A recent article that I read compared fixed annuities with bonds, posing the question, “Which is better for retirement?” (The author used the phrase “fixed annuities” to mean “income annuities.”)

While I agree with sentiments in the article, it deals with a false equivalence.

Bonds are investments. Income annuities are income insurance.

Bonds don’t care who buys them. Income insurance payouts depend on your age, your gender, your spousal protection, your beneficiary protection, your payment pattern and when you want income to start.

What they do have in common is that their safety can be judged based on their security. So pay special attention to who issues them and what their track record is.

Another article I read, this one in USA Today, explored how much money you actually need to fund retirement.

There was an impressive list of contributors to this article, but in my opinion, it was asking the wrong question.

The right one is: “How much retirement income will your retirement funds guarantee?”

It’s not based on models or guesstimates. It’s a hard number.

While you may not like the results, it may, in fact, encourage you to save more, delay retirement, reduce the amounts to your kids, etc.

Maybe it’s just me, but I like to make my plans based on hard numbers, where I can measure the planning steps I can take.