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I read a lot of retirement books, and when I come across one that’s worthy of your time, I write a review to make you aware of new content you should consider to help you Achieve A Great Retirement (my byline). I just completed an excellent book, and dedicate today’s post to a review of the latest work from Dr. Wade Pfau, Retirement Planning Guidebook. Not by coincidence, it goes on sale today.
I highly encourage you to read it, and below I’ll tell you why in a simple list of “What Makes This Book Worth Reading”.
Wade Pfau is one of the most respected and knowledgeable professionals in the field of retirement planning. I was honored when he offered me access to an early “working version” of his latest book, Retirement Planning Guidebook: Navigating the Important Decisions for Retirement Success (Amazon link, I’ll get a small commission at no charge to you if you order via that link). It’s a meaty piece of work, and I devoured every word.
This is the fourth book Dr. Pfau has written and, in my opinion, his best. In summary, the strength of this book lies in the comprehensive coverage of almost every topic a person should consider for retirement. While it includes some of the hardcore number crunchings in which Wade excels, it also touches on some of the non-financial aspects which a person should consider as they contemplate retirement. Combined, it is the most comprehensive work he’s written, and it’s well worth your time. Read on for a summary…If you're planning on reading only one book from Wade Pfau, I'd recommend you read The Retirement Planning Guidebook. It's his best book to date. Here's why... Click To Tweet
If you’d like to have a look at the book on Amazon, click that Amazon link above. I’ll get a small commission if you buy through that link at no cost to you.
The Retirement Planning Guidebook
After writing for 6 years on the topic of retirement, I thought I was pretty knowledgeable on the topic. However, as I read the Retirement Planning Guidebook, I was reminded again and again how much I’ve yet to learn. Fortunately, there’s someone out there who seems to “know it all” (a compliment, not a criticism). Even more fortunately, that someone has documented all of it in one comprehensive retirement planning guidebook that is a “must-read” for anyone who is within +/- 5 years of retirement.
This book made me pause, time and time again.I learned more in reading this one book than any other single piece of work I've read in the past 10 years of retirement planning. Click To Tweet
Yes, it’s that good.
Table Of Contents
The content is both deep and wide, as demonstrated by the topics summarized in the table of contents below:
- Chapter 1: Retirement Income Styles and Decisions
- Chapter 2: Retirement Risks
- Chapter 3: Quantifying Goals and Assessing Preparedness
- Chapter 4: Sustainable Spending from Investments
- Chapter 5: Annuities and Risk Pooling
- Chapter 6: Social Security
- Chapter 7: Medicare and Health Insurance
- Chapter 8: Long-Term Care Planning
- Chapter 9: Housing Decisions in Retirement
- Chapter 10: Tax Planning for Efficient Retirement Distributions
- Chapter 11: Legacy and Incapacity Planning
- Chapter 12: The Non-Financial Aspects of Retirement Success
- Chapter 13: Putting it All Together
Take a moment to consider each of the topics above. If you have an interest in any one of them, this book is worth your time. Each chapter provides an expert’s well-thought-out overview on the topic, and the depth of the research supporting his commentary is beyond compare. In almost every chapter, I learned new things. Dr. Pfau’s depth of knowledge shone through and taught me new lessons on topics in which I considered myself well versed. I cannot reiterate how often I was impressed by Dr. Pfau’s knowledge on such a wide range of retirement topics.
I also like the format Wade used to summarize the key action items required from each chapter with a helpful “Action Plan” at the close of each chapter. A retirement planning guidebook, indeed.
Note: Since I read a working version, it’s possible slight changes have been made in the final version of the book.
What Makes This Book Worth Reading
Rather than doing a “play by play” summary of the comprehensive content, I’ve decided to summarize things that make this book different, as well as content that caused me to pause and think. In some areas, Dr. Pfau challenged my thinking on various retirement tools (e.g., annuities), and I’ve included those in the summary below:
1. What’s Your Retirement Income Style?
In the opening chapters, Wade explores a new approach to retirement income planning which was developed in-house at Retirement Researcher. Through an entirely new survey methodology, Wade and his team have established the following “Retirement Income Style Awareness” (RISA) Matrix, which can be thought of as a new way to establish your risk tolerance/capacity.
I’ve taken the RISA Profile which is discussed in the book, and am very impressed with how accurately my results matched my investment personality. I have a draft post on the RISA Profile which I plan on sharing in the coming months. Importantly, the book includes a link and secret code which you can use to take your own RISA Profile assessment without cost or obligation. That alone is worth the price of this book.
In summary, knowing your RISA Profile helps establish which approach to retirement income planning best “fits” your natural personality. In the opening chapter, Wade explains the details behind each quadrant in the chart above and the implications for your retirement planning in areas such as asset allocation, the role of annuities vs. bonds in your portfolio, and your natural tendencies toward risk vs. reward.
It’s groundbreaking work, and this is the first book that presents the new approach.
2. Retirement Risks & Implications
We’ve all heard about the main retirement risks:
- Longevity Risk
- Market Risk
- Spending Shocks
What makes this book unique is the way Wade presents the potential ranges of those retirement risks and, more importantly, the implications to your retirement plan. An example of the approach is best captured in this quote from the book:
“For a planned retirement budget, the overall cost of retirement will be less with some combination of a shorter life, stronger market returns, and fewer spending shocks. But retirement could become quite expensive when a long life is combined with poor market returns and significant spending shocks. The danger is that a combination of risks contributes to an overall retirement cost that exceeds available assets. Developing strategies to manage retirement risks is an important theme in the book”
3. When Can I Retire?
The early chapters of the book are dedicated to that age-old question of when can I retire. I include it here as one of the reasons to buy this book due to its comprehensive approach to that question. Wade lays out the complete process for how to compare your potential retirement income with your projected expenses to determine when your “funded ratio” is sufficient to consider retirement. A lot of people have written on this topic (including me), but if you’ve not yet done the math, this book is a great resource for learning how to do it.
4. The Value of Risk Pooling via Annuities
Prior to reading this book, I’ve been hesitant to purchase an annuity. As I wrote in “What Role Should Annuities Play In Retirement”, I’m currently in the “wait and see” mode as I consider buying a deferred annuity as a longevity hedge. I’ve been focused on the reality that in today’s low-interest rate environment, the payback is less than I’d prefer. In addition, I’ve always viewed my pension as a viable alternative to an annuity, given that it covers our essential spending without risk.
What I’ve been missing, however, is the value of the risk pooling and mortality credits provided via annuities.
I found the chapter on annuities the one chapter that most challenged my current thinking. Wade does an outstanding job of explaining the value of the various types of annuities and their role in your retirement income strategy, and how they can actually increase your lifetime spending versus various alternatives. A fascinating read with real application as you determine your retirement income strategy.
5. Social Security Spousal Benefits
Second only to the annuity chapter, Wade’s presentation of Social Security claiming strategies also challenged my current thinking. As I wrote in “Should You Take Social Security at Age 62 or 70”, I’ve been of the somewhat simplified opinion that I’ll defer until Age 70 to take advantage of the risk-free ~8% annual increase in the payout rate. What I missed in my article, however, was the impact (and complexity) of spousal benefits, especially where one spouse earned significantly less than the other.
Fortunately, I read this book before I had to make my decision (I’m 58 years old as I write these words), and Wade presented some excellent resources (SS Calculator links) to do a more complex analysis prior to finalizing your decision. When Wade says this is a decision you can not make without using a detailed SS Calculator to analyze your decision, I listen. I’ve saved those links, and plan on doing a more detailed analysis in the coming years.
As Wade so eloquently explains, the impact of a sub-optimal social security claiming decision can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. If you gain nothing else from this book, the chapter on social security will likely pay you back manyfold on the purchase price of the book.
6. The Importance of Your Medicare Decision
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t studied Medicare in any detail at this stage in my journey. At 58 years of age, I have a few years before I need to cross that bridge. However, my eyes were opened as I read Wade’s words on the complexity of Medicare. He is a clear expert on the topic, and I learned more in his chapter on Medicare than in any other section of his book.
I can assure you that I’ll be pulling the book off my shelf and reading this chapter again in a few years, and there are very few books I can say that about. If you’re getting close to Age 65 (or you’re older than that, and not re-evaluating your Medicare elections on an annual basis), this chapter alone is reason enough to buy this book.
Game, Set, Match
I could easily add another 10 items to this list, but the 6 issues above had the greatest impact on me as I read this book. As I close in on 2,000 words with this post, I’m calling it complete.
In summary, I guarantee you’ll learn some new things when you read this book. Your list may be different than mine, but you WILL have a list. And that list is why you should read this book.
Who Shouldn’t Buy This Book?
One word of warning: This book is meaty.
If you’re looking for a quick and simple read on how to prepare for retirement, this book isn’t for you (read mine instead, wink). This book is not for a rookie who’s looking to learn some retirement basics, but rather for a more advanced investor who is willing to chew on a more comprehensive academic approach to the topic. Consider it a mix between a textbook and a retirement planning guidebook. If you don’t want to be challenged, stick to reading blogs. Smiles.
If, however, you’re at the stage where the most comprehensive book on retirement planning appeals to you, I can recommend no finer book. This author learned a lot by reading every word in the book, and I can assure that you’ll learn some new things, as well.
The Retirement Planning Guidebook is the most comprehensive book I’ve ever read on retirement planning. If you’re serious about doing a “deep dive” into the topic, you will love this book. I seldom go out on this branch, but I am confident saying that I guarantee you’ll learn some new things about retirement planning if you read this book, and your retirement will be better as a result. I give it a solid 5.0-star rating and recommend it fully.
Click the link below to order a copy today (Amazon affiliate link):
Previous Book Reviews by The Retirement Manifesto:
- Retirement Heaven or Hell
- Growing Young
- Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence
- Money For The Rest of Us
- The Simple Path To Wealth
- Younger Next Year
Other Books By Wade Pfau: