Many older Americans worry about whether they will exhaust their retirement savings after they stop working, and it’s not an idle fear.

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Many older Americans worry about whether they will exhaust their retirement savings after they stop working, and it’s not an idle fear.

Fifty-two percent of American households are at risk of not being able to afford their current standard of living in retirement, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Among the anxious are Jon and Ami Pilon, of Bellevue.

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Jon, 61, works full time as a process planner at Zodiac Aerospace. Ami, 73, is a retired graphic artist collecting Social Security.

As Jon approached his own retirement, the couple began talking about their financial future, and the questions mounted. When should he begin collecting Social Security? Should they tap his workplace retirement account to pay off their mortgage? Should they sell their condo and move to a less expensive community?

“We circled around it,” said Jon. “But we needed some professional advice on how to move forward.”

Both were familiar with the Money Makeover project at The Seattle Times, and they decided to apply for free financial advice.

The Financial Planning Association of Puget Sound matched the Pilons with Bobby Reamer, the director of consulting services at MyICON, a financial-advisory firm in Kirkland.

Reamer pored over the couple’s finances, ran projections and came to a worrisome conclusion: In retirement, the Pilons could burn through their cash savings in 17 years. At that point, their condo and personal belongings would be their only assets.

“This is what I think they’re on track for if they don’t change anything,” Reamer said.

Fortunately, the Pilons have time to avert that scenario, and they have the means to do so.

As the main breadwinner, Jon earns between $78,000 and $82,000 a year after taxes. Ami collects about $9,600 annually in Social Security after withholding for Medicare.

The couple have a nest egg. Jon has about $215,000 with his employer’s 401(k), for which he is currently socking away about $20,000 a year. They also have about $20,000 saved in two bank accounts.

As is the case with most Americans, the Pilons’ largest asset is their home. They owe about $120,000 on their Bellevue condo, which has a current market value of about $424,000, Zillow estimates. That gives them an equity stake of about $304,000.

They had hoped to pay off their mortgage before Jon retired. But six years ago their homeowners association approved a large special assessment to pay for extensive work on the buildings’ exteriors and grounds.

The assessment on the Pilons’ unit was about $46,000. They raised the money by refinancing their mortgage — and increasing their debt. Luckily, their mortgage has a favorable interest rate of 3.875 percent.

The Pilons were pleasantly surprised when Reamer calculated their total net worth at about $541,000. In 2011, the median net worth nationwide for home­owners between the ages of 55 and 64 was $143,964, according to the census bureau. Most of that wealth was in their homes.

But Reamer saw trouble on the horizon. His projections showed that the Pilons would run out of cash savings in 2034 if Jon retired and they continued on their current trajectory.

At that point they would have to turn their home equity into cash, such as by selling their condo or taking out a home-equity loan. And they would have to do so late in life, when change can be difficult.

Reamer firmly believes that most people can cut their spending by 10 percent without changing their quality of life. So he advised the Pilons to spend 10 percent less and put the savings into a Roth individual retirement account.

Holders of Roth IRAs put money into their accounts after taxes. They can withdraw the money and the earnings tax free after holding the account for five years and turning 59½.

The Pilons were already saving $250 a month that they put into a savings account. Trimming their spending by 10 percent would free up an additional $450 a month. Reamer suggested combining the savings and putting $700 a month into a Roth IRA. That’s $8,400 a year.

By reducing their spending and saving the money, the Pilons would increase their net worth by about $170,000 in 2044, Reamer estimated. That means the couple would not outlive their retirement savings.

“Their plan goes from being not successful to very successful,” he said.

Reamer also advised Ami to call the Social Security Administration and inquire about spousal benefits. Doing so may increase her monthly Social Security deposit.

Another puzzle was determining the best time for Jon to begin collecting his own Social Security. Reamer projected the effects of Jon retiring in every year between the ages of 65 and age 70.

As it turned out, the optimal moment is when Jon is 66. At that age he gets the full benefit. Waiting further would increase his benefit — but alsothe likelihood that he would have to spend more of his retirement cash savings.

After a meeting with Reamer in his office, the Pilons came home with fresh perspectives about household finances. “I started looking differently at things,” Ami said.

They immediately began looking for ways to cut their spending by $450 a month. Switching cellphone carriers and asking the housecleaner to come once a month instead of twice a month pared $150 from their monthly expenses.

More cuts are on the way. “Really, there are ways we can cut and not hurt,” Ami said.

The Pilons are still debating whether to sell their Bellevue condo and move when Jon retires. But they now know that they are better off than they realized, and they have a plan for a secure retirement.