Straight Life Annuity

A straight life annuity is an annuity that pays a guaranteed stream of income but ceases payments upon the death of the annuity holder. Straight life annuities do not include a death benefit, so payments can’t be made to a beneficiary. Because the payouts will be shorter in duration, they offer the highest periodic payments.

Kim Borwick, Financial Editor for
  • Written By
    Kim Borwick

    Kim Borwick

    Financial Editor

    Kim Borwick is a writer and editor who studies financial literacy and retirement annuities. She has extensive experience with editing educational content and financial topics for

    Read More
  • Edited By
    Emily Miller
    Emily Miller, Managing Editor for

    Emily Miller

    Managing Editor

    Managing editor Emily Miller is an award-winning journalist with more than 10 years of experience as a researcher, writer and editor. Throughout her professional career, Emily has covered education, government, health care, crime and breaking news for media organizations in Florida, Washington, D.C. and Texas. She joined the team in 2016.

    Read More
  • Financially Reviewed By
    Rubina K. Hossain, CFP®
    Rubina K. Hossain

    Rubina K. Hossain, CFP®

    Certified Financial Planner™ Professional

    Certified Financial Planner Rubina K. Hossain is chair of the CFP Board's Council of Examinations and past president of the Financial Planning Association. She specializes in preparing and presenting sound holistic financial plans to ensure her clients achieve their goals.

    Read More
  • Updated: April 26, 2023
  • 3 min read time
  • This page features 3 Cited Research Articles
Fact Checked
Fact Checked partners with outside experts to ensure we are providing accurate financial content.

These reviewers are industry leaders and professional writers who regularly contribute to reputable publications such as the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Our expert reviewers review our articles and recommend changes to ensure we are upholding our high standards for accuracy and professionalism.

Our expert reviewers hold advanced degrees and certifications and have years of experience with personal finances, retirement planning and investments.

Cite Us
How to Cite's Article

APA Borwick, K. (2023, April 26). Straight Life Annuity. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from

MLA Borwick, Kim. "Straight Life Annuity.", 26 Apr 2023,

Chicago Borwick, Kim. "Straight Life Annuity." Last modified April 26, 2023.

Why Trust
Why You Can Trust has provided reliable, accurate financial information to consumers since 2013. We adhere to ethical journalism practices, including presenting honest, unbiased information that follows Associated Press style guidelines and reporting facts from reliable, attributed sources. Our objective is to deliver the most comprehensive explanation of annuities and financial literacy topics using plain, straightforward language.

Our Partnerships, Vision and Goals

We pride ourselves on partnering with professionals like those from Senior Market Sales (SMS) — a market leader with over 30 years of experience in the insurance industry — who offer personalized retirement solutions for consumers across the country. Our relationships with partners including SMS and Insuractive, the company’s consumer-facing branch, allow us to facilitate the sale of annuities and other retirement-oriented financial products to consumers who are looking to purchase safe and reliable solutions to fill gaps in their retirement income. We are compensated when we produce legitimate inquiries, and that compensation helps make an even stronger resource for our audience. We may also, at times, sell lead data to partners in our network in order to best connect consumers to the information they request. Readers are in no way obligated to use our partners’ services to access the free resources on carefully selects partners who share a common goal of educating consumers and helping them select the most appropriate product for their unique financial and lifestyle goals. Our network of advisors will never recommend products that are not right for the consumer, nor will Additionally, operates independently of its partners and has complete editorial control over the information we publish.

Our vision is to provide users with the highest quality information possible about their financial options and empower them to make informed decisions based on their unique needs.

Single retirees with no heirs stand to gain the most from a straight life annuity. These annuities guarantee payments for the rest of the annuity holder’s life, and the payouts are higher because the annuity doesn’t have to continue paying income to a surviving spouse or other dependent.

What Is a Straight Life Annuity?

Annuities can be structured to accommodate a variety of payout schedules. Straight life annuities, also called single life annuities or life only annuities, are contracts that guarantee a stream of income for the lifetime of only one person — the annuity owner.

They do not provide income to surviving spouses or additional annuitants when the annuity owner dies. The high monthly payouts and lack of a legacy or sustained income stream makes this annuity uniquely suitable for a single person who has no intention of providing financially for others after he or she dies.

As part of a holistic financial strategy and diverse portfolio, a single life annuity may benefit married people or retirees with alternative sources of income and other assets to leave to beneficiaries. Retirees who have begun their estate planning may find that a single life annuity can fill a gap left by other investments and retirement savings accounts.

When Does a Straight Life Annuity Benefit Married Couples?

Married people generally opt for an annuity structured in such a way that it can continue to provide income to the surviving spouse after the annuity holder dies.

It may make sense, however, for a married person to buy a straight life annuity if his or her spouse has another income stream. This allows the annuity holder to maximize retirement income without worrying about leaving a surviving spouse with nothing to live on.

Alternative Annuity Payout Options

As with every other feature of an annuity, payouts can be structured to suit your needs. If your objective is to provide income for your spouse upon your death or leave financial assets to a beneficiary, you’ll be better off purchasing an annuity with a different payout structure.

Annuity payout options include:

  • Life Annuity with Period Certain (Fixed Period/Guaranteed Term)
  • Joint and Survivor Annuity
  • Lump-Sum Payment
  • Systematic Annuity Withdrawal
  • Early Withdrawal

None of these options is inherently better than the others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, payout decisions are not only about monetary value. The type of payout you select should align with your long-term goals and retirement lifestyle.

Joint and Survivor Annuities

One way to solve for the problem of leaving a surviving spouse without an income after you die is to purchase a joint and survivor annuity. Unlike straight life annuities, joint and survivor annuities guarantee payments for the life of the contract owner and the life of one other person.

Because these payments last longer — beyond the death of the first annuitant — payments are slightly lower. You can also establish a payout schedule that distributes slightly larger amounts while both annuitants are still alive and then reduces the amount of income the surviving spouse receives by 25 to 50 percent.

Period Certain

Period certain annuities have a predetermined duration of payments. This option makes sense for older retirees or people in poor health because period certain annuities protect them against losing the majority of their premium in the event that they die soon after their purchase.

Contrary to the terms of a single life annuity, which state that the cash value goes to the insurer, if the annuity holder of a period certain annuity dies before the end of the term, benefits will continue to a designated beneficiary for the remainder of the time period.


Connect With a Financial Advisor Instantly

Our free tool can help you find an advisor who serves your needs. Get matched with a financial advisor who fits your unique criteria. Once you’ve been matched, consult for free with no obligation.

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making financial decisions.
Last Modified: April 26, 2023

3 Cited Research Articles writers adhere to strict sourcing guidelines and use only credible sources of information, including authoritative financial publications, academic organizations, peer-reviewed journals, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports, court records and interviews with qualified experts. You can read more about our commitment to accuracy, fairness and transparency in our editorial guidelines.

  1. Consumer Reports. (2014, March). Your best pension payout options. Retrieved from
  2. Rampton, J. (2022, January 17). What Is a Single Life Annuity? Retrieved from
  3. Wiatrowski, W. (2016, June 17). You’re getting a pension: What are your payment options? Retrieved from