We don’t support this browser anymore.
This means our website may not look and work as you would expect. Read more about browsers and how to update them here.

  • A A A
  • Annuity vs drawdown - what are the differences?

    Learn more about the differences between annuities and drawdown, and how you could combine your retirement options for more security and flexibility in later life.

    Last Updated: 13 June 2023

    When you retire, you normally have the freedom to choose how you take money out of your personal pension. You can take your entire pension in one go if you want. But for those who desire a regular income, the main options are an annuity or drawdown.

    This article is to help you understand the difference between Annuities vs Drawdown, but it isn't personal advice. Both options have pros and cons, so it's important you fully understand how each one works before you take money from your pension.

    If you're not sure what's the best option for you, seek guidance from Pension Wise, or seek personal advice from a financial adviser. If you choose to invest, the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in. All the information and figures in this article are correct as at 13 April 2023. Tax rules can change and their benefits depend on your personal circumstances. A pension is meant for your retirement, so you can't normally access your money until you're 55 (57 from 2028).

    Below we take a look at how annuities and drawdown compare:

    Annuity Drawdown
    Can I take tax-free cash? Yes – usually up to 25% (up to a maximum of £268,275 for most people). Yes – usually up to 25% (up to a maximum of £268,275 for most people).
    Is income guaranteed? Yes - income is secure. No – income is not secure. It can fall as well as rise or even run out altogether.
    Will I retain control? No - once set up an annuity cannot normally be changed. Income is paid automatically. Yes - you decide where to invest and how much to withdraw, but this requires regular review.
    When do I need to decide about death benefits? Death benefits are chosen at the outset and cannot be changed thereafter. Death benefits are flexible. You should consider nominating your beneficiaries and keeping these up to date.

    Discover your retirement options

    Both options have pros and cons, so it's important you fully understand how each one works before you take money from your pension.

    How annuities work

    Annuities offer a guaranteed income for the rest of your life. It doesn't matter how long you live, or what happens in the stock market. When using the money in your pension to buy an annuity, you can usually choose to have up to a quarter (25%) of the amount paid to you as a tax-free cash lump sum, and use the rest to buy the annuity. The annuity income you receive is taxed as earned income.

    The amount of income you could get will depend on factors including your health and lifestyle. These could mean you qualify for a higher income, but must be declared at the start. Even if you confirm minor details like your height, weight, or how much you drink or smoke.

    You can normally choose for your income to increase each year, either by a fixed percentage (normally 3% or 5%), or by linking it to inflation (the Retail Prices Index (RPI)). Choosing one of these options means your starting income will usually be lower, but it will be better protected against inflation.

    Interest rate rises can also lead to better annuity rates. In 2016, annuity rates hit record lows when the Bank of England base rate was cut to 0.25%. But thankfully, in part because of the recent Bank of England interest rate rises, annuity rates have risen steadily with some now up to 51% on where they were back then. Below we look at what annuity income you could get from a £100,000 pension. However, it's worth noting that £100,000 in 2016 is equivalent in purchasing power to about £128,025.35 today, an increase of £28,025.35 over 7 years.

    Difference in annual annuity income
    Annual annuity income from a
    £100,000 pension
    15 September 2016 13 April 2023 Difference
    £4,503 £6,806 +51%

    Source: HL annuity quote tool correct as at 13 April 2023. This index tracks the top rate for a single life, level annuity, paid monthly in advance with no guarantee period and a £100,000 purchase price. Postcode PE29 7HG. Rates are for a married 65 year old. The income you could receive will depend on your circumstances. Quotes are only guaranteed for a limited time and rates change frequently so they could go up or down in the future.

    When is the right time to buy an annuity?

    Even though rates have risen, the right time to buy an annuity really depends on your circumstances. A good time to consider buying an annuity might be when you give up work completely - remember you usually only access a pension like this from 55 (57 from 2028). You'll no longer have a steady income stream from earnings to cover your essential bills. An annuity can help plug this gap.

    Although an annuity offers a secure income for life, they lack flexibility. If your circumstances change, you are locked into an annuity rate, and it cannot be changed. This is one of the main reasons people consider drawdown or a mix of both.

    Find out how much annuity income you can receive

    How drawdown works

    You can move your entire pension into drawdown in one go. Or you can move a portion in at a time (this is known as phased drawdown). You can normally take up to 25% as tax-free cash, and the rest remains invested. This means that you could receive a growing income if investments perform well. But if your investments don't perform as well as you might hope, your income could reduce.

    You decide how much income to take (which is taxable), and when to take it. If you take too much out, live longer than expected or your investments don't perform well, your pension fund could run out completely or the income you can withdraw could fall.

    You can apply for drawdown with your current pension provider (if they offer it) or transfer your pension to a drawdown provider like HL. Our pension drawdown calculator could help you understand how long your drawdown plan might last.

    Before transferring, check that you won't lose any valuable benefits or need to pay high exit fees.

    Why choose drawdown with HL?

    • Invest where and how you want to
      You can pick your own investments, select one of our ready-made portfolios, or pay a financial adviser to choose investments for you.
    • Support on hand when you need it
      Get ongoing support from the experts on our Bristol-based helpdesk and the answers to your questions no matter how big or small.
    • Peace of mind
      We're a financially secure FTSE-listed company, trusted by over 1.7 million clients. We take account security seriously and have over 40 years' experience in empowering people to save and invest for a brighter future.
    • Great value for money
      Access to free research, the latest investment news, tools and insight from our team of experts.

    Learn more about drawdown with HL

    If you're looking for investment inspiration, our drawdown investment ideas could help.

    Drawdown is a more complex option than an annuity and isn't the type of option which you can set up and leave. You need to be prepared to review your income and investments regularly.


    How to get the best of both worlds

    Investors could consider a mix and match strategy to make the most of both options and their benefits. For example, part of your pension could be used to secure an annuity which covers your essential bills and living costs. Then you could move the rest of your pension into drawdown to provide a flexible (and hopefully growing) income as and when you need it.

    Are you ready for your retirement?

    Retirement is an important financial milestone. It's likely to be something you'll only do once, and the decisions you make could impact the money you'll get. So, if you're not sure what to do with your pension or where to invest, take personal advice or seek guidance.

    We have a team of experts who are here to help you make the most of your pensions. So if you want to know more about HL's retirement service, you could book a call back at a time that suits you. The experts on our Pensions Helpdesk won't give personal advice but can answer any questions you may have.

    Our UK-based helpdesk is also here for you six days a week to help (Monday to Friday 8am-5pm and Saturday 9:30am-12:30pm). You can call them on 0117 980 9926.

    If you think you would like personal advice, you can find out more within the retirement advice section of our website. You'll only pay for the advice you need.

    What did you think of this article?

    Related articles

    Why consolidating at retirement is important

    One of the most crucial times to consolidate your investments and pensions is as you approach retirement. Discover why, plus find out about our latest transfer offers.

    Isabel McDougall

    3m read

    Are you taking enough risk?

    Deciding how much risk to take when investing in retirement can be tricky. We look at how you can decide what level of risk is right for you.

    Alexandra Mears-Jennings

    6m read

    Have you taken more tax-free cash than you needed?

    Learn how to calculate the right amount of tax-free cash for you, and what you could do if you’ve taken too much.

    Guy James

    6m read

    How to generate an income from your investments in retirement

    Discover strategies for taking an income in retirement, and what to do when it’s not enough.

    Isabel McDougall

    3m read