Generally seen as a very conservative investment, an annuity is a contract with an insurance company whereby a payment is made to the insurance company in exchange for the promise of the future steady flow of payments to be made to the annuitant for the rest of their life.
An annuity is a long-term investment with growth potential, tax deferral and protection against the risk of outliving income or assets.
Annuities can be set up with a single premium (with immediate or deferred payout), or with multiple premium payments and a future payout. The growth within the annuity may be based on a fixed interest rate (with no risk of loss), or based on the change in an equity based index (such as the S&P 500) which can result in growth but cannot decline in value. A third option (not recommended here) is a variable annuity where the internal value is based on market gains and losses, and thus can decline in value.
Payouts from an annuity may be: for lifetime; for a specific number of years; for lifetime with a certain minimum number of years; for the lifetime of the annuitant with payments continuing to the spouse.
Some carriers offer annuities with Long-Term Care features.
Annuities come in a variety of formats and it is always best to consult with an insurance professional who can help determine the type of annuity that will best serve your purpose.