And Now It's Time to Retire 204 IRS Publication 590 on IRAs contains all the rules and regulations on minimum distributions. Call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 and request a copy. There are other wrinkles when it comes to 401(k) and IRA distributions. Seeking professional advice here from a Certified Financial Planner might be a good idea. Pension Max With only a month to go before retirement, you're beginning to panic, and you decide to get some help making your distribution decisions. You decide that you aren't interested in becoming an in- vestment guru, so you're leaning toward purchasing an annuity. Married workers nearing retirement often face a difficult and irreversible decision about which annuity payout option to take: · The single-life annuity provides the annuitant and the spouse the maximum pension benefit each month, but it stops once the worker dies, leaving nothing for the surviving spouse. · The joint-and-survivor annuity (there are usually several versions) provides monthly payments that typically are 10 to 30 percent less than with a single-life annuity, but the payments continue for the life of the surviving spouse, at 50 to 100 percent of the joint-life payment. However, an alternative called pension maximization is sometimes suggested. With pension max, as we like to call it, the annuitant takes the maximum single-life payout and uses the difference between the single-life and joint-life payouts to buy private life insurance. When the annuitant dies, the surviving spouse uses the proceeds to buy an annuity or to invest in a way that will, in theory, replace the lifetime income that the joint-and-survivor option would have provided. Just a thought here: If you're retiring and beginning to suffer the aches, pains, and maladies of aging, like high blood pressure, diabetes, or bad knees, you may have a devil of a time qualifying for life insurance.