WHAT IS AN ANNUITY? An annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company in which you make a lump sum payment or series of payments and in return obtain regular disbursements beginning either immediately or at some point in the future. The goal of annuities is to provide a steady stream of income during retirement. Funds accrue on a tax-deferred basis. This is the only product of its kind that can provide an income that you can’t outlive.