More people burst into banks and shout "This is a stick-up!" than come in asking for a variable annuity. That's all the more reason for bank advisors to initiate conversations about these often-misunderstood insurance/investment hybrids with their clients. VAs don't sell themselves.

At a time when near-retirees see few answers to their financial dilemmas-stalled or shrunken portfolios, laughably low risk-free returns and a sideways stock market-variable annuities (and their latest riders) may contain the solutions they want.

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