A Lifecycle Fund Product Offers Income for Life

Prudential IncomeFlex may be one solution to the retirement income puzzle

Plan sponsors and advisors concerned with generating retirement income for their clients will soon have another product to consider: The newly minted Prudential IncomeFlex from Prudential Retirement, a division of Prudential Financial.

With IncomeFlex, plan participants can select from five distinct lifecycle funds, ranging from conservative to aggressive, into which they can transfer all or part of the assets in their 401(k) account or other defined contribution plan. Each fund is designed to take advantage of market cycles, says Prudential Retirement's Mark Foley, VP of product development for retirement income, and by investing in them, participants build an income base that guarantees a lifetime paycheck.

"This is a fully liquid product," Foley says. "Participants can decide how much they want to put in, and they can decide when they want to want to get in or get out."

To boot, "we offer participants a guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit, regardless of the investment they make," he says.

Unlike an annuity, the "lifetime paycheck" takes the form of a withdrawal benefit determined by the plan participant. As long as the participant withdraws that amount of less each year, Prudential guarantees that once the account balance runs out, it will continue to pay that amount to the participant for the remainder of his life (or spouse, if that option is chosen for an additional fee).

If strong performance results in participants' account balances exceeding the income base, their future lifetime paychecks can increase. Participants are also guaranteed that their income base will grow at an annualized minimum of 5% from age 50 until the lifetime paycheck amount is locked in at age 70.

The Prudential IncomeFlex guarantee costs 0.95% annually, in addition to the underlying funds' investment management fees.

Foley says Prudential plans to bring in pilot clients to test the product soon.

"The entire industry is focusing on income generation and products like these are going to become more standard in the individual retirement space," Foley says.

The Advisor's Viewpoint

According to Prudential Retirement's 2006 Workplace Report on Retirement Planning study, 70% of workers aged between 55 and 64 would welcome an option that converts their defined contribution plan assets into a guaranteed lifetime income stream, and there is little doubt that income generation is one of the greatest concerns in the retirement finance space today. Advisors and plan sponsors expect it to be the overriding theme in the retirement finance industry this year, yet even while they expect an increasing number of new products to come out, there can never be a single product that can suit the needs of all individuals, says Gary Williams, an advisor and founder of Columbia, Maryland-based Williams Asset Management. Americans are becoming more and more conscious of the need to convert their savings into a regular paycheck to last them through their retirement, but how to actually do this will differ from person to person, and each individual will need to mix up their investment products in the ways best suited to them.

"Personally, I shy away from both immediate and deferred annuities, opting for a diversified allocation of tax-efficient dividend-/income-producing investments in the realm of mutual funds, ETFs, separately managed accounts, bonds, and CDs," Williams says. "I will typically stop reinvesting when the switch is flipped into

retirement and, instead, flow all income and dividends to a money market from which the monthly check will be sent from. The monthly check would be a flat dollar amount, increased annually for inflation."

This kind of modus operandi, of course, requires sound knowledge both on the part of advisors and their clients, of the different kinds of products that are out there. As such, nothing remains more important than education and making people understand what they want and how to get that, Foley says.

"We are seeing more education at the grassroots level, but we will need a quantum leap to really make people understand that what is important is not so much the product, but the process," he says. "We can come up with the most elegant solution in the world, but if no one feels comfortable putting their money into it because they don't understand it, it will be no good. We really believe that plan sponsors and advisors and those who make investment products need to put in place a comprehensive education plan to reach out to people over 50, who are the target audience for our kind of product."

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