As Baby Boomers begin to plan for their retirement income-in addition to asset accumulation they've been focusing on for years-financial services firms that provide them with products and advice to meet these new needs will win the coming battle for the $11 trillion retirement asset market, industry sources say.Retirees prefer structured payments to lump-sum IRA withdrawals by a wide margin, according to a report from Conning Research & Consulting Inc., Hartford, Conn. A recent survey indicated that 52% of individuals eligible to receive a retirement benefit chose a weekly payment, and an additional 23% preferred to withdraw assets on an as-needed basis. Only 4% chose a lump-sum pay-out, Conning states in a report, titled "Winning the Coming Battle for Retirement Assets."

The Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, Iowa, is betting that a new IRA account, which the company launched in January, will prove to be a preemptive strike in that battle.

Called the Principal Income IRA, the product responds to the unique needs of the new generation of retirees who-because of longer life expectancies and declining guaranteed forms of retirement income-want flexibility, control and a guarantee that they won't outlive their savings, says Drew Denning, director, income management solutions at Principal.

"What's innovative about this tool is that it brings together two disparate industries-the mutual fund industry and the immediate annuity industry," Denning says.

Using a technology called the RetireMentor, a patent-pending income planning and management system developed by Golden Retirement Resources Inc., New York, the Principal Income IRA enables investors to buy slices of an annuity over time.

"We call it benefit-cost averaging, which like dollar-cost averaging into a mutual fund, enables the investor to dollar-cost average out of their mutual fund and benefit-cost average into the annuity," says Denning. "You do not have to make an immediate annuity purchase."

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