What Is An Annuity?

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Embarking on the journey of understanding annuities can feel like navigating a dense financial forest. My mission, after a decade of working closely with individuals on their financial portfolios, is to clarify annuities in a way that’s meaningful, approachable, and, most importantly, beneficial for your future.

Confused About Annuities?

Are you new to annuities and unsure where to begin? Visit our Annuity Learning Lab for expert guidance and insights.

What is an Annuity?

Annuities define a contractual agreement between you and an insurance company. You make an initial investment, either through a lump sum or a series of payments, into your annuity account. The issuing insurance company, in turn, promises to make periodic payments to you immediately or at a predetermined date. These income payments are aimed to provide a reliable and steady income stream, particularly during retirement, aligning with your investment objectives and personal finance goals. To better understand this concept, looking into annuity examples can provide a more precise illustration of how these agreements operate and the benefits they may offer.

Annuities date back to the Roman Empire, making one of the oldest financial vehicles in history.

Key Takeaway: An annuity is a financial product, usually offered by insurance companies, designed to accept and grow funds from an individual and then, upon annuitization, pay out a stream of payments to the individual at a later point in time. This unique financial solution is often a critical component in retirement planning, ensuring you a steady cash flow and guaranteed income for life.

Annuities Explained

Types of Annuities:

Immediate Annuities:

An immediate annuity begins paying within one year of purchase, making it suitable for those seeking an immediate income stream. It’s like purchasing a guaranteed income, turning your after-tax money or other savings into a fixed income stream for life or a specified period.

Deferred Annuities:

Deferred annuities accumulate money for a future annuity payout, allowing account value to grow on a tax-deferred basis during the accumulation phase. Deferred annuities can be further broken down into fixed annuities, indexed annuities, and variable annuities.

  • Fixed Annuities: Provide guaranteed income with a fixed rate of interest.
  • Indexed Annuities: Earnings are tied to a stock market index, offering a combination of fixed and variable returns.
  • Variable Annuities: Have underlying investment options in mutual funds, allowing the annuity fund to grow, but with the potential of losing money due to market risk.

Key Aspects of Annuities Explained:

Account Value & Contract Value:

The account value or contract value is the worth of your annuity contract at any given time, which can grow during the accumulation phase through initial and subsequent investments, interest accrual, or market gains.

Administrative Fees:

Many annuity contracts involve administrative fees charged by the insurance company to manage the annuity, impacting the overall return on the annuity.

Claims-Paying Ability:

The ability of the insurance company to make annuity payments is based on its claims-paying ability, which is crucial to assess before buying an annuity.

Death Benefit:

Some annuities offer a death benefit feature, ensuring your beneficiaries receive a specified amount if you pass away before the annuity begins paying.

Tax Implications:

The growth of annuities is tax-deferred, meaning you don’t owe taxes on the earnings until you withdraw money. However, understanding the tax implications is essential as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has specific rules governing annuities.

Guaranteed Lifetime Income:

Annuities are a cornerstone in retirement planning as they provide guaranteed lifetime income, ensuring you won’t outlive your retirement savings.

What Does Annuity Mean

Choosing the Right Annuity:

Selecting the right annuity involves weighing your future income needs, risk tolerance, and investment objectives. It’s imperative to consult with a financial advisor who can provide insightful analysis, based on firsthand expertise and a depth of knowledge, about various annuity providers, mutual fund companies, and the respective annuity contracts they offer.

Consideration before Purchasing Annuities:

Before you purchase annuities, assess your retirement goals, the amount of money invested, and the retirement income you’ll need. Scrutinize the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company, and the administrative fees involved, as these are significant factors in determining the viability and value of an annuity contract for your retirement planning.

Annuities Define


An annuity can be a cornerstone in achieving your retirement goals, offering a stable and reliable income for life. It’s a financial vehicle that turns your investment into guaranteed periodic payments, aiding in creating a secure post-retirement life. While annuities’ meaning may seem entangled in complex financial terminology, understanding their structure, types, and benefits is crucial for informed financial decision-making.

By delving into the world of annuities, exploring immediate and deferred annuities, and understanding the inherent features and benefits of each, you empower yourself to make educated decisions that align with your financial aspirations and retirement needs. Every aspect, from the accumulation phase account value to the final annuity payout and the eventual guaranteed lifetime income, plays a pivotal role in shaping your financial future.

In navigating this, remember, it’s not just about the technicalities but about finding what suits your life, your needs, and your hopes for the future. Therefore, engage with a financial advisor (like The Annuity Expert), understand your retirement annuities, and choose the path that leads you to a secure and fulfilling financial future.

Remember, in the realm of personal finance and investment, knowledge is not just power; it’s peace of mind, security, and, ultimately, freedom. And that’s what understanding annuities brings to the table – a pathway to financial freedom and a fulfilling, worry-free retirement.

What Is An Annuity

Request A Quote

Get help from a licensed financial professional. This service is free of charge.

Contact Us

Frequently Asked Questions

How do annuities work after retirement?

After retirement, annuities work by providing a steady income stream to the annuitant, typically every month. This income can be derived from investments made during the annuity’s accumulation phase and can be fixed, variable, or indexed, depending on the annuity type.

Are annuities a good idea for retirees?

Annuities can be a good idea for retirees seeking a stable, guaranteed income stream, as they offer financial security and peace of mind. However, individual needs, risk tolerance, and the annuity contract terms should be carefully considered before purchasing.

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. 

Scroll to Top