Terry Turner, Financial writer for Annuity.org
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APA Turner, T. (2022, March 3). Retirement Annuity. Annuity.org. Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://www.annuity.org/annuities/retirement/

MLA Turner, Terry. "Retirement Annuity." Annuity.org, 3 Mar 2022, https://www.annuity.org/annuities/retirement/.

Chicago Turner, Terry. "Retirement Annuity." Annuity.org. Last modified March 3, 2022. https://www.annuity.org/annuities/retirement/.

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A retirement annuity is an option for Americans looking to ensure a secure and stable income stream when they retire. Annuities have become an increasingly popular retirement planning resource as pension plans have become more and more rare in the private sector.

Just 25 percent of baby boomers believe they will have enough money in retirement. A retirement annuity can offer you peace of mind by providing a steady income stream throughout your retirement years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 15 percent of private industry workers had access to any kind of employer-provided pension, known as a defined benefit plan, as of March 2020. Pensions, like retirement annuities, guarantee a steady income after retirement.

At the same time, workers are being provided more options to save money for their retirements. Just over two-thirds — 67 percent — of private sector employees had access to employer-provided retirement plans such as 401(k) plans, in 2020.

But retirement plans provide only savings — they do not provide guaranteed retirement income. That is where a retirement annuity comes into play as an invaluable aspect of your overall retirement plan.

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What Is a Retirement Annuity and How Does It Work?

A retirement annuity is an insurance contract that allows you to set aside money to pay yourself an income in retirement. The income is paid out on a schedule — usually monthly, quarterly or annually — giving you the peace of mind that you have a steady income stream to rely upon during your golden years.

The money you use to purchase a retirement annuity is called the premium. You typically purchase a retirement annuity years before retirement and pay the premium either with a lump-sum payment or with a series of payments over time.

There are three primary types of retirement annuities: fixed, variable and indexed.

Fixed vs. Variable vs. Fixed Indexed Annuities
Fixed Annuities
A fixed annuity provides a fixed amount of return, or income, over a specific number of years or over your lifetime. With a fixed annuity, you will know ahead of time how much return to expect when the payments start.
Variable Annuities
A variable annuity offers more opportunities to grow your money in the annuity before you retire, but also comes with more risk. You are able to select subaccounts — a variety of stocks and bonds — in which to invest your premium. Your eventual payout is based upon how well your investments in the market perform, and therefore, is less predictable than the return of a fixed annuity.
Fixed Indexed Annuities
A fixed indexed annuity offers growth, safety and enough access to allow annual withdrawals. This type of annuity is tied to a stock index, such as the S&P 500. Index-linked interest, along with tax deferral, help your money grow. And if the index performs poorly, an index annuity retains its values and loses nothing.

How Does a Retirement Annuity Pay Out?

Retirement annuities generate income based on the way they pay out. There are two types of payouts available with a retirement annuity: immediate or deferred. The names reflect when the payout begins.

Immediate Annuities

Some buyers choose to put a portion of their savings toward an immediate annuity as a lump-sum payment right before they retire. Immediate annuities require an upfront, one-time premium.

Once you’ve paid the premium, the payout begins in monthly installments. Usually the payout begins in less than a year depending on the terms of your annuity.

This option is best suited for people close to retirement age looking to use a portion of their nest egg to ensure steady payments throughout retirement.

Deferred Annuities

Deferred annuities, on the other hand, can be built over several years. You pay your premium — often in smaller payments over time — but don’t start collecting your payout until some point in the future after you retire. This allows your money to grow, either as interest if you have a fixed or fixed indexed annuity or with stock and bond market gains if you have a variable annuity.

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Why Is a Retirement Annuity Important?

The decimation of pensions has left most of a huge generation facing retirement feeling unequipped and unprepared. In fact, research by the Insured Retirement Institute shows that just 25 percent of baby boomers believe they will have enough money in retirement.

“Americans are living longer and face a variety of risks in retirement,” Michael Finke, a research fellow and dean and chief academic officer of the American College of Financial Services, said in a 2018 news release announcing the Protected Lifetime Income Index research initiative.

Most retirees today rely on withdrawals from their retirement savings — IRAs, 401(k) plans or similar defined contribution plans — to pay for expenses in retirement, according to Finke.

“If they had an annuity to accompany their savings and investments, [retirees] could always count on a source of guaranteed monthly income, which would reduce the risk of running out of money. And annuities are a solution that can provide that protected income for life,” Finke said.

In fact, various studies have found that retirees with guaranteed income in addition to Social Security are more likely to report being happy.

"Annuities are a solution that can provide that protected income for life."
Dr. Michael Finke, American College of Financial Services

Additional guaranteed income — on top of Social Security — is highly valuable to 71 percent of Americans, according to a 2020 survey by market research firm Greenwald & Associates and CANNEX, which supports the exchange of pricing information for annuity and bank products.

Graph of Respondents Who Believe Guaranteed Income Is a Valuable Supplement to Social Security

The online survey questioned 1,000 people between 55 and 75 years old with $100,000 or more in household assets. The survey was completed just as the COVID-19 pandemic was rattling global markets following a 10-year bull market.

“A black swan event, COVID-19, has upended lives, the economy, and financial markets in ways that are likely to drive demand for guaranteed lifetime income in retirement,” Tamiko Toland, head of annuity research at CANNEX, said.

Chris Magnussen, licensed insurance agent, explains how Annuity.org can help you with the purchase of an annuity.

How Can You Use Retirement Annuity Income?

People use income from their retirement annuities in several different ways. How you choose to use it should reflect your retirement goals and needs.

Ways to Use Retirement Annuity Income
Pay for Retirement Goals
You can budget your retirement annuity income toward hobbies, travel and other costs associated with any retirement goals you have planned.
Cover Fixed Expenses
Coupled with Social Security, annuity income can be used to cover fixed expenses — rent, mortgage, utilities — that you had used your paycheck to cover before retirement.
Reduce Your Urge to Splurge
Building a retirement budget around a stream of income — annuity payouts and Social Security — keeps you from overspending.

The overarching advantage of retirement annuity income in these circumstances is that it can be used to protect your retirement savings for other expenses that inevitably pop up.

Where Does an Annuity Fit Into Your Retirement Plan?

A retirement annuity can be a key part of your overall retirement strategy. It can be coupled with other more traditional financial tools of retirement planning — IRAs, 401(k) plans, life insurance, etc. — to create a well-rounded retirement plan.

An annuity can also be a form of paycheck replacement during retirement. The payout provides a steady, scheduled income that you will keep receiving for as long as you live.

You can think of a retirement annuity as the mirror image of traditional life insurance policies. Life insurance provides protection for your loved ones in the event of your premature death. Annuities provide income for you, insuring you against outliving your retirement savings.

By buying an annuity, you can diversify your retirement portfolio, giving you more financial flexibility in retirement.

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making financial decisions.
Last Modified: March 3, 2022

9 Cited Research Articles

Annuity.org 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. Alliance for Lifetime Income. (2018, October 4). Tens of Millions of Americans Lack Protected Lifetime Income for Retirement; New Research Reveals Looming Retirement Income Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/10/04/1601231/0/en/Tens-of-Millions-of-Americans-Lack-Protected-Lifetime-Income-for-Retirement-New-Research-Reveals-Looming-Retirement-Income-Crisis.html
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018, June 4). Lump sums are most common payment option for participants in defined contribution retirement plans. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/lump-sums-are-most-common-payment-option-for-participants-in-defined-contribution-retirement-plans.htm
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, March 1). 67 percent of private industry workers had access to retirement plans in 2020. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2021/67-percent-of-private-industry-workers-had-access-to-retirement-plans-in-2020.htm
  4. Greenwald & Associates, CANNEX. (2020, June). Guaranteed Lifetime Income Study 2020 (GLIS); Why Retirement Income Planning Matters: Advisors, Consumers Did Not See Coronavirus Crash Coming. Retrieved from https://www.cannex.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/060920-GLIS-Release-2020-Final.pdf
  5. Greenwald & Associates, CANNEX. (2020, June). The Top 10 Key Findings: A Study Summary of the Sixth Annual Guaranteed Lifetime Income Study (GLIS). Retrieved from https://www.cannex.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/GLIS-2020-Top-10-Key-Findings.pdf
  6. Insured Retirement Institute. (2018, April 10). As They Near Retirement, Baby Boomers Remain Unprepared. Retrieved from
  7. https://www.myirionline.org/research/research-detail-view/boomer-expectations-for-retirement-2018
  8. Updegrave, W. (2015, October 26). Want A Happier Retirement? Consider Buying Guaranteed Income. Retrieved from https://realdealretirement.com/want-a-happier-retirement-consider-buying-guaranteed-income/
  9. Wiles, R. (2018, June 28). Should you invest in a retirement annuity? 4 key points to consider. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/columnist/2018/06/28/retirement-should-you-invest-annuity-key-points-consider/717241002/