Millions of Americans soon may have access to annuities in their 401(k)s. Currently, only 13% of retirement plans offer these pension-like products, but recent stock market turmoil has created a demand for annuities as seniors realize how difficult it is to create portfolios to provide lifetime income. Even better: Retirement-plan annuities are required, by law, to be reviewed by plan sponsors to make sure they are safe products.

Starting this fall, Fidelity will give 23,000 employers with 41 million ­workers the option to offer annuities. BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors have announced target-date funds with annuity options. What to know…

Single-premium immediate annuities (SPIAs) are likely to be a common option. In exchange for a large, up-front payment, you start receiving a guaranteed stream of monthly income for life right away. Institutional pricing typically means that you are unlikely to find a better deal in the retail market, especially women. Reason: 401(k) annuities are required to offer unisex pricing, so women buying retail annuities receive lower payouts because they tend to live longer. Important: If you prefer more customized products such as a deferred income annuity, which delays payouts until a retiree is in his 70s or 80s, you may have to roll your 401(k) money into an IRA and shop on your own.

Annuities in a 401(k) plan usually are portable. If you leave a job, you can move your annuity to another plan or IRA without surrender charges or fees.

You needn’t tie up all of your 401(k) money in an annuity. Convert enough to cover essential expenses such as housing, food and health care. You then control how the rest of your savings is invested and when it is dispersed.

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