What is your definition of competitive returns? Annuities are not designed to compete with market returns. That being said, Fixed Indexed Annuities might, I said might be able to do that.
If you want an annuity to keep up with market gains during a long term bull market like we saw from 1982 thru 1999 you won’t, but if you are looking to keep up with a market situation like we’ve seen since 2000 it could. I said could.
Annuities are not designed to keep up with the market, but they might. Annuities should be utilized for what they will do not what they might do.
I won’t address Variable Annuities, I am not securities licensed so can’t answer that end of the equation.