He and his wife, a real estate agent who's not ready to stop working, have put off plans to sell their home in Frederick County's Monrovia and retire out of state where they hope to pay lower taxes on a comparable home.

Staying at work longer might be the financially savvy way to go anyway, financial planners say.

"Sometimes it's OK for those who are happy in their jobs," said Christopher Brown, president of Ivy League Financial Advisors in Rockville. "Sometimes it's painful."

"The big question that each client asks as they prepare for retirement is, 'Can I live the lifestyle I want to live without running out of money?'" Brown said. "When the market hit the skids in 2008, a lot of people's retirement portfolios were really hurt. They want to build some cushion into their retirement if it happens again."

One of his clients stands to get half her husband's pension but not until he retires, so she's postponed her own retirement. Other clients who had been out of work for a few years couldn't add to retirement savings during that period.

But clients who continued investing in the markets have seen their portfolios bounce back to pre-recession levels, he said.

Stuart Ritter, a financial planner with T. Rowe Price, said the financial crisis caused more people to focus on retirement readiness.

"They are recognizing that when you're getting closer to retirement, one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your lifestyle in retirement is to delay it," he said. "When you work for a few more years, you have a few more years of contributions, a few more years of potential growth and fewer years that your money needs to support you."

Brown said he tries to steer his clients to act long before they reach retirement age.

"After they made the decision to retire, it's much tougher to go back into the workforce," Brown said.

Paulette Miller, no relation to Jeff Miller, learned that from her experience.

Miller, 68, retired six years ago from running a catering business in Virginia. Financial and family troubles, however, have pushed her back into the job market. The resident of Nottingham in Baltimore County has owned a business, managed a resort and taught adult literacy and marketing, but has been unable to find a full-time job.

She supplements her Social Security income by running 10-day sales events at Costco, where she sells clothing, shoes and bedding for marketing companies, and by acting as an extra in Baltimore-filmed television shows and movies.

"When I retired, I didn't plan on going back to work," Miller said. "Unfortunately, that has happened. I have to work when I can."

Otherwise, she said, she wouldn't be able to afford her health insurance — and that's getting even tougher to cover. Her costs for Medicare, supplemental insurance and dental insurance rose this year, but "my Social Security did not go up, so I am further in the hole," she said. "I'm making less than I was making three years ago."

She said she plans to keep working "as long as I'm standing up."

Betty Schueler always expected four decades of steady work in the same job would guarantee a comfortable retirement. That was before the 58-year-old bartender and restaurant server lost her job last year after a management change in food services at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. She'd worked at the airport 40 years, outlasting several food services operators.

With unemployment benefits ended and her savings dwindling, the Severn woman hopes to land something soon — maybe at a casino, hotel or restaurant. But wherever she ends up, she sees years of work in her future.

"Retirement is a word that's no longer in our vocabulary," Schueler said. "I will never see that in my lifetime."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com