How Does An Annuity Work

How Does An Annuity Work

How does an annuity work? An annuity is a financial product issued and backed by an insurance company that guarantees monthly income payments for the life of the contract, regardless of market conditions. An annuity plan typically involves the insurer and the individual seeking the plan, known as an annuitant. The individual seeking the plan pays the insurer a premium through a lump sum or ongoing instalments. The idea is that the insurer converts the premium into future regular payments to the individual as defined in their binding contract.

Annuities are an excellent choice for people planning for retirement and want to ensure a continuous source of income during their retirement years. Annuities can provide a consistent income stream in retirement, but depending on the annuity, you may not get your money's value if you die too young. Unlike mutual funds and other investments, annuities can have hefty fees. As a result, if you want a dependable source of retirement income, you should consider purchasing an annuity.

Related: Everything you need to know about retirement plans

How Does An Annuity Work? : Types of Annuities

Annuities are classified into different types based on various criteria. There are several types of annuities, but I have focused on the most popular ones in this section of the article. The most common way of classifying an annuity is based on when periodic payments should start. How does an annuity work under this classification criteria? Basically, two types of annuities fall under this group, a deferred annuity and an immediate annuity.

Immediate Annuity


When individuals often ask, "How does an annuity work?" they really want to understand the different types of annuities that exist and how they work. We shall start by exploring immediate annuities. As the name implies, an immediate annuity begins making periodic payments to the annuitant soon after receiving the lump sum. Because the periodic payments must begin immediately under an instant annuity, it appears that the initial payment should always be a lump sum. Payments are usually made within a month following purchase. Annuitants can also choose how frequently they want to be paid, known as a "mode." The most popular payment choice is monthly, but quarterly or annual instalments are also options.

People frequently purchase immediate payment annuities to augment other sources of retirement income, such as pension plans, for the remainder of their life. It is also possible to purchase an immediate payment annuity, which provides income for a set amount of time, such as four or eight years. Because of its nature, immediate annuities need a lump sum payment and are not an option for persons who do not have huge sums of money to deposit this lump sum. Annuitants who die too soon may not obtain their money's worth, whereas those who live a long time may come ahead.

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Deferred Annuity

There is a waiting period before income payments begin with a deferred annuity. Because a deferred annuity requires a waiting period before the annuitant begins receiving regular payments, they can be paid in a lump sum or periodic instalments. As a result, a deferred annuity is a more flexible investment than an immediate annuity. Deferred annuities allow for tax-deferred growth, which allows the investment to grow without being taxed annually. This means the annuitant can spread his payments out over a few years in preparation for retirement without worrying about taxes.

When the annuitant finally receives income payments, the money becomes subject to income tax. However, many people anticipate being in a lower tax band after retirement than they were throughout their working years; thus, taxes will be more lenient. As a result of deferring taxation on their annuity proceeds, they anticipate payment at a reduced rate. A deferred annuity contract might contain the provision of a death benefit so that if the annuitant dies before receiving the full value of their investment, the money can be transferred to their beneficiary.

Annuities can also be classified based on the periodic payments made to the annuitant. There are two types of annuities under this classification as well namely fixed annuities and variable annuities. How does an annuity work under this classification criteria?

Fixed Annuities

A fixed annuity is a financial contract that guarantees a certain rate of return, such as 4%, and provides an income stream in retirement. With a set interest rate, you know how much your annuity will grow and how much income it will pay out ahead of time. This consistency makes some people feel more confident in the security of their retirement plans. A fixed annuity, like other annuities, can guarantee that you will receive regular income payments beginning in retirement and continuing for a predetermined amount of time or the rest of your life. A fixed annuity provides a guaranteed fixed rate of return, tax-deferred growth, and the option to leave your money to a specified beneficiary in the case of your untimely death. It is important to note that an annuity can be fixed and still qualify as a deferred or immediate annuity.

How Does An Annuity Work? : Variable Annuities



Variable annuities allow you to invest in multiple underlying portfolios, such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, influencing periodic payments. In contrast to a fixed annuity, variable annuity payouts fluctuate based on the performance of an underlying sub-account portfolio. Sub-accounts' values might rise or fall over time depending on market performance. Variable annuities are considered high-risk investments due to their nature, but they also can potentially deliver substantial profits. Variable annuities provide tax-deferred growth as well as death benefit protection. Both deferred and immediate annuities can be grouped under variable annuities.

In addition to these annuities, annuitants can choose how frequently they want to be paid, known as a "mode." The most popular payment choice is monthly, but quarterly or annual instalments are also available.

All the people asking, "How does an annuity work?" are probably considering getting one in the future. In this section, I have pointed out why someone would want to consider an annuity as an investment plan. The most common reasons why people buy annuities are as follows:

  • It is a sure way to make a lifetime income.
  • The advantage of a tax-deferred growth
  • Protects one from outspending their savings after retirement

When people ask, "How does an annuity work?" they are often also interested in which of these annuities earns the annuitant more money between a fixed and a variable annuity. The truth is that it is not foreseeable. While variable annuities have a higher earning potential, they can lose money because their interest rate fluctuates with their underlying investments. They are also rife with fees, which can eat away at profits. Fixed annuities often earn at a lower, more consistent rate. When selecting an annuity, carefully consider all of your options.

How does an annuity work

How Does An Annuity Work? : Annuity Riders

An annuity can be tailored to your specific needs, such as how long you expect to live when you want your payments to begin, and if you want to leave your income stream to a beneficiary after your death. These customized additions are annuity riders and often come at an extra cost. Annuity riders are also a key concern for people wondering what the answer to "How does an annuity work?". In this section, I have addressed annuity riders to benefit everyone who would like other toppings to their annuity ice cream.

An annuity rider provision can be added to your contract to ensure it meets your financial needs. The more riders you add to your contract, the higher the cost of your annuity. The two basic types of annuity income riders are guaranteed minimum living and guaranteed minimum death benefits.

The idea behind annuity riders is that whilst there are several types of annuities to cater to the needs of different clients, there is always a loophole. Annuities are not puzzle pieces that will fit perfectly into the needs of the annuitants; therefore, annuity riders come in to patch up this loophole. With an annuity rider, the annuitant can add other things specific to their individual requirements. For example, you want your annuity to be paid depending on your monthly bills. The higher your bills are, the higher the monthly payment. For example, other choices might provide additional income if you need long-term health care.

Many of these riders intend to mitigate some disadvantages of owning an annuity. However, they increase the complexity and cost. When selecting annuity riders, exercise caution because the expense of adding these features can be large and recurrent and will most likely limit the income you receive from your annuity in retirement.

Disadvantages of Annuities

Just like any other form of investment, annuities come with their own risks. I have pointed out the most common risks involved with annuities below:

  • Annuities are frequently associated with hefty fees as compared to alternative investments.
  • A death benefit to beneficiaries is frequently not included in the contract but is added as an annuity rider at a cost.
  • Not all annuities provide inflation-adjusted payments.
  • Annuities have limited liquidity.


Annuities are an excellent approach to securing financial security in retirement. However, depending on your financial circumstances, risk tolerance, and financial objectives, one form of annuity may better fit you than the other. The ability to customize to unique needs is an inclusion principle that significantly guarantees customer satisfaction. This implies that, unlike other investment plans, you can get exactly what you want in a plan. Such features are what people are after when they ask the question, "How does an annuity work?"

Related: 8 tips for an early retirement

Tiffany Maruva
This article was written by Tiffany a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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