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An Annuity converts your pension fund into a pension income which will be paid to you for the rest of your life.
When you are approaching retirement, your pension provider will write to you with details about your pension fund, and how you can use your pension fund to buy an annuity.
In the past annuities were purchased from the pension provider, but more recently it has become possible to shop around and approach other annuity providers to get the best deal, known as the Open Market Option.
You can buy an annuity if you have one of the following pension types:
If you have contracted out of the additional State Pension, you must use that part of your pension fund to buy a protected rights annuity. You have the same options as with your other pension funds except that you must buy a joint-life annuity paying a 50% spouse's pension if you are married or have a civil partner.
You can start to take pension benefits from age 55, and you don't have to stop working to do this. However, with people living longer, some people are choosing to delay taking a pension income and continue working instead, thereby ensuring a larger pension income later in life. When to take an annuity is a decision based on a number of factors, primarily concerning your financial well-being for the remaining part of your life.
If you have a with-profits pension fund where you have stated an expected retirement age such as 60 or 65, you will usually only be allowed to take retirement benefits at set dates in the life of the policy, such as your selected retirement date. Some insurance companies may reduce your fund at retirement by making a market value reduction or other charge if you don't buy an annuity on this date.
The amount of pension income you get depends on a number of factors, such as:
There are different types of annuity to suit a range of circumstances. The main ones are:
Some companies specialise in offering annuities that pay a higher than normal income if you have health problems that threaten to reduce your lifespan. These are called Impaired Life Annuities, and the relevant health problems might include cancer, chronic asthma, diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis or stroke.
You may be able to get an Enhanced Annuity if you smoke regularly or are overweight. Some companies offer higher rates to people who have followed certain occupations or people who live in certain parts of the country. It is always worth checking if you may be eligible for either of these options.