NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Saving for retirement is hard enough, but that's nothing compared to what happens when you start dipping into your nest egg.
Just when you think you can relax and hit the golf course, you'll have to make a whole new string of even tougher investment choices.
Roll over the 401(k) or take a lump payment? Annuity or IRA? Regular IRA or Roth IRA? Where to invest? What about estate planning and taxes? Will I have enough?
"It requires rethinking all aspects of your life," said Sanjiv Mirchandani, executive vice president in the personal investments and brokerage group at Fidelity Investments. "It's a much bigger deal."
And with 80 million baby boomers ready to start retiring in about 10 years, fund companies are offering a range of services and Web site tools to help people figure out what to do with their pile of cash.
"It's going to be the next crunch issue," said Don Spetner, a vice president at Sun America Asset Management in Los Angeles. "You have this massive wave of people in the baby boom generation and they're all in their 50s."
A changing landscape
The retirement picture has changed dramatically from the gold-watch-and-pension-check you used to get after 30 years on the job.
Companies used to have this "unknown liability" on their balance sheets every year to account for people who would be retiring, said Todd Cleary, director of financial planning services at fund giant T. Rowe Price. Now, you're the one with the unknown liability.
People change jobs more, they're healthier and living years longer, he said. And for most of us, deciding how to spend our retirement savings is a series of tradeoffs. You have to ask yourself if you want more monthly income for fewer years, or less money coming in for a longer stretch of time.
All this, with the added unknown of what the market may do.
"When you're drawing down your assets, you need a different focus than the accumulation phase," Cleary said. "You need to take a look at the uncertainty of it all."
What fund companies are doing
Fund companies have their eyes on this growing pool of cash. T. Rowe Price recently introduced a service called Retirement Income Manager that uses a high-tech computer program to analyze hundreds of market variables and retirement strategies to help people build a master investing plan.
The program will tell you how realistic your goals are, and give you three different options -- a plan T. Rowe Price recommends as the best, and two alternatives. The cost is $500 and includes counseling from T. Rowe Price advisers. People who invest at least $100,000 with T. Rowe Price will get a free annual review.
Strong Funds has a program in which it will help people roll over their 401(k)s and discuss different investment options. It also has a string of Web site tools to help people make retirement decisions, including a "living in retirement" tool that will help you figure out if your assets will allow you to maintain your desired standard of living.
Sun America's Spetner said annuities are another big area of growth in retirement planning. Loosely defined, annuities are tax-deferred investments that pay a fixed monthly income. Variable annuity sales increased to $99 billion in 1998 from $12 billion in 1990, he said.
"Baby boomers are worried about having enough money to live on," Spetner said.
Likewise, Fidelity has a Preferred Retirement Services Program that packages all of its Web tools, education services and expert advice, said Mirchandani. It has a "rollover express" program that removes the hassles of rolling over a 401(k).
Fidelity advisers have special income planner software to help clients figure out their goals and build an investment strategy, Mirchandani said. That software will be available on the Web starting next year.
What lies ahead
"The accumulation phase is so easy -- if I were a doctor, it's like saying 'Take two aspirin and call me in the morning,' " Mirchandani said. "The distribution phase is much more complex. You have to sit down and get a much more complete understanding of the situation."
Mirchandani said the retirement picture will change as boomers start hitting the golden years. Retirees will go back to school to pursue second careers, or work part-time in non-traditional jobs. They'll take "learning vacations" aboard sailboats. And through it all, their investing choices will play a big part.
"We're likely to see the flavor of retirement change dramatically," Mirchandani said.