Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

In financial planning, the language often sounds technical, even obscure. However, understanding these terms can be a game-changer for those who seek financial stability. One such concept is the process of “annuitization,” or choosing to annuitize an annuity. This often misunderstood term plays a crucial role in shaping retirement income strategies. So, if you are interested in annuitizing an annuity or merely exploring the intricacies of annuity annuitization, you’ve come to the right place.

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Understanding Annuities

Annuities are contracts sold by insurance companies designed to provide a steady income stream during retirement. Now, to annuitize an annuity means converting your accumulated annuity contract value into periodic payments over a specified duration. This could be for several years or even the rest of your life.

Annuitize An Annuity

The Process of Annuitization

Annuitization is converting your annuity contract into a series of guaranteed periodic payments. When you choose to annuitize an annuity, you essentially solidify the contract terms, such as the duration of payments, frequency, and who the payments will continue to be after your demise, if applicable. This step, however, is irrevocable, which underlines the need to understand all aspects before annuitizing an annuity.

Example: after evaluating her financial needs, Carmen opted for lifetime payments and decided her spouse would be the beneficiary. By doing so, she completed the process of annuitizing her annuity.

Annuitization At a glance

Fixed Index
Principal ProtectionNoYesYesYesYesNo
Access To PrincipalYesYesYesNoNoYes
Tax-Deferred GrowthYesYesYesNoNoYes
Guaranteed GrowthNoYesYesNoNoNo
Guaranteed IncomeYesYesYesYesYesYes
Inflation ProtectionYesYesNoYesYesYes
Death BenefitYesYesYesYes/NoYes/NoYes
Long-Term Care HelpYesYesYesNoNoYes

Why Annuitize An Annuity?

Choosing to annuitize an annuity can offer several benefits. The foremost is a stable income stream, particularly beneficial for retirees seeking a secure financial future. For instance, an annuitized annuity can supplement Social Security income, meeting necessary expenses without undue stress.

Example: Derek was apprehensive about the uncertainty of the stock market affecting his retirement funds. He ensured a steady, predictable income by choosing to annuitize his annuity, giving him peace of mind.


Exploring Annuitization Strategies

Strategizing annuitization depends on factors such as your financial goals, risk tolerance, and the types of annuities you possess. One approach might be annuitizing a portion of your annuity contract, thereby receiving a steady income stream and maintaining a lump sum for unexpected expenses.

Example: Eva had a diverse portfolio, including a large annuity contract. After weighing her options and consulting her financial advisor, she decided to annuitize a portion of her annuity to have a steady income stream and keep a lump sum for unexpected expenses.

How Do Annuities Pay Out - Annuitization Period

Case Example

Consider Sarah, a retiree with an annuity contract worth $200,000. If she decides to annuitize her annuity, she might receive an annual payment of $10,000 for the next 20 years. However, if Sarah only annuities half of her annuity ($100,000), she might receive $5,000 annually for the next 20 years and still have the remaining $100,000 for immediate or future needs.

Annuitize Annuity

Understanding the Downsides

While annuitization offers guaranteed income, it’s not without drawbacks. The process is irreversible, which means once you’ve annuitized your annuity, you can’t access the total lump sum in the contract, even in emergencies. Also, inflation can erode the purchasing power of fixed payments over time.

Example: Frank, after annuitizing his annuity, faced a medical emergency that required a large sum of money. Unfortunately, because he had chosen to annuitize, he could not access the total value of his annuity for the expenses.

Next Steps

As with every financial decision, it’s essential to thoroughly understand the implications before you decide to annuitize an annuity. Weigh the benefits against the potential downsides, consider your situation, and ideally, consult with a financial advisor. As the definition of annuitization suggests, this decision can provide a dependable income stream, but it is also binding, making the decision significant. So, equip yourself with knowledge, make an informed choice, and navigate towards a secure financial future.

Annuitization Of Annuity Payments

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Frequently asked questions

Why should I annuitize annuity payments?

You guarantee an income stream for the rest of your life or a fixed period. Therefore, one should consider annuitization as adding an extra layer of retirement income complementing Social Security Income.

If an annuitant dies before annuitization occurs, what will the beneficiary receive?

Typically the annuity’s account value will be distributed to the designated beneficiary in a lump sum. However, with that said, a few annuity contracts will distribute the annuity’s value over a fixed period.

Can I change my mind after annuitizing?

No. The decision to annuitize the annuity is final. You can not switch your annuity payment option either. In most cases, you cannot withdraw additional funds from your annuity either. Always have additional funds that are liquid in case of an emergency.

What is the annuitization period?

The annuitization period is when an annuity distributes payments to the contract owner. The annuitization period begins once the annuity owner has received the first payment.

What happens when an annuity ends?

When an annuity ends, the outcome depends on the type of annuity and the specific terms of the contract. A life annuity will continue to make payments until the annuitant’s death. A fixed-term annuity will end when the term is up, with the remaining balance paid out in a lump sum or rolled over into another investment. A deferred annuity will typically convert to a life or annuity with a fixed payout period when it matures.

How does an annuity payout work?

An annuity payout is how an insurance company distributes income from an annuity contract to the annuitant. The type of annuity and contract terms determine the type of payout, such as immediate, deferred, life, joint life, fixed-term, or variable annuity. It’s important to understand options and choose the right type of annuity. Consulting with a financial advisor can help ensure the best decision.

If an annuitant dies before annuitization occurs, what will the beneficiary receive?

If an annuitant dies before annuitization, the beneficiary may receive a death benefit, a portion of payments, or the contract may be transferred to a designated beneficiary, depending on the type of annuity and terms of the contract.

What happens at the end of an annuity contract?

The outcome at the end of an annuity contract depends on its type: immediate payments continue for life, deferred payments start later, fixed-term payments end after a set number of years, variable payments continue while there is value in investments, life payments continue for life, joint life payments continue for both annuitant and beneficiary.

What to do when the annuity matures?

When an annuity matures, the annuitant can choose a lump sum payout or start receiving annuity payments.

Are annuity payments guaranteed?

Annuity payments can be guaranteed, but it depends on the type. For example, fixed annuities offer a guaranteed interest rate for a period. In contrast, variable annuities are linked to the performance of underlying investments and do not guarantee a specific rate of return. In addition, immediate annuities provide a guaranteed income stream for life, while deferred annuities guarantee the original investment principal.

How long are annuities?

The length of annuities can vary, depending on the type of annuity and the contract terms. Annuities can be structured as short-term or long-term investments, with terms ranging from a few years to several decades. Some annuities have a fixed term, while others provide income for the lifetime of the annuity holder.

What does it mean to annuitize a contract?

Annuitizing a contract means converting an investment or savings product into income payments. In the context of an annuity, annuitization refers to electing to receive guaranteed income payments from an insurance company for a specified period or the lifetime of the annuity holder.

What will the beneficiary receive if an annuitant dies?

The beneficiary of an annuity will receive payments from the insurance company if the annuitant (the person who owns the annuity contract) dies before the total value of the annuity has been paid out.

Related Reading

  • What is an annuity payment, exactly?

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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