Annuities and Retirement: How to Ensure a Lifetime Income

Have you heard the term annuity and wondered what it is or how it works? Could it be right for you? Let’s break it down simply and clearly.

What is an Annuity?

An annuity is a contract between you and a financial institution, often a life insurance company. You give them money, and in return, they promise to pay you a fixed stream of income either immediately or in the future.

There are two main phases:

  1. Accumulation Phase: You invest money in the annuity over a period of years.
  2. Annuitization Phase: You start receiving regular payments from the annuity, usually when you retire.

When to Consider an Annuity

The timing of buying an annuity is important. If interest rates are high when you purchase an annuity, your payments will be higher. This is because the financial institution can earn more by investing your money. If interest rates are low, the payments will be lower.

Good Times to Buy an Annuity:


  • When interest rates are high.
  • When you are close to retirement and want a guaranteed income.

Bad Times to Buy an Annuity:

Advantages of Annuities

Never Outlive Your Money

One of the biggest advantages of an annuity is that you’ll receive payments for the rest of your life. This means you won’t run out of money, no matter how long you live.

Ease of Use

Annuities are simple to manage. Once you set it up, you don’t have to worry about making investment decisions or dealing with market ups and downs. You just sit back and receive your monthly payment.

Disadvantages of Annuities

Loss of Control

Once you purchase an annuity, you give up control of your money. The financial institution decides how to invest it.

No Inheritance

When you die, any remaining money in the annuity typically stays with the issuer. This means there may be no inheritance left for your family.

Is an Annuity Right for You?

Annuities can be a good option if you:

  • Worry about outliving your savings.
  • Prefer a guaranteed, steady income.
  • Do not prioritize leaving an inheritance.

However, they might not be the best choice if you:

  • Want flexibility with your investments.
  • Wish to leave a financial legacy for your family.
  • Are concerned about inflation eroding your fixed payments over time.

I prefer Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) for my portfolio. David

How Annuities Work: A Deeper Look

When you buy an annuity, the issuer assesses the risk of paying you over your lifetime. They use statistical data to predict how long you might live and how much they can earn by investing your money. Their goal is to ensure they pay out less than they earn.

The Issuer’s Perspective

  • Risk Assessment: They estimate your life expectancy and add a cushion to reduce their risk.
  • Investment Returns: They predict the returns they will make from investing your money.
  • Break-even Point: They calculate how long it will take for your payouts to match their earnings on your money.

Your Perspective

  • Longevity: If you live longer than average, you get more value from your annuity.
  • Fixed Payments: While you have the security of a fixed income, inflation may reduce your spending power over time.

Types of Annuities

Immediate Annuities

  • Payments start almost immediately after you make a lump-sum investment.
  • Suitable for those who need income right away, such as recent retirees.

Deferred Annuities

  • Payments begin at a future date, allowing your investment to grow in the meantime.
  • Suitable for those who want to plan for retirement income in advance.

Fixed Annuities

  • Provide regular, guaranteed payments.
  • Payments are predictable but may not keep up with inflation.

Variable Annuities

  • Payments vary based on the performance of the investments chosen.
  • Offer potential for higher returns but come with more risk.

Indexed Annuities

  • Returns are tied to a stock market index.
  • Offer some potential for growth with less risk than variable annuities.

Practical Tips for Annuities

Shop Around

Different issuers offer different rates and terms. Compare options to find the best deal.

Understand Fees

Be aware of any fees associated with the annuity, as they can impact your overall returns.

Consider Inflation Protection

Some annuities offer options to adjust payments for inflation. This can help maintain your purchasing power over time.

Consult a Financial Advisor

A financial advisor can help you understand if an annuity fits into your overall retirement plan and which type might be best for you.


Annuities can provide a reliable source of income for life, which can be especially reassuring in retirement. However, they come with trade-offs, such as losing control over your money and the potential for no inheritance. By understanding how annuities work and considering your personal needs and goals, you can make an informed decision.

Remember, timing is crucial. Buying an annuity when interest rates are high can maximize your payments. And while the ease of use and lifetime income are significant advantages, it’s essential to weigh them against the loss of control and potential inflation impact.

Consider your health, life expectancy, and financial priorities before deciding. If an annuity aligns with your goals, it can be a valuable tool for securing your financial future.

Water BarrelThe BalanceIn my E-books (“Water Barrel” and “The Balance”) I discuss simple methods to live sensibly for today, take charge of your financial affairs, and invest safely for the long term. For more information please visit David Penna Amazon.

As always, I am not a qualified financial advisor. I just relate financial management to my own experience which may not resemble yours at all. Advice is frequently worth exactly what you paid for it. Most of mine came from expensive experiences.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Leave a comment