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Payment made at a fixed interval. A common example is the payment received by retirees from their pension plan. There are two main classes of annuities: annuities certain and contingent annuities. Under an annuity certain, a specified number of payments are made, after which the annuity stops. With a contingent annuity, each payment depends on the continuance of a given status; for example, a life annuity continues only as long as the recipient survives. Contingent annuities such as pension plans or life insurance depend on shared risk. Everyone pays in a fixed amount until the annuity begins; some will not live long enough to receive back all the money they have paid, while others will live long enough to collect more than they have paid.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on annuity, visit Britannica.com.