What are annuities?

You can spend a lump sum of your pension pot on an annuity, which gets you a regular income for the rest of your life. Find out how.

Annuities are a way of cashing out on your pension pot. You purchase an annuity from an insurance provider to give you an income for life. We explain everything you need to know below.

Saving for your retirement can seem a little confusing – how much do you need to save? How many years do you need to be able to cover? How do you work out how much you’ll spend while retired? It doesn’t help that the state pension amount and pension age changes at least every few years.

Here, we’re going to cover annuities. These are something you usually consider when you’ve saved up your pot, but it’s worth understanding them before this, so you know what’s coming.

We all imagine that at our pension age, we get access to our pension the same way Harry Potter got access to his parents’ fortune. Unfortunately a goblin isn’t going to lead you to your vault and give you free rein of your money. You are able to get access to it from age 55, but you’ll be taxed on most of it this way.

There are several ways to get access to your money, and one of them is an annuity.

Compare pensions

Name Product Minimum investment Choose from Fee for a £50,000 pension pot Brand description
Interactive Investor Pension
Any lump sum or £25 a month
Over 3,000 funds
Annual fee: £239.88, fund fees: £50-500
interactive investor is a flat-fee platform, which makes it cost effective for larger portfolios. Capital at risk.
Moneyfarm Pension
£1,500 (initial investment)
7 funds
Moneyfarm has pensions that are matched against your risk appetite, goals and planned retirement date. Capital at risk.
AJ Bell Pension
Over 2,000 funds
Annual fee: £125, includes fund fees
AJ Bell has two different pension options, a self managed pension and one that is managed for you. Capital at risk.
PensionBee Pension
Finder Award
PensionBee Pension
No minimum
9 funds
Annual fee: £250-475, includes fund fees
Pension Bee is a newbie in the pension market. It helps consolidate your pension plans into one place. Capital at risk.
Hargreaves Lansdown Pension
£100 or £25 a month
2,500 funds
Annual fee: £225 (£200 cap if holding shares), fund fees included
Hargreaves Lansdown is the UK's biggest wealth manager. It's got three different retirement options. Capital at risk.
Saxo Markets Pension
Saxo Markets Pension
Over 11,000 funds
No annual fee
Saxo Markets gives flexibility and control over your investment strategy. Capital at risk.
No minimum
4 portfolios
Annual fee: £375-455, fund fees included
Moneybox Pension
Finder Award
Moneybox Pension
3 funds
Annual fee: £225, fund fee: £60
Manage your money with an easy-to-use Moneybox app. Capital at risk.

Compare up to 4 providers

All investing should be regarded as longer term. The value of your investments can go up and down, and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. If you’re not sure which investments are right for you, please seek out a financial adviser. Capital at risk.

What is an annuity?

An annuity is an insurance product that offers an annual income for the rest of your life in exchange for a lump sum. The insurer is hoping that it doesn’t end up paying out more than it takes from you in a lump sum, while you are hoping you live long enough to work out better off. You’re both betting against one another.

What is an annuity rate?

An annuity rate is the amount of your pension pot that the provider will pay out each year.
Say you have £250,000 saved and you get a rate of 5%, you’ll get an annual income of £12,500 every year until you die.

If the annuity provider reckons you’ll kick the bucket soon, it will offer a higher rate. If it thinks you’ve got a few extra years in you, you’ll be offered a lower rate.

We have a guide to the best annuity rates if you want to check them out.

What types of annuities are there?

There are loads of different types of annuity on the market.
Here’s a brief description of each one:


The insurer pays out a level amount each year for the remainder of your life. You tend to get a high rate with these, but inflation will reduce the spending ability of your income over time, so you won’t get as much for your money towards the end.


Escalating annuities pay out a little more each year than the previous year. You can choose for it to rise by a certain percentage or have it rise with inflation, which will be raised in line with the Retail Prices Index. These annuities cost more, but will rise with inflation.

Single life

This is the most popular type of annuity. It will only pay out to you, so if you die, that’s it. You can get joint life annuities if you want a partner who might outlive you to keep receiving payments after your death.

Joint life

This type pays you an income until you die, and then will pay out to your partner until they die. You can choose how much they receive as a percentage of what you received. You tend to get a lower starting rate for this type compared with a single life annuity as the insurance provider could end up paying more in the long run.

Guaranteed annuity

This isn’t so much a type of an annuity as it is an add-on to an existing annuity. You can have a guaranteed period on your annuity which means it will pay out for a certain number of years even if you die. So if you take one out today with a guarantee of 10 years, and a year from now you die, it would continue to pay out for an additional 9 years.

How do I choose the best type of annuity?

As with most things, this depends on you, your circumstances and your health. If you read through the different types above then one might seem to suit you more than others. As with anything to do with pensions, it’s important to get advice before you act.

You can also consider the following:

  • Do you want your income to rise with inflation?
  • Would you take a higher rate if it means your income won’t rise with inflation?
  • Do you have anyone that will depend on the payments after your death?
  • How much does the annuity cost?
  • How healthy are you? Do you smoke? Any medical conditions?

Will I be taxed on my annuity?

You’ll pay tax on your annuity in the same way that you pay tax on your income while working. If you get a state pension, the amount you receive from your annuity will be added to the state pension amount to work out your annual salary. This figure will determine how much tax you’ll pay.

Pros and cons of annuities


  • You can get a guaranteed income for life.
  • Your income can be protected from inflation and fluctuations in the stock market.
  • If you have poor health, you may be offered a higher rate.


  • If you die earlier than you originally thought, your dependents may lose out on the rest of your pension pot.
  • Annuities are irreversible. That means there’s no going back.
  • Your pension is no longer invested, so you wouldn’t benefit from a rising stock market.
We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked
Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site