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What is Annuitization: Turning Your Annuity into Guaranteed Income

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Learn how an annuity can provide guaranteed income for life.

In order to have an ample understanding of annuities, it is essential to know how your investment converts into a regular stream of income. This process, commonly referred to as the annuitization or distribution phase, is what enables annuities to pioneer the industry by securing countless financial futures. The following guide will seek to familiarize potential investors with annuitization, exploring its operation, options, and principal benefits.

Key Takeaways

  • Annuitization refers to the transition of your annuity’s funds into regular payments received in retirement.
  • There are a few payout options available, each addressing individual concerns or preferences.
  • Understanding the functioning of the annuitization phase can be key to maximizing your retirement income.

The Annuitization Phase Defined

The annuitization phase turns an annuity’s accumulated value into a series of periodic payments. It marks the end of the accumulation phase, where you fund your annuity to accrue over a specific period, and the start of distribution, in which you start receiving regular payments. These disbursements generally begin upon or during retirement, enabling you to leverage your investment to provide both financial predictability and reliability. The disbursements can last until the annuitant’s demise or even beyond (for beneficiaries). However, this will depend on the annuity type selected and the payout options chosen upon purchase.

The Annuitization Procedure Explained

When choosing to annuitize, the annuitant enters into a contractual agreement with the insurance company. The contract will generally indicate the payment amount, frequency, and duration, each a key influencer in the annuitization phase. The specifics of this contract are tailored to your financial needs, taking into account the total value of your annuity, life expectancy, and the payout plan of your choice. It is important to note that the more funds you invest into the annuity, the higher the disbursements you receive upon retiring.

Annuitization Options: Types & Distinctions

  • Life Annuity: Provides payments until the end of the annuitant’s lifetime, mitigating the risk of longevity. This option is ideal for investors desiring financial security throughout their entire retirement.

  • Joint & Survivor Annuity: Continues disbursements to a spouse or another beneficiary after the annuitant’s passing, offering financial support for loved ones even in your absence.

  • Fixed Period Annuity: Offers payouts for a specified period of time, allowing you to match income duration with more specific needs or objectives.

  • Lump-Sum Payout: A single payment of the annuity’s entire value, providing immediate access to all your funds.

Pros & Cons of Annuitization


  • Guaranteed Income: Offering a guaranteed influx of funds on a regular basis, annuitization reduces the risks associated with outliving savings and provides unparalleled financial safety.
  • Tax Benefits: The distribution of a non-qualified (after-tax funds) annuity is tax-free, although this does not include potential earnings (which are taxed), lessening the tax burden in retirement.
  • Customization Options: With various payout options available, you can adapt your annuity payments to align with your unique financial circumstances and objectives.


  • Finality of Purchase: Buying an annuity is typically an irreversible investment. The payout option, once chosen, cannot be modified, meaning careful consideration is recommended before choosing an annuitization route.
  • Inflation Risk: Without adding a rider or another form of inflation protection to your annuity, it may be possible for your purchasing power to diminish as cost-of-living increases.

Aspects to Assess Pre-Annuitization

  • Financial Prerequisites/Ambitions: Assess your income needs in retirement.

  • Life Expectancy & Health: Longer life expectancy may favor some payout options over others, such as a life annuity, for instance, which will ensure you do not outlive your savings.

  • Market Conditions: Current interest rates are likely to favor certain payout options, making the timing of your purchase all the more critical. Of course, this only applies to market-linked annuity types.

How Does Annuitization Affect Your Income Stream in Retirement?

The annuitization phase secures your retirement income, providing you with peace of mind in your golden years. Depending on the payout plan you choose, you will receive income accordingly. It is a fundamental phase in the annuity landscape, as it marks the period during which the annuitant collects returns on his initial investment.

Addressing Fallacies about Annuitization

Some investors may have certain misconceptions about the annuitization phase. The principal concern revolves around what happens to funds in the case of the annuitant’s untimely passing. It is for this reason that there are various payout options available, such as joint & survivor options, allowing fund distribution to continue to a given beneficiary.

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