Foss also suggests clients might step down from full-time work, first to three-quarters time, then to one-half time and after that one-quarter time. This fits with the feelings of Diehl that retirement can be made easier if there is no abrupt change in lifestyle or finances.

Older investors' tendency to shy away from risk may mean some expectations have to be lowered, but Foss notes that the costs of a lifestyle will also change with increased longevity.

"During the first few years of retirement, people may actually spend more than they did when they were working because they have more free time. Then, as the client approaches the 75 age range, health starts to decline and there is less desire to do as much, so costs taper off."

A problem some planners uncover is that even though the finances of retirement have been considered all along, in many couples only one person is aware of the details and leaves his or her spouse in the dark. Once both are educated, says Ron Courser, CFP, president and founder of Ron Courser & Associates in Grand Rapids, Mich., he is ready to talk about the future with them.

"I never use the word 'retirement.' I ask them what they want to do with the second phase of their working lives," Courser explains. "Most of my clients are over 50 and have already made a lot of adjustments and done a lot of planning. Many want to stay active and work one or two days a week. They want to exchange the expertise they have gained with newer workers."

Myriad investment opportunities are available. Courser says alternative investments such as privately held or non-traded real estate have advantages, as do fixed index annuities, which will not get hammered when the market goes down. There are also investments in large utilities.

"Some of my clients want to get back into the market in a big way, and I ask them if they understand the risk they are taking after all we have been through. I feel positive about the long-term outlook, but I think we have two more years of real volatility left because there are still underlying problems in the financial world.

"My advice to retiring clients is that we are still in a winter season, and the wise person prepares for that. If I am wrong and the Dow goes up, we can make adjustments," Courser adds. "Our job as advisors is to constantly monitor the situation and see if what we did yesterday still makes sense today. A buy-and-hold strategy is not the soundest approach anymore to managing retirement assets."

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