Will your clients have enough income to live comfortably until age 90, 95, or even 100? How much can they safely withdraw from their nest egg? Can they weather a negative market near retirement? Will their spouse have enough to live on comfortably after they pass on? Will Social Security be there? Can they count on a pension?

     These are among the challenges financial advisors and clients face in a world where income planning ranks as high on the totem pole as asset accumulation-perhaps higher.

At a press briefing in New York this week, Hartford executives Joseph G. Eck, who works with employers, and John Diehl, who works with advisors, described the changing market and new products designed specifically for it. There are a myriad of ways to make guaranteed income part of an investor's mix, the executives told attendees, but there is still low awareness among individuals, employers and advisors on how they all fit.

The Hartford believes that a successful retirement means that advisors, employers, and investors all need to view guaranteed income alongside traditional stocks and bonds as a new asset class. People are living longer, markets are volatile, guaranteed income sources such as pensions and Social Security continue to decline, interest rates still hover at historic lows-all these factors, the firm says, point to the need to treat income products as an integral part of the asset mix from the accumulation stage to retirement and beyond.

"Income solutions planning presents many challenges," said Diehl, a senior VP in Hartford's retirement solutions group. "It's been difficult for advisors to grasp as their story for clients turns from accumulation to distribution. It calls into importance the timing of retirement."

The Hartford is marketing annuities as an investment option within 401 (k) plans. Plan participants allocate assets to "pension shares," which builds a future income stream, similar to a defined benefit plan, within their defined contribution plan.

Diehl noted that immediate annuities, which provide a guaranteed income stream in exchange for a lump sum invested at retirement, have become more popular with retirees, due to their simplicity and similarity to pension payouts.

Deferred annuities, which give investors the means to purchase an income stream that will be guaranteed at a starting point in the future, say 80, 85, or 90, are also in demand by retirees. For example, a 65-year-old could purchase a guaranteed monthly income at age 80 for a specified investment made today. "You take all the guesswork out of what it takes to purchase an income at age 80," Diehl noted.

Another option on the income distribution side is a guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit on Hartford's variable annuities. This allows for lifetime withdrawals, which can be halted at any time, so investors can pursue long-term growth with the remainder of their portfolio. For example, a client puts 100 percent of their investment in a portfolio of sub-accounts. While that money grows, the insurance company offers a minimum income guarantee, which is effective regardless of the underlying market performance.

-Bruce W. Fraser