sake of making one’s case. In that sort of debate, as in war, the first casualty is truth. It is absurd because it rests upon an absurd premise — that an annuity, which is simply a financial tool, can be, in and of itself, inherently good or bad.

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