ANNUITIES *    An annuity is an insurance contract that provides a series of periodic payments. The annuity period is the time span before periodic payments begin. An annuity can be immediate, providing an income stream that begins immediately (usually six months) after you have purchased the annuity, or deferred, where the payment period will begin at some future date. Annuities are most often used to build funds for retirement and offer the advantage of tax-deferral, which can help accelerate the growth potential of your money. They can be purchased with a single premium payment, or with multiple premiums paid at various or pre-set intervals.