While consulting for a health care company recently, Steve Vernon, president of Rest-of-Life Communications, a retirement education consulting firm, met a woman in her late 50s who was highly motivated to help her company start researching a menu of retirement income options ASAP.

"I've been saving for about 25 years; I've got that part down," she told him. "But I'm really scared about what to do in the payout phase."

Retirement plans exist to provide earnings streams to retirees, but knowing how to "pensionize" retirement savings is largely a foreign  concept to most workers. Ever since American companies began shifting from traditional pension plans to defined contribution plans three decades ago, the plans' focus has been on the accumulation side of the process.

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