Is It A Good Idea To Invest In Retirement Annuities In 2024?

Retirement annuities are crucial when it comes time to step away from work permanently. They signify the transition from earning […]

retirement annuities

Retirement annuities are crucial when it comes time to step away from work permanently. They signify the transition from earning a salary to relying on pension income.

Having a retirement annuity can provide financial stability during retirement, though they do come with both advantages and disadvantages.

Despite potential drawbacks, annuities can ensure a comfortable lifestyle post-retirement if your investment aligns with your lifestyle needs.

In many instances, South African companies recommend retirement annuities to their employees. However, the challenge lies in selecting the right annuity for yourself.

Some companies opt for a straightforward deduction from your income for annuity investments, yet this approach has its downsides. Investing independently might prove more beneficial than relying solely on employer-managed retirement funds, as annuities are designed to suit individual investor needs. Thus, effectively preparing for retirement is nearly inevitable when utilizing them.

What is a retirement annuity?

retirement annuities

To begin, let’s grasp the concept of retirement annuities. They are savings earmarked for retirement, managed by an insurer with a commitment to repay the funds plus interest at a specified future date.

Initiating a retirement annuity requires a contractual agreement where an individual commits to contributing a predetermined amount, be it a lump sum, fixed installments, or variable contributions.

The retirement income is the sum agreed upon by the individual and insurer, payable to the annuity holder within an agreed timeframe. This payout can occur as a lump sum or a series of periodic payments. In South Africa, retirement annuities can typically be accessed between the ages of 55 and 65, depending on the insurer’s terms.

How retirement annuities work

To start, an individual must decide on a contribution amount, whether as a lump sum or through periodic payments, based on the chosen annuity provider and agreement terms. In return, the insurer commits to providing regular payments with interest, either regularly or as a one-time sum.

Insurers typically inquire about an investor’s desired retirement income, often aiming to match it with their current monthly earnings.

After determining your retirement income target (usually post-55 years old), the insurer will offer a payment plan, either as a lump sum or monthly installments, to achieve this goal.

Adjustments to contributions can be made if the initial terms don’t align with your preferences, with the agreement remaining valid until maturity, emphasizing the importance of understanding the chosen retirement annuity type.

You’ll typically choose between an immediate income annuity, which starts payouts shortly after investment, requiring a lump sum, and a deferred annuity, initiating payments at a future date.

As an annuity owner, you can choose to invest in a fixed annuity like the Sanlam Glacier Annuity or a variable annuity like the Allan Gray Stable Fund.

The difference between a fixed and variable annuity is that for a fixed annuity the insurer pays a specified rate which is guaranteed and for a variable annuity the insurer invests your money in a unit trust or subaccounts.

Should you be investing in retirement annuities?

Many individuals opt for retirement annuities to fortify their financial situation post-retirement. This decision often stems from the need to supplement potentially insufficient pension fund payouts. However, the effectiveness of retirement annuities raises a crucial question: do they primarily serve the individual or the insurance companies?

The answer is multifaceted. Retirement annuities come with guarantees, transferring liability to insurers. Yet, the requirement to wait for a specified period to access funds may limit immediate benefits, particularly in cases of premature death.

The reality lies in a middle ground where retirement annuities offer advantages to both insurers and annuity owners. Below are some of the pros and cons of retirement annuities.

Competitive Advantages of Retirement Annuities

  • Comes with a guaranteed income in retirement.
  • The contract has the ability to adapt to match the annuity owner’s needs over time.
  • Can offer professional money management features such as periodic portfolio rebalancing.
  • Uses a compound interest, making it much better than most investment opportunities out there.
  • Can choose from either deferred or immediate annuity depending on your investment needs.

Competitive Disadvantages of Retirement annuities

  • Annuity owners will need to pay income tax to SARS if they are below the age of 65.
  • An annuity owner incurs charges if he/she gets out of a retirement annuity before maturity.
  • Comes with annual maintenance fees and operational charges.

What you need to consider

It is important to understand what retirement annuities entail for your future. The best way to get a broader view of retirement annuities is to consult a reputable professional before purchasing one.

Annuity products are complex and are not a one size fits all, at the end of the day we all have different needs and dreams.

A professional consultant will advise you according to your needs and how you can get tax exemptions on annuities.

A retirement annuity is basically your financial assurance during retirement, so you may need to spend some money on consultation fees before making a mistake that you will live to regret.


There are many retirement annuity providers in South Africa that are fully registered, these include Alexander Forbes Retirement Annuity, Liberty Retirement Annuity, and Discovery Retirement Annuity.

Retirement Annuities are expensive to maintain, so you need to be working before you can apply to be part of one. Some retirement annuities start from as low as R500 per month, but your retirement income will surely not be as good as you may want it to be if you are to pay low instalments, even if inflation is considered.

A cost-free solution that you can use to differentiate between a bad retirement annuity and a good retirement annuity is the use of an inflation calculator and an annuity calculator. Use these tools to make sure that you are getting your money’s worth.

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