Group Annuity Contract

A group annuity contract is an annuity that’s purchased by a company on behalf of its employees. Many employers include annuities as part of a retirement benefits package to offer their employees a guaranteed stream of income once they stop working.

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  • Written By
    Jennifer Schell, CAS®

    Jennifer Schell, CAS®

    Financial Writer, Certified Annuity Specialist®

    Jennifer Schell is a professional writer focused on demystifying annuities and other financial topics including banking, financial advising and insurance. She is proud to be a member of the National Association for Fixed Annuities (NAFA) as well as the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA).

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  • Edited By
    Savannah Pittle
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    Savannah Pittle

    Senior Financial Editor

    Savannah Pittle is an accomplished writer, editor and content marketer. She joined as a financial editor in 2021 and uses her passion for educating readers on complex topics to guide visitors toward the path of financial literacy.

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

    Rubina K. Hossain, CFP®

    Client Advisor for MEIRA

    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.

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  • Updated: November 10, 2023
  • 5 min read time
  • This page features 9 Cited Research Articles

What Is a Group Annuity Contract?

A group annuity contract is similar to an individual annuity in that it is designed to offer guaranteed retirement income based on the growth of an initial premium. In the case of a group annuity, the contract itself is held by an employer rather than by the individual who will receive the annuity payments.

Group annuities were initially created as a way to help companies meet the obligations of retired employees who were receiving pensions. The first group annuity contract in the United States was issued by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife) in 1921. Before long, employers all over the country were purchasing group annuities to provide for their employees. By 1955, group annuity contract sales totaled over $900 million.

Guaranteed income contracts like group annuities have become even more popular in recent years in the American workforce. The 2021 Lifetime Income Survey from the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America found that over 70% of workers “would choose to work for, or stay with, a company that offers access to guaranteed lifetime income in retirement over one that does not.”

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How Group Annuity Contracts Work

Employers purchase group annuity contracts from insurance companies as part of the retirement benefits package they offer to employees. The premium for the contract, which is the initial amount of money used to purchase the annuity, is invested in the annuity when the employee begins receiving their retirement benefits.

Throughout the employee’s working years, the annuity is in its accumulation phase. During this time, the value of the annuity will grow at a fixed or variable rate depending on the type of annuity.

Once the employee reaches retirement age, the value of the annuity contract is converted into a stream of income payments. Depending on the terms of their employer’s contract, the employee can opt to receive income payments for the rest of their life and may also be eligible to choose spousal benefits for their partner.

Variable Group Annuities

Many group annuity contracts are a type known as fixed deferred group annuities. This means that the annuity contract earns interest during its accumulation phase based on a fixed rate before converting the value of the annuity into guaranteed lifetime income payments.

Some insurance companies also offer types of annuity contracts called variable group annuities. With these annuities, the contract’s value is tied to a portfolio of investments such as mutual funds. Variable group annuities are often included in retirement plans you get from a public agency, such as 457(b) or 401(a) retirement plans.

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Companies That Offer Group Annuity Contracts

Many companies who provide annuity contracts for individuals also offer group annuity contracts for employers. About 80% of the market share of group annuities is held by the 10 biggest providers.

Top 10 Group Annuity Providers by Direct Premiums Written in 2021

Rank Annuity Provider Direct Premiums Written
1 Athene Holding Ltd. $14,087,614
2 Voya Financial Inc. $12,202,203
3 Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA) $8,240,648
4 Prudential Financial Inc. $5,529,524
5 Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company $5,090,377
6 Lincoln National Corporation $4,575,216
7 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual) $4,546,503
8 OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc. $4,261,194
9 MetLife Inc. $3,889,131
10 American International Group Inc. (AIG) $3,395,245
Source: Insurance Information Institute

In the last few years, a few companies that formerly sold group annuity policies have withdrawn or sold these business lines. The companies include John Hancock Life Insurance Company, which halted all its annuity operations in 2012, and Great American Life Insurance Company, which sold its annuity business to MassMutual in 2021.

Deciding if a Group Annuity Is Right for You

If your employer offers an annuity contract as an option for your retirement benefits, you’ll likely have a choice when it comes time to use those benefits. You can either choose to receive your retirement savings in a lump sum or as a stream of annuity payments.

To understand which option is best for you, here are some things to think about:

Benefits and Risks

There are some benefits to receiving your retirement savings as an annuity. Annuities provide guaranteed income that you can’t outlive. A recent report from MetLife found that 96% of retirees receiving annuities felt that their budget was more predictable, and 95% reported feeling more financially secure.

However, certain circumstances might make an annuity less than ideal. For example, if you have a serious illness, annuity payments may not provide enough money to cover medical bills.

Other Factors to Consider

The question of whether you should receive annuity payments depends on your overall financial situation. When deciding how to receive your retirement benefits, you should consider what other income sources you’ll have in retirement, such as Social Security benefits or pensions from other employers.

You may also want to estimate how much money you’ll need in retirement, how much you have saved in other accounts such as an individual retirement account or savings account, and any debt that you owe. Taking a big-picture look at your finances can help you make the right choice. It’s also worth noting the tax implications of the annuity versus the lump sum option.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Group Annuity Contracts

What’s the difference between a group annuity and an individual annuity?

The difference between a group annuity and an individual annuity is that the group annuity is held in an employer’s name rather than in an individual’s name.

What happens when a group annuity member retires?

In most cases, when a member of a group annuity retires, they will have a choice as to how they receive their payments. The choices will vary based on the terms of their employer’s contract.

Who is the contract holder under a group annuity?

Under a group annuity, the contract holder is the employer who purchases the annuity to fund retirement benefits for their employees.

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making financial decisions.
Last Modified: November 10, 2023
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