There are two important differences between mutual funds and annuities when they are offered under a retirement plan.
A mutual fund is a pool of securities, such as stocks and bonds, managed by an investment company.
An annuity is an insurance contract with one or more fixed-rate and variable investment options.
As for income options, annuities offer you the opportunity for lifetime income with or without guaranteed payments for a fixed time period*. Or you can decide to receive income for a certain number of years or take a cash withdrawal (depending on your plan’s provisions). Mutual funds offer systematic withdrawals.
Otherwise, mutual funds and annuities are treated very similarly when offered as part of your employer’s retirement plan.
*Guarantees are subject to the claims-paying capability of the insurer. Payments from variable accounts will fluctuate based on investment performance.