What Are The Best Annuity Payout Options

There are several different annuity payout options – the most common ones being the annuitization method, the systematic withdrawal schedule, and the lump-sum payment.

An annuity is defined as an insurance contract issued with the intention of paying out invested funds in a sequence of equal payments or disbursements in the future.

The investors fund the annuity during the accumulation phase – the first stage of an annuity – and will begin to receive payments during the annuitization phase, either for a fixed period or for the rest of his or her life.

And for most investors, annuities represent a reliable financial plan and generate a retirement income stream.

That said, there are many misconceptions regarding the annuity income options. That’s why today, we’ll be answering annuity-payouts-related questions, including:

  • How do annuities work?
  • What are the common types of annuities?
  • What are your payout options?

We’ve covered that – and more – in this guide. So, keep scrolling!

What Is An Annuity Contract & How It Works?

This contract refers to the legal agreement between you (the client) and an insurance company of your choosing that clearly stipulates the obligation of each party.

The agreement must include the details regarding the structure of the annuity – whether it is fixed or variable – any penalties for early withdrawal, designated beneficiary provisions, and more.

This contractual obligation can involve up to four people:

  • The issuer (the insurance company)
  • The owner of the annuity
  • The annuitant (usually the owner)
  • The beneficiary

How Do These Contracts Work?

It’s quite easy to understand how annuity contracts work:

Annuity contracts are with payout options, in essence, designed to ensure that you won’t outlive your savings. Through annuitization, your purchase payments (what you contribute through monthly premiums or lump-sum payments) are converted into a fixed income stream.

The annuitant’s life expectancy is used to calculate and determine the amount of benefits and timing when the payment of the guaranteed income begins – and stops.

3 Basic Types Of Annuity Payout Options

Since we’re going to be listing down the types of annuity payouts, let’s take this chance to go over the three basic types of annuities first.

Fixed Annuities

Fixed annuities offer guaranteed fixed payment for the term of the agreement, meaning they don’t go up or down. They’re a good investment if you’re considering premium protection and income for life.

They are the simplest and most straightforward type of guaranteed income flow – and a great choice for those with a lower tolerance for risk.

Variable Annuities

With this type of annuity, the insurance company allows you to freely direct your funds to the annuity payments (a.k.a. monthly payments) as well as other investment options, such as mutual funds. They don’t have a fixed interest rate and generally offer higher rewards – albeit at a risk.

We’d generally recommend a variable annuity to more experienced investors since the performance of these funds ultimately dictates growth and the payout they’ll eventually receive.

Indexed Annuities

Lastly, we have the indexed annuities – also known as equity-indexed or fixed-indexed annuities. This type of annuity combines the features of a fixed annuity with the possibility of additional investments and growth.

The interest rate can’t go below a pre-determined limit; you’re guaranteed a certain minimum return. Still, the rate is tied to the stock market index, which gets general regulatory oversight from the state commissioners.

Annuity Payments – What Are Your Options?

You have quite a few choices here – so, we’ll go through each annuity payment option together.

Single Life/Life Only

The name of this annuity pretty much explains the core principle behind it. A single-life or life-only annuity – call it what you will – pays out to only one person.

While we’re at it, it’s worth noting that this is one of two possible options for retirement payout methods, promising income for life.

You can choose between a single-life or joint-life payout. With single life payouts, the payments continue until the annuity owner’s death – then, they stop.

On the other hand, joint-life payments will be passed on to the spouse, but the income annuity will be lower because it accounts for the life expectancy of both spouses. But we’ll get to these in a moment.

Many people opt for this payout method because they’re worried about their spouse’s financial future and retirement savings. They’re making a wise decision by selecting retirement payout methods such as these; they can provide guaranteed income for life.

Period Certain – Fixed Period/Guaranteed Term

This type of annuity allows the client to choose the minimum time frame for the payments – as in, how long will payments last – and is often referred to as “income with a guaranteed period.”

If the annuitant opts for this method of payment, they are most likely to receive a higher monthly payment, as opposed to choosing the life option.

There’s a risk factor that we’d like to draw your attention to here:

Suppose that the annuitant, aged 65 and retired, opts for this payout option and chooses to receive their retirement savings over the course of 15 years. In that case, they’ll be secured until the age of 80.

If the annuitant dies at the age of 80, the annuity payment will stop, as well. However, if they’re still alive past the age of 80, this could pose a serious problem for their financial future.

Lump-Sum Payment

This method is a bit different in the sense that, instead of spreading out payments over time, you’ll get one lump sum that is paid out at once.

It’s worth noting that, while they sound tempting, lump-sum payments are usually not recommended from a tax minimization perspective. You see, this type of payout carries major tax consequences; you have to pay taxes on the entire investment-gain portion of the annuity.

Of course, it comes down to the cash value and your personal financial goals.

We’ll close the topic on lump-sums with an interesting case:

Imagine that you’re a lottery winner – and you won a total of $10 million dollars. If you decide on the single premium immediate annuity (lump-sum), you’ll have to pay income taxes – and a lot of them. But if you opt for annuity payments, you’re looking at lifetime payments of approximately $300,00 a year.

Sound better than the first choice, right?

Joint And Survivor Annuity

The joint-life annuitization option will guarantee payments to the owner of the annuity – but allows them to pass on the income to their surviving spouse. As such, it’s a popular choice among married couples.

The catch is that the payments might be lower compared to a life with a period certain or a single-life annuity – but they last longer.

You can also include a period certain for a beneficiary, meaning that the beneficiary would collect the death benefit if the surviving spouse dies prior to the end of the period, as well.

Keep in mind that you can choose a reduction in payments – 50% to 100% – for the surviving spouse; that will be done in exchange for a higher annuity payment upfront.

Systematic Annuity Withdrawal

Also called the Systematic Withdrawal Plan (SWP), it stands for a scheduled investment plan typically used during retirement planning.

Here, mutual funds help the annuitant determine the systematic withdrawal schedule, which can be realized through monthly, semi-annually, or annual installments, deciding on both the amount and the number of payments.

You should make use of SWP calculators here, though, to determine the annuity’s accumulated value and the income payments you can expect from it. That’s why setting up an SWP can take time.

Investors should also understand the possible downsides of systemic annuity withdrawals – like the issue of life expectancy and whether or not you’ll outlive your payments.

Early Withdrawal

An early withdrawal refers to withdrawing funds from the annuity prior to the designated term of the contract.

However, if you’re considering withdrawing from your annuity early, note that it typically comes with the withdrawal penalty.

The penalty’s triggered by the early withdrawal of funds from an annuity prior to the actual term of the contract – during the accumulation phase. The penalty depends on a number of factors, but generally speaking, you can expect a surrender charge.

Furthermore, an early withdrawal before the age of 59½ can trigger a 10% penalty and income tax on the funds you’ve withdrawn.

Which Annuity Payout Option Is The Best For You?

The short answer would be the life annuitization option.


First, there’s the undeniable fact that the life option provides the highest payout. Here, the monthly payment is calculated and determined on the life of the annuitant.

The “annuitizationis the process during which the annuity distributes a series of periodic payments to the annuitant.

So, in essence, the annuitization phase refers to the period during which the annuitant starts receiving an income stream of payments – after the so-called “accumulation phase.”

If you would like to pass your retirement income onto your spouse in the event of your death, then the joint-life annuitization option – where the income payments are based on the life expectancy of both spouses – is a better option.

You also have the so-called period certain annuitization, where the value of your annuity is paid out over a defined period or guaranteed term of time of your choosing.

The Pros And Cons Of Buying Annuities

Yes, buying annuities comes with some notable advantages – but there are risks worth noting, too. You must be aware of both the good and the bad sides of qualified annuities before entering this insurance contract.


  • Guaranteed payments
  • A way to supplement income
  • A long-term care planning strategy
  • No contribution limits
  • Your payments can continue after you die
  • Tax-deferred growth


  • Annuity rates can rise in the future
  • Surrender charges and tax penalties
  • Annuity expenses can add up

Annuities FAQs

We’ve managed to cover many essential features regarding annuities so far – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and call it a day. Instead, let’s go over a couple more questions that might pop up.

Q: Do Annuities Pay Dividends?

A: No. Annuities are not the same as stocks. They are either fixed ahead of time or tied to your portfolio’s performance, and they DO NOT pay dividends.

Q: Does Straight Life Annuity Continue After You Die?

A: Straight-life annuities guarantee an income stream for as long as the annuity owner is alive; they do not include a death benefit. So, the beneficiaries won’t receive payments after the annuity owner dies.

Q: What Happens When The Annuitant Passes?

A: In some cases, in the event of the annuitant’s death – and with an excess of money – the insurance company will distribute the remaining profit to the surviving spouse.

Q: When Are Deferred Annuities Paid Out?

A: The beneficiary can begin receiving payments from a deferred annuity within a year of purchasing the annuity from an insurance company. Deferred income annuities are commonly distributed during retirement, though.

Q: How much does a $100,000, $300,000 and $500,000 annuity pay per month?

A: The monthly payment from a $100,000 and and other annuity amount depends on various factors, including the type of annuity, the chosen payout option, interest rates, and the individual’s age and life expectancy. Annuities can be structured in different ways, such as fixed or variable rates, immediate or deferred payouts, and various payout options like life-only, joint and survivor, or period certain.

For a fixed immediate annuity, which provides a guaranteed income, the payout amount is determined by the insurance company based on factors like interest rates and life expectancy. Variable annuities, linked to market performance, can result in varying monthly payments based on investment returns.

To get an accurate estimate, it’s recommended to consult with an insurance or financial advisor who can consider your specific circumstances and provide personalized information based on current market conditions and available annuity options.

Q: When Are Deferred Annuities Paid Out?

A: The best way to take money out of an annuity depends on your financial needs and goals. Options include systematic withdrawals for a regular income, partial withdrawals for flexibility, annuitization for a guaranteed income, lump-sum withdrawals for immediate needs, and IRA rollovers for potential tax advantages. Some annuities also offer features like guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits. It’s essential to review your annuity contract, consider fees, tax implications, and consult with a financial advisor to determine the most suitable approach based on your individual circumstances.

Final Thoughts

There are numerous annuity payout options, including a single life, period certain, lump-sum, joint and survivor, and systematic and early withdrawal.

Our advice would be – go for the life annuitization option since it offers the highest payout and carries the least risk. But again, it depends on your goals, priorities, the amount you need each month – and how long you assume you’ll need these payments.

On that note, when entering an annuity contract – the legal agreement between you and the insurance company – the annuitant (the annuity buyer) has the freedom to choose between fixed, variable, and indexed annuities.

If you’re considering buying annuities, we can help:

Insurance Geek has partnered with more than 30 carriers offering annuities with top-notch rates. Our main goal is to help our clients get in touch with the best insurance carriers on the market.

Use our annuity rate calculator to get free quotes – and let’s get started!