Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Smart retirement" is not an oxymoron

Author Dan Solin explains how to get the most for your money for retirement.

The Smartest Retirement Book You'll Ever Read 
The Smartest Retirement Book You'll Ever Read. Daniel R. Solin. Penguin Group. 272 pages.

by Richard Pachter

I currently have no plans to retire. As long as I still have most of my marbles, I'll just keep working, though I may eventually be forced to stop. This is highly unlikely (yeah right), but to be prudent I ought to prepare for the possibility that my earning days could end. I'll need to look closely at what remains of my 401(k) and other savings so that the funds will last at least as long as I do. Reading this book is smart.

Dan Solin's previous entries in this series, The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read and The Smartest 401(k) Book You'll Ever Read, were clever, breezy guides to navigating through the financial morass without getting hurt. Really, the info contained therein would undoubtedly be sufficient for anyone seeking to manage their finances through post-employment life. Still, the publishing business being what it is, Solin was undoubtedly encouraged to continue. And that's fine. This new book gets into the basics of investment, stocks and bonds in context with the present economic scene, so reading the earlier volumes doesn't mean that you won't get anything out of this one.


In fact, in addition to advice on retirement accounts, Solin casts his wise eye and sharp pen on other important subjects like reverse mortgages, age of social security distribution, prenuptial agreements for seniors, options and implications of delaying retirement, and the locally ubiquitous phenomenon of "senior seminars'' involving a ``free'' meal at a ritzy restaurant accompanied by a steaming side dish of potentially costly advice.

The best thing that Solin brings to the party is his shrewd and skeptical approach to the art and science of investing. Have an account with a brokerage? Close it, he instructs. Those guys are just trying to sell you stuff that you may or may not need in order to generate fees for themselves, not returns for you. And be sure to have a will that reflects your current wishes so your heirs, not the state, get whatever is left of your estate. You may not agree with everything Solin writes (especially if you're a professional whose livelihood depends on fees), but there's no question that his focus is on what's best for individuals, not institutions.


Throughout, Solin writes clearly with style and humor but stays on topic and doesn't bloviate or pontificate excessively. He includes a number of charts and other tools to figure out what to do with your money so it grows into the amount you will need to live on for the rest of your days. He also includes a pretty clever bibliography that painlessly presents his sources and offers options for further reading and investigation.

The only thing about this booked that bugged me was the brevity of each chapter -- some about a page and a half. Seemed to me that in most cases, several could have been neatly combined. This may seem like nitpicking, but the narrative would have flowed a bit better and maybe a couple of trees could have been spared in the process.
Originally published 8/24/09 in The Miami Herald

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