A diversified portfolio is commonly agreed to be the best way to grow your money over the long term. There are exceptions to this rule, but as far as generalities go, this is right on. Every once in a while, there’s a stock that keeps multiplying over a span of years (think of companies like Apple), but these are outliers and are almost impossible to predict. Unless you are capable of telling the future, this is not a strategy that you should be using.

For those of us that are incapable of divination, we need to not only look for big gains in our investments, but we need to look at stability, too. There’s no easy way to do this as there are no guarantees in the stock market. This is why having a diversity of different investments is so important. The stock market generally goes up, and by giving yourself a wide range of choices from it, you will stand a better chance of moving your money up with the overall market.

The trick is to figure out how to do this. There are a lot of different choices when it comes to your retirement, and all of them claim to be the best. That doesn’t mean they are the best, obviously, and you don’t want to put your money into something that won’t work for you. This is your future we are talking about. Luckily, there are a lot of little things you can look at to help you grow your money safely.

Think about your goals for retirement, and the timeframe that you wish to achieve those goals within. This will help you to formulate a plan. For example, do you want your money to simply be protected from losses? Or, do you want to try to beat major indices like the S&P 500? There are a lot of little things to think about as you get ready to start planning out your retirement years.

One goal that many people shoot for is to grow their money as greatly as possible while facing as few risk factors as possible. Fixed annuities address this problem head on, especially if they award a bonus upon deposit. The average growth per year in the U.S. economy is 3%, and that is about what the average fixed annuity pays. Now, if you can get a bonus to begin things with, even if it’s just 1%, you are giving yourself a jump start. Fixed annuities give you the same amount in returns year after year, and they are agreed upon before you sign your policy. They will increase in value even if the market has an off year. These might not be right for everyone–especially those that are not planning on retiring for more than 40 years from now–but they are ideal for those that will be retiring in 10 years or less as they can smooth out your returns if the market doesn’t cooperate with you.

The longer you look into the future, the more likely you are to see that predicted 3% per year in returns. But the shorter you go, the more likely swings become. The sooner you want to retire, the more you need to protect your cash. There’s no other type of investment that can guarantee you such a high rate of return. You can put your money in a CD or a money market account, but seeing more than 1 or 2% in these is going to be a rare occurrence. If you are planning on retiring in the near future, looking to fixed annuities is going to be at least a necessary part of the planning process. Just because annuities are life insurance products does not mean that they are not a great investment tool. They allow you to reap the benefits of a diversified portfolio, but with a single guaranteed vehicle.