Walter Updegrave has a great article out about how the SEC should force annuities to disclose all their fees in plain language, not the billion page prospectus they send and expect you to totally ignore. Anyway, a great part of the article is when he writes about the four types of fees associated with an annuity. By understanding these keywords and the fact they exist, you can have something to key in on when you do scan the prospectus (maybe even search through it online):
Insurance charges, also listed as mortality and expense fee (M&E fee), is the first and they claim it’s for insurance features. In actuality, the fee is for sales commissions and paying the marketing costs.
Investment option specific fees are those fees associated with the investment option you select within the annuity.
Rider specific fees are those that you pay to add features to your annuity, like the promise of a future income stream or that heirs get back as much as you put in.
Surrender fees are paid whenever you withdraw your money.
Keep an eye out!