When Does a Joint or Survivor Annuity Start?

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Every financial decision we make affects our lives and those of our loved ones. And when it comes to long-term financial stability and peace of mind, understanding joint and survivor annuities is crucial. Let’s journey together through this article, where I’ll break down the essentials for you, ensuring that you’re confident in understanding when a joint or survivor annuity starts by the end.

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The Concept Behind Joint and Survivor Annuities

This type of annuity is designed to continue payments for as long as either one of the two annuitants remains alive. Often chosen by couples, it ensures that the surviving partner continues to receive financial support.

Example: Let’s revisit Mary and John. Should Mary pass away first, John will continue to receive payments, and vice versa.

Variations in the Payout Structure

Different joint and survivor annuities can offer varying percentages to the surviving spouse. Common options include 50%, 75%, or 100% of the original payment amount.

Example: If Mary and John chose a 75% option, and Mary passed away, John would receive 75% of the monthly amount they were initially receiving together.

When Does a Joint or Survivor Annuity Start?

The starting date of your joint or survivor annuity can vary based on your contract’s specifics. Generally, annuities start disbursing immediately after purchase (immediate annuity) or at a predetermined future date (deferred annuity).

Example: If Mary and John opt for an immediate annuity, they will start receiving payments almost immediately after their purchase. On the other hand, with a deferred annuity, they might begin receiving payouts when they both turn 65.

Factors Influencing the Start Date

  • Initial Investment: A larger upfront payment might allow for immediate payouts.
  • Duration of Payouts: Choosing longer durations can sometimes delay the start.
  • Contractual Stipulations: Some contracts may have specific start and end dates.

Example: Mary and John want a steady income from age 65 to 90. Their annuity provider offers them a deferred annuity starting on Mary’s 65th birthday.

Why Timing Matters

Strategically determining the start date of your annuity can have long-term benefits. An earlier start might offer financial relief sooner, while a delayed one could provide larger payouts in the future.

Example: Mary and John, knowing they have sufficient savings to last them until age 70, might opt for a deferred annuity starting at 70, ensuring they receive a heftier monthly amount than if they’d started at 65.

Next Steps

The decision surrounding “when does a joint or survivor annuity start?” is as unique as the individual (or couple) making it. By understanding the basics of annuities, the specific dynamics of joint and survivor annuities, and the factors influencing the start date, you position yourself to make informed choices that suit your needs. And remember, like any financial decision, it’s always wise to consult with a financial advisor who can provide personalized advice based on your circumstances.

When Does A Joint Or Survivor Annuity Start

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the disadvantage of a joint or survivor annuity?

A key disadvantage of a joint and survivor annuity is the typically lower monthly payout than a single-life annuity. This is because payments are designed to continue for the lifetimes of both annuitants, spreading the risk for the insurer.

Do you pay taxes on a survivor annuity?

Yes, survivor annuities are generally considered taxable income. The recipient must usually pay federal income tax on the payments received. However, some portions may be tax-free if the deceased contributed after-tax money. Consult a tax advisor for personalized guidance.

What happens to a joint annuity in a divorce?

In a divorce, the fate of a joint annuity varies by jurisdiction and the terms of the annuity contract. Options might include splitting it into two separate annuities, liquidating and dividing the assets, or allowing one party to buy out the other’s share. Legal and tax implications are usually involved.

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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