Yes, You Can Still Retire Comfortably! – A Book Review

I read a lot in the areas of personal finance.  As a baby boomer, I make sure to include large doses of reading in retirement planning.  Regardless of your age, you should do the same.  I recently finished reading “Yes, You Can Still Retire Comfortably!” which was authored by Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth and published in 2005.  This is my review of that book.

Many of you will recognize Ben Stein, perhaps first from his appearance as the whiny high school teacher in the semi-cult film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or more recently from his various TV gigs, including Win Ben Stein’s Money.  What many of you may not know is that Stein was educated as an economist and worked as an economist for the Department of Commerce.  He has also written on matters of personal finance for many years for Barron’s and the Wall Street Journal.

Stein has partnered on this book with Phil DeMuth, who has a Ph.D. in psychology and is a Registered Investment Advisor.  DeMuth has also been a prolific writer in areas of personal finance and retirement planning and is president of a wealth management firm for high net worth individuals.  Stein and DeMuth have written other personal finance and investing books together.

Bottom line:  The authors bring major credibility to this joint writing project.

Who Can Benefit from Reading This Book

If you are interested in straight talk and specific recommendations about retirement planning strategies, then this book is for you. 

If you are a person of any age who appreciates the value of planning ahead for your financial future, this book has much to offer.

If you are a baby boomer or a late-starter in saving for retirement, this book is a must read because of (a) the hard truth it brings about what lies ahead and (b) the detailed help and guidance it provides about how you can recover from a difficult pre-retirement financial picture.

The book content is separated into distinct three parts, each of which provides a specific focus on different aspects of retirement planning as well as the authors’ unique insights and recommendations.

Part I:  Yes, You Can Still Retire Comfortably

The first part of the book is a clarion call for everyone who is concerned about his or her financial future.  The authors also direct this part to those who should be concerned but maybe have ignored what is happening in the money world around them. 

After summarizing their “21 Basic Rules of Retirement” and thoughts for “Retirement Planning Decade by Decade”, Stein/DeMuth explain in detail what is likely to happen in what they call the “baby boom retirement crisis.”  What I appreciate from this section is that the authors provide real data to support the warnings they present about what lies ahead for all of us.  Then they bring the real hard truth:  Not everyone will be lucky enough to retire comfortably and it is up to you – the reader – to “save yourself.” 

Even of you don’t read this book, Mr. ToughMoneyLove wants you to please remember those words:  Save Yourself.  They are so true.

Part II:  How Much to Save and How Much to Spend

This section contains the nuts and bolts – Stein and DeMuth style – of how to do the following:

Determine how much you will need to retire
Develop a custom-tailored savings plan 
Invest for retirement
Invest for income
Design and implement a retirement draw down plan

I want to emphasize again that Stein and DeMuth do not just spout platitudes and rules of thumb that can be found in a multitude of other sources.  They provide specific graphs, charts, and tables that allow the reader to plug-in their own data and circumstances and come out with a real retirement plan for themselves.

The authors are not afraid to back-test their retirement planning strategies using actual historical data.  The testing charts they provide can be re-assuring to the reader that the recommendations are not based on pure speculation or theory.

A unique bonus feature provided by the authors is a website that contains updated information, planning charts, tables and worksheets related to what is discussed in the book.  I have visited the site and the data can be helpful for anyone who wants to implement a financial plan using the Stein/DeMuth strategies.

Part III – If Everything You Have Isn’t Enough

Stein and DeMuth are realists and understand that many readers of their book will determine that they are well behind the retirement planning curve.  This section of the book is for those folks.

The authors start with extensive coverage of fixed and variable annuities.  Apparently, Stein’s parents did very well with annuities so he is favorably disposed to their use in some retirement plans.

Relocation is another topic of this section.  Many retirees fail to appreciate how much money they are bleeding away in taxes, mortgage payments, insurance, and in other spending categories because of where they are living.

Finally, the confusing topic of reverse mortgages is discussed for those who may be house rich but cash poor.

In an Appendix, the authors summarize the “25 Big Truths of Retirement Planning” and introduce the retirement withdrawal strategies of other experts.  I found the comparison of the different withdrawal strategies enlightening.

Final Thoughts

Mr. ToughMoneyLove enjoyed reading this book, all the more so because I am a fan of Stein.  I cannot say that I agree with everything he recommends but I do appreciate that he and DeMuth can support what they say with data and logic.  In short, you should read this book.

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6 Responses to “Yes, You Can Still Retire Comfortably! – A Book Review”
  1. MJP says:

    I also enjoyed this book – thanks for reviewing it.

  2. Sparky says:

    Where can I buy this book?

  3. Sparky says:

    Thanks – will do

  4. MasterPo says:

    TML – You should do a column on annuities. I think they are more valuable now as pensions (and possibly SS) are rapidly going the way of the Dinosaur.

  5. MasterPo – Good suggestion – I will put it on my list for a future post. I am reading another book now that will help with that.

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