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Annuity vs. Perpetuity: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 12, 2023
An annuity consists of a series of equal payments at regular intervals for a specified number of periods, while a perpetuity offers payments indefinitely.

Key Differences

An annuity and a perpetuity are both financial instruments that offer periodic payments. However, they differ in the duration of these payments. An annuity refers to a series of equal payments made or received at regular intervals for a defined number of periods. This can range from a few years to several decades. It's a finite arrangement, and once the stipulated number of payments is made, the annuity concludes. On the other hand, perpetuity represents a stream of cash flows that continues indefinitely.
When considering the concept of an annuity, one might think of retirement accounts or insurance payouts. Annuities are often purchased to provide a steady income for a specific duration, such as throughout retirement. The payments from an annuity, whether monthly, quarterly, or annually, are predictable and terminate after the agreed-upon period. Perpetuity, in its theoretical context, means the payments never end. While rare in the real world, some endowments or certain preferred stocks can resemble perpetuities as they pay dividends or interest indefinitely.
From a valuation standpoint, annuities and perpetuities are calculated differently due to their durations. For an annuity, present and future values can be calculated using formulas that factor in the interest rate, number of periods, and payment amount. Because a perpetuity lasts forever, its present value is derived by dividing the periodic payment by the interest rate. This simplicity comes from the notion that, theoretically, a perpetuity's payments have no end date.
Although the terms annuity and perpetuity are often used in the world of finance, they have broader applications. An annuity could represent any set of periodic, consistent payments over a fixed timeframe, like a multi-year rental agreement. In contrast, perpetuity might symbolize anything with an infinite duration, although true perpetuities are rare given the ever-changing nature of economies and financial instruments.

Comparison Chart


Fixed number of periods.
Indefinite or infinite.


Retirement accounts, insurance payouts.
Endowments, some preferred stocks.

Valuation Formula

Uses interest rate, number of periods, and payment amount.
Payment divided by the interest rate.

Common Use

Provides steady income for a specified period.
Represents infinite streams of payments or income.

Nature of Payments

Periodic, consistent payments over a predetermined timeframe.
Constant payments indefinitely.

Annuity and Perpetuity Definitions


A financial product that provides a series of payments made at equal intervals.
Many retirees rely on an annuity to provide a steady income.


A bond or other security with no fixed maturity date.
Some preferred stocks act like perpetuity, offering dividends that last as long as the company exists.


A form of insurance or investment entitling the investor to a series of annual sums.
She invested part of her savings in a fixed-rate annuity.


Continuous and unending payments or returns.
The land lease was set up as a perpetuity, ensuring the family receives rent forever.


A fixed sum of money paid to someone each year, typically for the rest of their life.
The lottery winner chose to receive his prize as an annuity.


A financial instrument that offers infinite periodic payments.
Valuing a perpetuity is straightforward due to its endless payment structure.


A regular payment made by an investment institution.
The annuity he purchased guarantees payments for 20 years.


A constant stream of identical cash flows with no end.
The scholarship was funded by a perpetuity that pays out interest every year.


A contract between a person and an insurer, guaranteeing periodic payments.
Annuity plans can be tailored to meet individual financial needs.


The quality or condition of being perpetual
"The perpetuity of the Church was an article of faith" (Morris L. West).


The annual payment of an allowance or income.


Time without end; eternity.


The right to receive this payment or the obligation to make this payment.


The condition of an estate that is limited so as to be inalienable either perpetually or longer than the period determined by law.


A contract or agreement by which one receives fixed payments on an investment for a lifetime or for a specified number of years.


An estate so limited.


A right to receive amounts of money regularly over a certain fixed period, in perpetuity, or, especially, over the remaining life or lives of one or more beneficiaries.


An annuity payable indefinitely.


A sum of money, payable yearly, to continue for a given number of years, for life, or forever; an annual allowance.


(uncountable) The quality or state of being perpetual; endless duration; uninterrupted existence.


Income from capital investment paid in a series of regular payments;
His retirement fund was set up to be paid as an annuity


(countable) Something that is perpetual.


A limitation intended to be unalterable and of indefinite duration; a disposition of property which attempts to make it inalienable beyond certain limits fixed or conceived as being fixed by the general law.


An annuity in which the periodic payments begin on a fixed date and continue indefinitely.


The quality or state of being perpetual; as, the perpetuity of laws.
A path to perpetuity of fame.
The perpetuity of single emotion is insanity.


Something that is perpetual.


Endless time.


The number of years in which the simple interest of any sum becomes equal to the principal.


Duration without limitations as to time.


The property of being perpetual (seemingly ceaseless)


An annuity that has no termination date.
Certain endowments function similarly to a perpetuity, providing funds indefinitely.


What is the primary distinction between an annuity and a perpetuity?

An annuity offers payments for a set number of periods, while a perpetuity provides payments indefinitely.

Do real-world perpetuities exist?

While true perpetuities are rare, some endowments or preferred stocks resemble perpetuities.

Is the valuation of a perpetuity simpler than an annuity?

Typically, yes, because perpetuity valuation is based on a consistent payment divided by the interest rate.

What is a real-life example of something resembling a perpetuity?

Endowments, where the principal remains untouched but interest is used, can act like perpetuities.

Can annuities have beneficiaries?

Yes, many annuity contracts allow for beneficiaries to receive payments or benefits upon the annuitant's death.

Are annuities commonly used for retirement planning?

Yes, annuities are often used to ensure a steady income during retirement.

Can annuities offer lump-sum payouts?

Yes, some annuities provide the option of lump-sum withdrawals instead of periodic payments.

Are there tax implications for annuity withdrawals?

Yes, withdrawals from certain annuities can be subject to taxation.

Can annuities be both fixed and variable?

Yes, annuities can be fixed (set payment) or variable (payment varies based on investment performance).

How is the present value of an annuity determined?

It's calculated using the interest rate, number of periods, and payment amount.

How are the returns on a variable annuity determined?

They are based on the performance of the investments chosen within the annuity.

Do perpetuities have a principal amount that remains untouched?

Typically, the principal amount in a perpetuity remains constant, with only the interest or returns being distributed.

Can the value of a perpetuity decrease over time?

While the nominal payment remains constant, inflation can decrease the real value of a perpetuity's payments over time.

Is a perpetuity's payment always the same?

In theory, a perpetuity offers a constant payment amount indefinitely.

Can perpetuities be sold or transferred?

While uncommon, rights to the payments from something resembling a perpetuity can be transferred under specific conditions.

Is there a real-world financial instrument that offers exact perpetuity features?

True perpetuities are rare, but some endowments or certain preferred stocks can function similarly.

Are there fees associated with annuities?

Yes, annuities can have various fees, including management fees, surrender charges, and other administrative fees.

Are annuities protected against market downturns?

Fixed annuities offer guaranteed returns, but variable annuities are subject to market fluctuations.

Can an annuity be passed down as an inheritance?

If an annuity has a designated beneficiary, it can be passed down upon the annuitant's death.

How does inflation impact the value of a perpetuity?

Inflation can erode the real value of a perpetuity's constant payment over time.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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