The History of Annuities: A Guide to Understanding Their Origins

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Annuities have a long and fascinating history, with roots that date back to ancient Rome. These financial products have evolved over the centuries and are now widely used by individuals seeking a reliable source of income in retirement. This guide will look at annuities’ history, and how they have developed into the financial products we know today.

Ancient Rome: The Birthplace of Annuities

The concept of annuities can be traced back to ancient Rome, where they were used as a form of insurance for government employees. In those early days, annuities were a simple concept: the government would pay an individual a fixed amount of money in exchange for a lump sum payment. This provided the individual with a source of income for the rest of their life and the government with a guaranteed source of funds.

The Middle Ages: The Expansion of Annuities

In the Middle Ages, annuities were expanded to include private individuals. During this time, wealthy individuals would use annuities to provide for their families in the event of their death. These annuities were structured similarly to those used by the government in ancient Rome, with a lump sum payment made in exchange for a fixed income stream.

The Renaissance: The Development of Complex Annuity Structures

During the Renaissance, annuities became increasingly complex, with different structures being developed to meet the needs of different individuals. One of the most notable developments of this period was the introduction of joint annuities, which provided a source of income for two individuals rather than just one. This type of annuity benefited married couples, allowing both partners to benefit from the income stream.

The Modern Era: The Growth of Annuities as a Popular Investment Option

In recent years, annuities have become a popular investment option for individuals seeking a reliable source of income in retirement. With the insurance industry’s growth, annuities are now widely available and offer various fixed, variable, and indexed options. These modern annuities offer a range of benefits, including tax-deferred growth, a guaranteed income stream, and protection against inflation.


Annuities have a rich and fascinating history, with roots that date back to ancient Rome. Over the centuries, annuities have evolved into the popular financial products they are today. So whether you’re seeking a reliable source of income in retirement or simply looking to diversify your investment portfolio, annuities are an option worth considering.

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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