A 61-year-old wife in California, who we will call Anne, cut back drastically on her work schedule a year ago to care for her dying husband.

After his death in April, she could not return to work, but called on Kimberly Foss, founder and president of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif., to help her make financial decisions for her retirement, which stretches far into the future.

Anne began drawing on the Social Security survivor benefits she was eligible for because of her husband’s death, and will not begin her Social Security benefits when she turns 62, which she could have done.

“She has about $1 million in assets to work with and we are taking some money from her taxable accounts first to supplement her budget, but she has had to make some sacrifices,” Foss says. “She is cutting back on what she gives the children and grandchildren. She cannot take the trips she wanted unless the market stays very strong.”

Foss also is advising her to sell the RV, hot rod car and motorcycle she and her husband owned to save the motor vehicle fees and insurance. “This is an emotional issue for her, but at some point she will need to get rid of these things,” Foss says.

More and more financial advisors are being faced with working through these kinds of problems, as their clients are forced out of work earlier than planned because of downsizing, poor health or other reasons. Each case is unique, the advisors warn, but some themes run through the planning.

If possible, they advise clients to defer taking Social Security until at least the full retirement age of 66 or 67, and longer if possible so that the benefits continue to grow. Take distributions from taxable accounts first since the taxes have already been paid and wait to take from tax-deferred accounts so the pre-tax assets can continue to grow. But be aware the ideal is not always possible, the advisors say.

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