Review by Javier Centonzio, Esq., Alexandria, Virginia
Book by: Doug Nordman
As I read The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement, I found myself regretting not having read it before joining the Marine Corps at the age of eighteen. This book is a must read for anyone who is considering joining the military. However, if you are already in the military-whether you have been enlisted for two months or nineteen years-this book will provide you with useful insight and strategies to prepare for life after the military.
Many people who join the military, including myself, decide not to make a career of it. Aware of this fact, author Doug Nordman tailored the book to provide retirement advice for those who serve one enlistment along with those who decide to serve for twenty plus years.
Mr. Nordman, a military retiree himself, takes a practical approach to planning for retirement that readers who have military experience will appreciate. Similar to most military training manuals this book is user-friendly. For example, the introduction to the book starts by telling the reader why they should read the book, why planning for retirement is important, how the book can help them plan for retirement, and even explains how to read the book. The “how-to” portion of the introduction saves the reader time by pointing them to the chapters of the book that are relevant to them, based on their time in the military and type of service (e.g. active duty, reserve, national guard).
As you work through the chapters, you are provided with real life examples and free resources aimed at planning for retirement. The author makes it a point to dispel of many financial planning myths, while also providing real world advice to overcome the perceived pitfalls that brought about the fears and misconceptions associated with those myths.
One of the most helpful sections of the book comes towards the back cover where the reader is given a recommended reading list and a plethora of retirement-related resources to include: military specific retirement books, general retirement books, books on frugality, saving, investing, military retirement research papers and articles, and various websites along with online calculators and other tools.
My favorite part of the book was Chapter 8 which discussed what to expect the first two years after retirement. This section appealed to me because it gave the reader insight into the effects that retirement can have on one’s mind and emotional health. While much of the book is dedicated to explaining retirement programs, formulas used to determine pension payments, and other technical aspects related to retirement planning, the author does a great job advocating for a holistic approach to retirement.
Although geared towards the military community, the text does a great job of explaining the obstacles that all retirees face when planning for their retirement. The very first obstacles discussed are health care costs and inflation, which the author quickly points out are areas where military retirees have a major advantage. This advantage is due to their eligibility for health care insurance through TRICARE at a very affordable monthly premium, and a defined-benefit pension program that includes cost of living adjustments that account for inflation rates. This is yet another reason why I wish I would have read this book before I decided to leave the military prior to becoming eligible for retirement.
Whether you are now in the military, married to a service-member, former military, or know someone who is currently serving or considering the military, this book is a must read. The fact that the author donates all royalties from the sale of his book to military charities also makes buying this book for yourself or a loved one a no-brainer. As a veteran, I would like to thank Mr. Nordman not only for his service to our country, but also for his service to his fellow veterans by providing them the information needed to successfully plan their retirements and gain financial independence.
Review by Jessica Fisher, Esq., Carlisle, Pennsylvania
Book by: John E. Nelson and Richard N. Bolles
This book begins with a history of retirement and then transitions into what the authors call the “New Retirement.” This concept of the New Retirement is very interesting because it is not only about finances it is about your overall well-being which incorporates the following six different fields: social, psychological, biological, medical, financial, and geographical. I find this concept to be very different from what my older clients today think about retirement and I think it would be very difficult to get one of them to sit down and read this book about retirement. This book would not be suitable for an older person who may be on the edge of retirement; however, this book may be able to reach the younger generations who do not really know what to think about retirement or how to reach it. There are various exercises throughout the book that enable the reader to customize his or her own retirement and determine what is truly important to that person.
The book is useful in that it points out different aspects of retirement like how marketers force feed us one view of retirement and we do not think of other options, which I thought was very true. In addition, the book allows you to activate your three most important core values or guiding principles through two different questionnaires, one for females and one for males and other exercises throughout the book.
This book was too long for someone who does not have a lot of time and is trying to figure out their retirement in their spare time while working and doing other things. The authors could have gotten to the point much faster in many of the chapters and shortened the book and made it more relevant. This book is an easy read and introduces concepts that were easy to understand, but it did seem to be going in opposite directions at some points. Also, it seemed to go on tangents about different approaches to retirement historically, which may lose some people.
There is a nice summary and exercise at the end for how to start achieving your ideal retirement now by incorporating all of your core values. I really like this concept so that overall you can have a better sense of well-being instead of only focusing on how you can afford to retire you can also focus on all of the different interests you have and incorporating them now and then. Three approaches are provided for how you can bring your vision for retirement into your present. The first approach helps you complete you vision through pictures, words and feelings, but if that is not how you normally operate then you can try the second or third approach. The second approach focuses on the big picture, creativity and intuition. The third approach focuses on logic, linear thinking and details. The reader may use all of three of these approaches at various times in order to fulfill their ultimate goals but the ultimate conclusion the book wants you to walk away with is to incorporate all of these things into your life now.
Review by: Gerardo Olivarez, Jr., Esq., of Tampa, Florida
Book by: Mike Piper
I found this book to be one that I could easily give to a client. The author provided a basic background of retirement planning. The material is not overwhelming for the average reader. The subject of retirement planning focuses on retirement living expenses. This allows the reader to assess his/her current individual situation. By doing so, the reader is not frightened by complex terminology and complicated mathematical calculations. The author creates a reading environment that challenges the reader to think. Thinking about his/her own future lead to some very important questions.
The book is divided in three parts. The first is titled, “How Much Money Will I Need to Retire?”. The second is, “Retirement Portfolio Management”. And, finally the third is, “Tax Planning in Retirement”. The first part is quite simple. It looks at the basic question of how much money does the reader think he/she needs to retire. Although the question appears simple enough the answer is a bit more complicated. The reader needs to review their expenses in retirement. A basic rule is to look at all the expenses that one has for an entire year. This will capture once a year expenses such as property taxes. Once expenses are calculated they also need to be adjusted for inflation. The author uses individual examples to illustrate his points. This allows the casual reader to review real-world examples that might be very similar to his/her situation. The issue of Social Security, pensions, and other incomes are discussed as sources of income for a retiree. Now specific planning strategies are not discussed because it is beyond the scope of the book. Although, there are multiple references listed that can assist someone that wishes to find more information on strategies. The Chapters end with a synopsis of the learning points listed as bullets. This allows for the reader to reinforce what he/she just read.
Part Two of the book describes multiple savings vehicles such as 401Ks, IRAs, Index funds, ETF, active funds, stocks, and bonds. The advantages and disadvantages of using Index funds vs actively-managed funds are quite good. The reader is given the basics on what each one is and how they work. The focus is on the expense ratio of owning one or the other. I found the factors explained for rolling over an IRA to be helpful. A client will be asking more questions than there are answers in this book. This is good! A client will be able to seek out more information. This books sets up a blueprint to establish a plan. An individual plan will help everyone achieve their goals. The area of Asset Allocation is a valuable area because it helps the reader look at multiple sources of income bases on his/her timeline. The author describes three types of “buckets”. These buckets represent short-time or a “spending bucket”, mid-range or “intermediate bucket” and “long-term bucket”. The first is a spending bucket which can consist of money market accounts, saving accounts, etc. The need to have enough funds to cover a two year period of living expenses is critical. The intermediate bucket will have T-bills and short-term Treasury ETFs or Index Funds. This should be enough cash to cover a three year period of expenses. Finally, the rest of your portfolio should be allocated in stocks and bonds. The percentage ratio should be conservative to preserve wealth. This bucket should hold the bulk of your assets. As you use up your spending bucket you will use the assets in your other two buckets to replenish. This system will allow the retiree to move assets while minimizing the tax implications. Based on the size of the portfolio the author recommends a financial planner be consulted in establishing the individual buckets.
This brings me to Part Three. This area covers tax planning. A retiree will need to know how to maintain enough assets in his/her retirement portfolio while considering the tax implications. Again, the author is only providing an overview. Individual planning is recommended with the aid of a qualified tax planner. However, the book does a good job of explaining tax-shelter bonds and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS). It also discusses Foreign Tax Credits that may affect some retirees. All of this is informative and can provide a retiree a sound foundation to engage his/her financial advisor.
In closing, I found that this book does an effective job in setting the financial landscape to retiring. It by no means answers all of the specific questions that a particular retiree may have. This might not be appropriate for a more sophisticated client that has an established long-term plan with a sizeable estate. However this book does make it clear that everyone needs a plan to retire. A plan is just the first step, but it is by far the most important step to a successful future. I would recommend this book to anyone that is just starting to consider his/her retirement.
I was intrigued by this book for several reasons. First, it has actually been published in three prior editions, and as such I felt that it must have some worthwhile information. Secondly, the publisher of the same is The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. This publisher is a recognized house, as opposed to many of the other books that I considered that were published by the venerable publisher, “Self.”
Another reason for choosing How to Retire Happy, is that its author, Stan Hinden, has been “happily retired” for 23+ years from his position at the Washington Post where he was a financial columnist. I believe that this is a very important aspect, in that I expect that it would be well written – both grammatically and from a perspective of useful financial information and data. One simply cannot work for more than two decades at a stalwart publication like the Washington Post without having perfected the ability to write well, and in a manner that informs and entertains. Certainly, I would find out that both these criteria were easily met as the book was terribly informative, and quite engaging.
One additional reason that I chose this book to review is that there was a fine foreward published by one John C. Bogle, founder and former CEO of The Vanguard Group (of funds). As such, given that I have heard Mr. Bogle speak on numerous occasions, and respected his opinion, I have chosen this book to review for the course. The fact that Mr. Bogle’s first sentence in his foreword is one-word-long, also had me intrigued to read this book. The word/sentence I allude to is “Congratulations!” Again, based on my prior knowledge of John Bogle, and his renowned financial prowess and substantial successes, I was eager to begin my reading of How to Retire Happy.
In his Preface, Hinden states that his book “is the book I wish I had been able to read before [he] retired.” His reasons for stating this is that his monthly Social Security payment would have been greater, as would his pension and retirement savings account. And, he would have learned earlier on how to become successful in making his money last longer during his, and his wife’s retirement. In fact, this book began as a chronicling of his retirement that appeared periodically in the Post. Hinden, upon his retirement learns quickly that he was, to use his own words, “woefully unprepared” to adequately analyze the issues regarding retirement issues, let alone make the ultimate choices.
Hinden’s book is broken into twelve chapters – which he also refers to as 12 “key decisions” that have to be made by retirees. In each of these twelve, which I shall spend a little time on, the author explains the issues thoroughly; provides a host of “Do’s” and “Don’t’s”; and, uses his own life lessons as a road map for the reader to use as they make their own dozen choices regarding retirement. The author’s wife, by the way, was also had a successful career. Accomplished, in her own right, Hinden’s spouse brought with her pension and retirement funds. And, it turns out, Alzheimer’s disease, which places her in a facility – a play that was not part of their retirement playbook.
Decision 1 is entitled “Am I Ready to Retire?” Effectively, the author leads the reader down the path of a Fantasy Island retirement, with all the freedom and pleasure it would bring. Quickly though, Hinden brings the reader back to the realities of retirement in order to help them determine if they are, in fact, ready to retire.
Decision 2 is entitled “Can I afford to Retire?,” and presupposes that the prior decision (1) was answered affirmatively. Early on in this chapter, the key question is defined as whether or not one had enough income to satisfy one’s expenses. If you do, great. If not, one must figure out how to raise one’s income, or in the alternative, lower one’s expenses. Naturally, as one would expect from a financial columnist, Hinden explores issues such as taxes, compounding interest, and other financial planning aspects in this chapter.
Decision 3 is entitled “When Should I Apply for Social Security?” Again, this is a perfect section for a man whose career was spent writing about money, and issues surrounding the same. Hinden explains Social Security in a manner that is quite interesting – let me restate this – in am manner that makes it as interesting as one can do given the subject manner, and its related statutory requirements.
Decision 4 is entitled “How Should I Take My Pension Payments?” In this chapter the author focuses on both defined-benefit plans (employer-paid) and defined-contribution plans (employee/employer-paid). The decisions in this chapter relate to analyzing the pros and cons of how one makes the various elections that are tied to receipt funds under the multiple options available to those who have retirement/pension plans sponsored by their employer. To me, this particular chapter was the least relevant of all, as neither myself, my co-workers, or any of my family members have such employer-sponsored pension plans.
Decision 5 is entitled “What Should I Do with the Money in My Company Savings Plan?” Here, Hinden focuses on specifics related to his 401(k) plan, which he states made it easy for he and his wife to become investors. And as many investor’s before (and for those that have not read this book) them, Hinden discusses one of the mistakes that he made – costing him nearly one hundred thousand dollars – so that reader’s can learn from his costly (to say the least) misstep.
Decision 6 is entitled “When do I Have to Take Money out of My IRAs?” This chapter, one of the shortest and driest in his book discusses the rules associated with how one determines the appropriate withdrawals from retirement accounts. While not terribly entertaining, a requisite read for any retiree.
Decision 7 is entitled “How Should I Invest During Retirement?” Hinden opens this chapter with the revelation that only three years into his retirement, he is stunned when he realizes that his retirement savings would be used up within eight years. This lesson was worsened as this revelation was made while he was 72, and his wife 70 years of age. Hinden made the determination regarding his dwindling funds by using an online retirement calculator. Quickly the chapter focuses on how to increase income, while controlling expenses. Hinde issues Five Golden Rules: (i) You Must Learn to Invest; (ii)The Greater the Risk, The Greater the Reward; (iii) Never Try to Outguess the Market; (iv) Go for the Averages; and (v) Spread Your Risk.
Decision 8 is entitled “What Should I Do About Health Insurance?” Hinden has much to discuss in this chapter of the book, what with his wife’s development of Alzheimer’s disease, her breast cancer surgery and his pre-retirement quadruple heart bypass operation. And, discuss he does. Hinden dissects Medicare, and its very parts A, B, C & D, and makes it and other coverage alternatives (HMOs, PPOs, etc.) understandable to the common man. Detailed, yet not complex examples are provided for even further clarification to the reader.
Decision 9 is entitled “What Should I Do to Prepare for an Illness That Requires Long Term Care.” Earlier editions of this book had this chapter beginning with Hinden’s biggest fear – that of the deterioration of his, or his spouse’s, health. As stated earlier, Mrs. Hinden was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007, and her condition worsened relatively quickly. Quickly Hinden learns of the significant costs associated with dealing with debilitating illnesses. Fortunately, his wife Sara had purchase a long term care policy, and the author espouses the benefit of doing the same.
Decision 10 is entitled “Where Do I Want to Live After I Retire?” The author elicits thoughts of Fantasy Island as his opening remarks for this chapter. Quickly he moves into considerations regarding weather, cost of living and proximity to family members as all being the central determents of where one should live after retirement. Despite his determination and multi-week investigation into moving to Florida, Hinden decided it was best for him to stay put and not join the ranks of retirees in the Sunshine State.
Decision 11 is entitled “How Should I Arrange My Estate to Save on Taxes and Avoid Probate?” Trusts, wills, healthcare directives, and other estate planning issues are discussed in this chapter. It is clear that Hinden has a bias against probating estates. Estate exemptions between spouses are discussed, as are issues that could affect the remaining spouse including later marriages.
Decision 12 is entitled “How Can I Age Successfully?” In this chapter Hinden ties retirement to the last quarter of a sporting event, which he says is the most exciting. In Hinden’s world, retirement provides the opportunity to “add points on the scoreboard of your life.” At the latest printing of this book, the author is 85 years old, and still finding life and work enjoyable and rewarding. Hinden finishes off this chapter with the “Do’s and Don’ts of Growing Older. Some of the Don’ts include: (i) Don’t let anger rule your life; (ii) Don’t live in the past; (iii) Don’t become a grumpy old man; and, (iv) Don’t gripe about your birthdays . . . enjoy them. Do’s include: (i) Choosing a retirement activity (part-time job, hobby) that you really enjoy’ (ii) Do exercise regularly; (iii) Do maintain your physical and mental independence; and, (iv) Do keep your sense of humor.
Overall, I truly enjoyed How to Retire Happy, and I would very much recommend it for anyone who is within a few decades of retirement. This statement, I believe, says so much. It says that there is much to plan for one’s retirement years, and that if the planning is started early enough, one’s retirement from a financial, health and overall wellness perspective can be greatly enhanced. For those who start preparing in advance, to those who have just received their final paycheck and are about to begin their retirement journey, there is much to learn in Hinden’s book. The fact that he is 85 and still writing on the subject also says a lot.
Book by Roberta K. Taylor, RNCS, M.Ed., and Dorian Mintzer, M.S.W., Ph.D.
This is a book about how to communicate with your partner regarding the important choices surrounding retirement to allow you both to make decisions that suit your needs, talents, resources and dreams. Its purpose is helping the reader envision and create a retirement that is both practical and enjoyable. The first portion of this book reads more like a straight-up therapy book than a retirement guide, which can be helpful in introducing men and women to differing communications styles, but may leave some wondering whether they are reading the right book. This “therapy” feeling of the book is generally limited to the first twenty pages, however, and then the style transitions into one of extensive storytelling interwoven with advice, discussion pointers and homework (which the authors call “Funwork”). The authors are generous, albeit a bit repetitive, in giving the reader talking points, communications tips and exercises for both the individual and couples to complete.
The core of this book is the 10 Must-Have Conversations the authors present and which are designed to help the reader consider and face the main factors of retirement. The book’s overarching theme is the value of communications in determining the what, why, how, and when of one’s own retirement. This is presented through the heavy use of vignettes to illustrate their point that there is no “normal,” and the differences between individuals can be used to customize a retirement that is right for you and your loved ones. The stories presented throughout each chapter add entertainment and make the content relatable. After reading all ten of the Must-Have Conversations chapters, it seems that if you have thought it, watched it, or lived it yourself, there is a story that reflects something you know or have thought about regarding relationships and retirement. The authors also weigh in, giving illustrations from their own lives that directly or indirectly show how the Must-Have Conversations have come into play in their personal experiences.
The 10 Must-Have Discussions address:
When to retire
Finances and financing retirement
Changing roles at retirement and thereafter
Managing your time together, and apart
Health and wellness
Choosing where and how to live
Having and managing a social life
Giving back and leaving a legacy
The book presents very little substantive information on the technical aspects of retirement planning. There is practical advice given about finding a financial planner or retirement specialist, including a list of issues and questions that would help the reader find an appropriate advisor. The authors also give a basic estate planning checklist and provide some introductory advice about long-term care insurance. This information lends intellectual weight to the book without pretending to present comprehensive advice on these matters.
Each of the Conversation chapters wraps up with a communications reminder, two exercises (one to do alone and one for couple time) as well as “Funwork.” Each time, the authors cheerfully remind the reader to have a BLAST! getting started taking things through, which stands for:
Blaming gets in the way Listen without interrupting Agree to disagree and don’t make assumptions Set a safe space for discussion Take time to talk without distractions.
Following the exercises, the authors help the reader put the “puzzle pieces” together by presenting additional questions for which the reader is encouraged to write out discoveries on a basic worksheet page at the back of the book.
In moving through the Must-Have Conversations, the authors present interesting ideas that remind the reader to be open-minded about what retirement may look like. They discuss myriad ideas about continuing some form of work through reinventing oneself, finding an Encore Career, working part-time or volunteerism. They also discuss how to handle the inevitable transitions of starting retirement and how one’s vision of retirement may change as time goes on. There is additional reassuring and helpful advice on: How to consider caring for parents and children while you are retired; maintaining or coping with health issues of advancing age; considerations about sex and intimacy; and things to think about for leaving a legacy.
The book’s Afterword reaches out to the reader with its discussion of how to continue on a thoughtful path regarding retirement when the unplanned happens. This chapter touches on divorce, death and how to work around a partner who just does not want to talk about the issues. Again, the authors take a kind and “there is no normal” approach in presenting this information, highlighting the fact that life is unpredictable.
The book also provides a rich resource section, giving a list of related books and references for each separate chapter and Conversation they present. The authors even provide an additional long list of books the reader might consider. Many of the references include website inks and there are two separate web resource sections containing more suggested information. Lastly, if the reader is interested, there is a Reading Group Guide for Individuals or Couples with an 18- point set of questions to encourage group discussions about the book and retirement in general.
The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle by Roberta Taylor Dorian Mintzer is a somewhat long, but easy read, that focuses on communicating about retirement so the reader can make purposeful, caring, and reality-based decisions about retirement options.
Among the many reasons that I like this book, is that it’s a combination of estate planning (EP) information and retirement planning (RP) information. The Table of Contents, which contains the listing of the 19 Chapters in the book, provides a brief description of the contents of each chapter and tells the reader “Read this chapter if …” which directs the reader to a specific chapter if s/he has questioned about a particular aspect of EP or RP. For example, Chapter 7, which covers the preservation of retirement accounts, tells the reader “ … Read this chapter if you have your own retirement account or have inherited one …”
Chapter 7 focuses on maximizing the stretch-out, giving your spouse options, going Roth, if you can, being smart about inheritances, using retirement assets to benefit charity, and aiming for flexibility. As with all chapters in the book it is written for the lay person, but does not sacrifice the technicalities of the law, instead, (as I refer to it) converts complicated legal concepts into language that the lay person can understand.
Each chapter ends with a “To-Do List” focused on the subject matter contained in the chapter. The Chapter 7 list tells the reader that “ … An annual review of your retirement plan can help you spot estate-planning oversights as well as tax-saving opportunities …” and provides a list of issues to consider in reference to one’s overall retirement plan.
Other chapters in the book relating to retirement planning include (1) Understanding the Tax System (Read this chapter even if you think estate taxes won’t affect your heirs), (2) Be Smart About Life Insurance (Read this chapter whether or not you have life insurance), (3) Pay for Health Care and Education (Read this chapter if anyone you love could use help with these expenses, now or in the future), (4) Home Base: Factoring in Real Estate (Read this chapter if you own your primary residence or vacation home or might move to a different state), and (5) Given Now, Save Tax Later (Read this chapter if saving taxes is a high priority).
In addition, the book contains a Glossary of terms, which contain user-friendly definitions of complicated legal concepts, such as “annual exclusion,” “applicable exclusion,” “carryover basis,” “exhaustion rule,” and “gift tax exemption” to name only a few of the terms. It also contains a section about “Resources and Further Reading,” and includes information about finding a lawyer, books concerning EP and RP, newsletters and magazines, software, web sites, blogs, and pertinent IRS Publications.
I highly recommend this book to individuals who are considering or are working on their estate plan, or individuals with questions about various retirement planning tools, and or individuals who have questions about taxes. The book is what it advertises a practical, user-friendly, action-oriented guide. The one downside to the book (as I think may exist with most books available on the subject right now) is that it is dealing with the tax laws pre the 2013 changes.
Another interesting aspect of the book for lawyers, accountants, and financial advisers is a section in the back of the book “At Least 10 Ways to Use This Book.” It specifically states that “ … Professionals have relied on Estate Planning Smarts as a business development tool, giving it to clients and prospects. For this purpose, it can be personalized by adding a company logo to the cover and up to 16 pages of customized text …”
Review by Eric R. Severson, Esq., Wellington, Florida
Book by Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D. Danko, Ph.D.
“Whatever your income, always live below your means.” Stanley & Danko, The Millionaire Next Door at 161. This simple rule is very hard to live by in our high consumption society. My wife and I have three young children and are very concerned with our society’s desire to display high social status (e.g., big houses in fancy neighborhoods, luxury cars and clothing, etc.) and our children’s perception of that. This book reinforces the idea of saving for our own good and instilling those ideas in our children.
The authors of The Millionaire Next Door have spent over twenty years studying how people become wealthy. Their research uncovered the following seven common denominators among those who successfully build wealth:
They live well below their means.
They allocate their time, energy, and money efficiently, in ways
conducive to building wealth.
They believe that financial independence is more important than
displaying high social status.
Their parents did not provide them economic outpatient care.
Their adult children are economically self-sufficient.
They are proficient in targeting market opportunities.
They chose the right occupation.
Stanley & Danko, The Millionaire Next Door at 3 – 4.
The authors came up with a formula to determine whether one is wealthy or not:
“Multiply your age times your realized pretax annual household income from all sources except inheritance. Divide by ten. This, less any inherited wealth, is what your net worth should be.” Stanley & Danko, The Millionaire Next Door at 13. From this equation, the authors have classified the two extremes as prodigious accumulators of wealth (“PAW”) or under accumulators of wealth (“UAW”). Boiled down to its essence, the over arching rule to follow to become a PAW is to live below your means. The authors spend time explaining the correlation between living below one’s means and being a PAW through case studies, giving examples of how PAWs live below their means, explaining how one becomes a PAW, and teaching how best to pass this lifestyle down to their descendants.
I would recommend this book to everyone from young adults just starting their careers to grandparents desiring to teach their children and grandchildren the importance of self-control and saving. My only criticism would be that the numbers used in the tables are outdated. For example, Appendix 2 provides estimated price per pound for 1996 motor vehicles. I also question Table 2-2 on page 44 detailing the credit cards held by millionaire household members. I would think that today’s millionaires are holding different credit cards than they were in 1996 taking into consideration discounts various businesses use to entice customers to shop at their stores and use their credit services (e.g., Macy’s and Target). However, the lessons imparted are even more important now than they were when the book was first published.
When I look for a book on retirement planning, I want more than a financial planning book. Although financial planning is very important, retirement planning is broader. After all, isn’t our pursuit in “retirement” to “finally” be doing the things we want to do? If so, Reinventing Retirement, 389 Bright Ideas about Family, Friends, Health, What to Do and Where to Live, is a well written and thorough summary by Miriam Goodman, of things we need to focus on in order to make that goal reality. Retirement planning is not a “defensive” strategy. It is an “offensive” strategy that needs a guide book.
Goodman introduces a “new disease now striking millions of otherwise healthy baby boomers … Retirement Anxiety.” She describes it as our inability [unwillingness] to address our own futures. She emphasizes, “It is essential to think of it as a beginning, not as an end.”
Reinventing Retirement is dedicated “To Peter Pan.” As the eternal child did for Wendy and her siblings, Goodman wants to free the reader’s mind from years of constraint, boundaries created by ourselves, our families and life circumstances. The book is an effort by Goodman to permit our dreams to fly. Unburdened by employment, while still drawing a paycheck, whether adequate or just nearly adequate, Goodman sets our course to pre-plan every aspect of our lives and to regularly re-assess how to make the most of the next phase. “Retirement is both a challenge and an opportunity to be embraced with enthusiasm.” Goodman seems to have a grasp of the issue: what does my retirement mean and how do I prepare and make the most of it?
I like this book because it is not a financial planning book. This book is a practical guide to help focus the reader on multiple areas of life after work with proactive planning for the myriad of demands in retirement. If not now, when?
Planning for “retirement” is (or should be) a current topic of discussion for the largest generation of retiring Americans. Personally, like so many of our peers, we are too busy to discuss it. But, practically, we have to. Goodman writes, “Reinventing Retirement is designed to make it easier for you to assess your retirement needs and consider useful and valuable approaches to meeting them.” She styles her writing as a personal agenda for the reader, much like a workbook.
The book outlines for the reader, literally with physical notebook tabs at the section breaks, a retiree’s eight (8) general areas of focus: Work, Play, Home, Relationships, Finances, Health, What’s Next and Resources. Consistent with the argument that a single book cannot solve all the issues for one’s retirement planning in detail, Reinventing Retirement is a guide. Therefore, the last section on Resources finishes the “workbook” with where to go in order to get details of each general topic.
If few “Boomers” want to confront the issues, Goodman has an informal easy reading style that allows us to accept the subject(s) while avoiding any well-deserved guilt for not having “put away for the future.” This book does not point fingers; it describes how to accept our individual situations and to make the most of our available retirement options. Her approach is coherent, clear, gentle and concise, without intimidating technical advice that so often causes one to switch to the television as an alternative. I read the 170 page text in a couple of relaxed evenings.
There is a psychology to retirement planning. The book is structured to emphasize that retirement is not just about financial planning. Work, Play, Home and Relationships precede Finances as topics. Goodman focuses on what the majority of our life issues will be concerned with. The transitions most of us will face involve these topics. The bottom lines, Health and What’s Next, underscore that in order to enjoy this phase of our lives, we must affirmatively take steps to maintain our health and continually accept that we will be facing opportunities for change or being ‘forced’ to accept conditions placed upon us against our will. Although there are limits to how much specific recommendations might add to such a work, and it may tend to change the character of the style, I would appreciated footnotes to the resources in the last section to help jump-start my planning.
Reinventing Retirement does not so much give the answers as provide the questions for anyone planning for retirement or wanting to make the most out of their next phase of life. It is an interesting book, with an easy manner, useful to its audience. I appreciated the book’s approach as a “whole foods” planning guide with a broad emphasis on living fully the retirement experience. I found this work a good starter for anyone beginning the retirement planning process and I recommend it.
Review by Linda Greenberg, Esq., Palos Verdes, California
Book by Julie Jason
My review is on “The AARP Retirement Survival Guide – How to Make Smart Financial Decisions in Good Times and Bad.” The author, Julie Jason is a personal money manager who started her career as a securities lawyer 30 years ago. Her goal in writing this book was to create an educational consumer-protection guide for soon-retiring baby boomers. AARP (American Association of Retired People) got involved because their mission is to publish books that enrich the lives of older Americans. This book provides a good overview of financial planning options for retirement such as how much you should save, how much you can afford to take out every month. The book won the Best Finance Book at the International Book Awards and was chosen the top business book by Booklist.
The first thing you notice when you open the book is the large print making the book easy to read. It is very detailed oriented and provides lots of tips and lists of things you need to have handy when working on your retirement. For example, there is a list of exactly what you need to bring with you to the social security office when you are first applying for benefits. The book offers clear directions on things such as “Where do I begin?” and what to do when your spouse has very different ideas about retirement.
The book offers very helpful self-assessments, checklists, and tools that are designed to help even the absolute beginner under stand some very complex topics. There is a detailed rating system for varying products as well as some really helpful “Don’t be Fooled Rules”.
Ms. Jason provides her expert opinions on various topics. She rates things like how motivated is a product salesman to does your decision let you sleep at night. She has several “Don’t be Fooled” rules that help educate retiring consumers and protects them from unscrupulous or overzealous salespeople. Along this line, she has one entire chapter dedicated to these topics called “ Perfect Storm of Disaster for Retirees – Sales Tactics, Scams and Bad Advice”.
There is also a great deal of information on evaluating retirement income products. I found this information to be helpful and educational but came away with a sense that a financial advisor would be the smartest way to go since so much can go wrong if you don’t know what you are doing.
As for not yet ready to retirement younger readers, there are lots of recommendations that can help put them on a better, more prepared path toward retirement.
The book finishes with a step-by-step retirement readiness test. Overall, the book was a helpful and educational tool. I would recommend this book as a first step toward putting together a comprehensive retirement plan. It highly suggests the use of a financial advisor. However, it does not go into detail on specifics of individual plans. This book would be a very good reference book that would allow to reader to return as needed for comprehensive explanations for different types of financial products or salespeople.
Review by Christina Nevins, Esq., Boynton Beach, Florida
Book by Daniel R. Solin
Let me first say that I don’t usually enjoy reading financial planning books. Don’t get me wrong. I do read them, because I know that I need the information contained in them. I just don’t enjoy the process, finding that many are bogged down with too much information and a host of unpronounceable acronyms. Having said that, I found Daniel Solin’s book, The Smartest Retirement Book You’ll Ever Read, to be a refreshingly easy to understand and well written book.
Solin covers a lot of territory, presented in 14 sections containing several very short chapters each. Topics covered range from the shockingly large bite inflation can take out of your nest egg over time, to when to retire and begin drawing Social Security, to irrevocable trusts, and even to prenuptial agreements for seniors. Each topic is covered in concisely written, surprisingly thorough chapters. Most of the chapters are only one-and-a-half to two pages, making for a quick read. Solin supplements these chapters with a section in the back of the book that provides, chapter-by-chapter, references to web sites and other resources for further independent research.
The book is, for the most part, written for those individuals who are already retired or about to retire and have enough resources to be able to invest some and still have ready cash on hand for daily expenses. For example, Solin recommends keeping 2 years’ worth of expenses in readily available money market accounts while investing the rest in a combination of stocks and bonds. Certainly, for many retirees, doing so is simply not a realistic option. The majority of the book assumes that you’ve got a substantial nest egg and just need to know what to do with it. At one point, Solin refers to a $100,000 investment as a “cheap” investment, a statement that might turn some off to his advice, thinking that they simply do not have the resources to implement his otherwise sage advice. (Solin does, however, provide a short section entitled “Financial Lifelines for Desperate Times,” in which he discusses what to do if the worst happens and your nest egg runs out before you do.)
Solin’s credentials are excellent. He is the author of two other very well received books, The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read and The Smartest 401(k) Book You’ll Ever Read. (Sensing a theme here?) He also writes a financial advice column for the Huffington Post and a contributor to AOL’s DailyFinance. Solin’s confidence in his skills comes out clearly in the book: “you need ” this and “you don’t need” that are the kind of definitive word choices he uses when doling out his advice. For some this certainty of opinion may be off-putting; for others, however, it may be reassuring as it gives clear direction on what to do and what not to do.
Overall, I think that this is an excellent book to keep in the finances section of your library. It covers a lot of subjects very well and provides a springboard to further research in the ones that are particularly relevant to your individual situation. I still may not “enjoy” reading books like this, but with this one, at least, I learned a lot of very valuable information that I will keep in the back of my mind for when the time comes for me to retire.