With a few notable exceptions, many baby boomers are facing a long retirement or semi-retirement with fewer resources than they had during the working years. So they need to make the most of the retirement benefits they will actually receive.

For now, that means maximizing Social Security and, in many cases, considering the use of a fixed immediate annuity. And that means making important choices about Social Security income. Advisors in the income planning market will need to help boomers make these decisions. Here are some of the key issues to cover.

Running on empty. With the average longevity of American men and women on the rise, boomers need to plan for a long life. While that’s not a new idea, most planners need to help clients understand the importance of income planning for many years. The advantage of maximized Social Security income and the use of annuities as the income portion of a time-weighted portfolio will make sense for most clients.

Historically clients have been reluctant to use annuities for retirement income. However, recent economic uncertainty and the realization that people could live longer than expected could begin to turn clients toward the light.

The best way to show an immediate fixed annuity to retired clients is as a component of a time-weighted asset allocation, not as a total retirement income solution. This approach helps get around the objection about having to give up a retirement lump sum by tying it up in an irrevocable financial vehicle.

Guaranteed enhancements, like cost of living adjustments and return of premium on cancellation, can help alleviate concerns, too. Some annuities also offer increased payments if a person enters a nursing home or is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Some even offer a death benefit. And the tax benefits of annuities can be appealing. These types of perks, which allow a client’s money to serve double-duty as a protection vehicle, make the immediate annuity product more client-friendly than the typical deferred annuity.

The chart provides an example of how dramatically an immediate annuity can increase the longevity of a retirement portfolio for a 65-year-old man who plans to take out 4% a year for retirement income. The chance of the money lasting to age 100 is as high as 96% if the assets are evenly split between a lifetime annuity and a stock/bond portfolio; the percentage is lower when the annuity provides a smaller percentage of the income .

Waiting to maximize benefits. As mentioned previously, the decision of when to take Social Security income can also have a big effect on payouts, especially if the client is married and has a spouse who did not earn a substantial living by comparison.

One strategy may be to delay benefits for the higher earning spouse by filing and suspending benefits until age 70 to provide an increased benefit. The lower earning spouse can take early Social Security retirement benefits based on his/her work record at age 62. If there is an income gap, it can be filled with an immediate income annuity with a period certain benefit.

Assuming the lower earning spouse is the female (which is statistically likely to be the case), she will receive an increase in benefits if the higher earning spouse predeceases her. If the couple does not need the increased income, the money can be used to cover the cost of long term care or life insurance premiums to enhance protection or estate planning.

Too much, too soon. What is the appropriate annual withdrawal rate from a portfolio during the retirement years? A lot of research exists on this issue, and also more than one method.

The general idea is that retirees who anticipate long payout periods should plan on lower withdrawal rates. If there are fixed rate assets in the portfolio, these increase the success for low to mid-level withdrawal rates. However, the presence of stocks, mutual funds or variable products provides upside potential–and the promise of higher sustainable withdrawal rates. Most retirees would likely benefit from allocating at least 50% to common stocks in some form.

Retirees who demand inflation adjusted withdrawals in retirement must accept substantially reduced withdrawal rates from their initial portfolio. Here, withdrawal rates of 3% and 4% represent conservative (and likely successful) choice. At these rates, retirees who want to leave money to heirs have a greater chance of being successful over the long term.

Late savers and other retirees facing a retirement deficit need all the help they can get from an advisor. Planning Social Security income and utilizing annuities strategically in a time-weighted portfolio are among many worthy strategies to consider. The advisor’s job is to provide as much value to clients as possible at this time.

Shelley Kostrunek, CMFC, CRPC, IAR, ChFC, is an advanced markets specialist at Mutual of Omaha specializing in retirement accumulation and distribution planning, in the Omaha neb office. Her e-mail address is Shelley.Kostrunek@mutualofomaha.com