Re-evaluating the client's timetable for retirement. Whether because of financial concerns, more (or less) ambitious goals for life after retirement, or simply the increasingly common desire to keep working after retirement age, the client's timetable for retirement will provide the framework for the other financial decisions that have to be made.

Revisiting the client's retirement plan and goals. Based on the client's changed financial picture, he or she should reassess-and possibly scale down-retirement plans and goals. Of course, clients can do this on their own using questionnaires on the Internet that help them calculate how much they will want to make or save to cover the cost of life after retirement. But working face to face with an advisor is far more revealing and rewarding, for both you and the client. And even if there was not a compelling financial argument behind looking at the client's plans and goals, a regular review is important because the natural course of their lives could easily result in changes that require reassessment. For example, a different job and salary, a new marital situation, or having to help to pay tuition for a child who suddenly decides to go on to graduate school.

Re-examining the client's investment strategies. Regardless of whether you were involved or not, most pre-retirees will have had investment strategies put in place to help them meet their goals, including, perhaps, an asset allocation plan. Again, those strategies and plans may have to be revised. If nothing else, the performance of bonds vs. stocks for the last three years may call for rebalancing. And even if you don't market 401(k) plans, you can provide advice to clients who participate in such plans and make sure they are in line with their asset allocation and diversification goals. At the same time, you should update the status and value of the client's other assets, including real estate, artwork and antiques.

Reconsidering the client's risk tolerance. The odds are likely that the risk tolerance of most clients has been affected by the decline of the market, the general increase in stock market volatility, and a gradual shift in their mindset as retirement nears and circumstances change. Reconsidering risk tolerance now helps put the client at ease while setting the stage for any financial recommendations you may have down the road.

Reviewing the client's spending habits. We know that consumer spending has helped keep the economy afloat for the last three years, but it has also led to higher per capita debt. Given the record low interest rates, now may be the time for your client to curb spending and pay off any debt. If clients have yet to refinance their mortgage, they may also want to do so before the economic recovery, however gradual, pulls rates up.

Pre-retirees, like most Americans, are anxious about their financial future, but perhaps more so given their time frame towards retirement. Now is the time for you to contact them, demonstrate empathy and offer expertise, even if there is no immediate return involved. Doing so will improve your overall understanding of the client, strengthen your relationship, and over time, improve profitability per client. Hannah Shaw Grove is managing director and chief marketing officer of Merrill Lynch Investment Managers. Russ Alan Prince is president of the consulting firm Prince & Associates.

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