Monday, February 4, 2008
An annuity is a contract with an insurance company whereby the purchaser pays an initial premium or premiums into a tax-deferred account, which pays out a sum at pre-determined intervals. There are two periods: the accumulation (when payments are paid into the account) and the annuitization (when the insurance company pays out). For example, a policy holder may pay £10,000, and in return receive £150 each month until he dies; or £1,000 for each of 14 years or death benefits if he dies before the full term of the annuity has elapsed. Tax penalties and insurance company surrender charges may apply to premature withdrawals (if indeed these are allowed; in most markets outside the U.S. the policy owner has no right to end the contract prematurely).