I announced earlier that I would soon publish my next book, Redeeming Retirement: A Practical Guide to Catch Up. Well, I'm excited to announce that it's been released and is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions!
In this article, I want to tell you more about it, and let you know about some giveaways to celebrate its release. (More details on the freebies at the end of the article, but go ahead and scroll down to there if you must :-).
Why This Book?
You may be wondering why I wrote this book, especially since I've already written a book about planning for retirement (Reimagine Retirement). Or, you may not be all that interested, but I'm going to tell you anyway.
In the first book, I try to help people plan for retirement; the sooner, the better. But I wrote Redeeming Retirement with a different purpose in mind. I explain in the book's introductory material:
I started doing financial coaching and counseling in my local church almost twenty years ago. Over time, I've become increasingly concerned about how ill-prepared many households are for retirement. More concerning is many don't even know it. . .
Because everyone's situation is unique, there are many reasons people are in poor shape in terms of retirement preparedness. It could be due to procrastination, excessive optimism, or pessimism about the future. Some overly rely on Social Security, engage in overspending, or take on excessive debt. It could also result from chronic job instability, un- or under-employment, excessive debt, health problems, catastrophic events, family issues, and others issues that take their toll. . .
Not that everyone should retire, or at a particular age. We each possess considerable freedom to decide what later life will look like for us. Some will work for the sheer joy of it well into their 60s, 70s, and beyond. Others want to retire sooner than later or be forced to due to health issues, layoffs, or other challenges. . .
I'm assuming most people will want to retire someday and prefer to do it on their terms. Regardless of the timing, if you want a "work-for-pay-optional" retirement, you'll need a plan to fund it. . .
Because I wanted to help others like those I've encountered as a financial coach in my church to be as well-prepared for retirement as possible, I created [this] blog (RetirementStewardship.com). I also wrote two books (Reimagine Retirement and The Minister's Retirement). But this is a book I always wanted to write. I want to help those who have fallen behind in planning to "redeem" their retirement so they can live it with financial dignity.Preface, pg. ix
You may also be wondering about the book cover. (Or you may think it's silly and don't want to hear anything about it either.) I agree it's a little different; that's why I like it. Or, if you think a cover shouldn't need any explanation, I agree. But here's more about it from the book anyway:
Looking at the book's cover, you may wonder why the guy is tiny and the piggy bank is so large. Perhaps it's because saving enough for retirement is a big challenge and many folks need to save more than they have. Or why there's a clock on the piggy bank. I don't have a great answer for that either, except I wanted a clock to convey the concept of time, and it had to go somewhere. And what exactly is the tiny guy on the top of the piggy bank doing? I can explain that: He's trying to "turn back the hands of time," literally. He needs more time to prepare for retirement because he's fallen behind.Introduction, pg. 4
I also like the cover colors, especially the red. Red can signify a warning of imminent risk and danger, and that's what some of the book is about. But as you will see, I don't just wave a red flag—I offer suggestions on how it can go from red to yellow or green.
Help Can be Hard to Find
Here's the deal: If you have a high-6 figure or low 7-figure retirement savings portfolio, you can find lots of people willing to give you financial advice. In fact, they'll find you (or at least come calling). With less than $500,000 saved, probably not so much.
Plus, financial advisors get paid to mainly give investment advice, not to offer guidance on the host of other things you can do to improve your overall retirement readiness. A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is more likely to provide that service. But that's not to say that a financial advisor won't ever do so in conjunction with their planning, investment advice, or portfolio management services.
There are some understandable reasons for this. Advisors don't make much money discussing Social Security claiming strategies or managing 5 or low 6-figure portfolios. And, with such limited savings, there's only so much a financial advisor can do.
Then there's the math. An annual advisory fee of 1% of assets under management for a $1.5Mil. portfolio is $15,000, but 1% of $350,000 is only $3,500.
But that doesn't mean there's no hope.
I'm not a licensed financial advisor, and I don't represent myself as one in the book. Nothing I say in the book should be taken as professional advice for your situation. My intent is to help you understand that there are many levers you can pull if you find yourself behind in saving for retirement; you have to decide which ones are right for you and then pull them.
My goal in writing Redeeming Retirement is to give help and hope to the "unwealthy" so they can retire with dignity and with the ultimate goal of flourishing in a way that enables you to do the things God calls you to do in later life.
What is "Inadequate Savings"?
What constitutes inadequate savings for one household may be sufficient for another—everyone's situation is different.
For purposes of the book, it means you won't have enough savings when added to Social Security or other income such as a pension or annuity to maintain a standard of living mostly comparable to what you had before you stopped working for a living.
How much you need is an individual thing and depends on your current and future lifestyle and the level of spending required to support it. But we're talking about those with less than $500,000 and certainly those with less than $300,000. As I've cited many times on this blog, more than 90% of U.S. families close to retirement have saved less than $200,000 saved!
Using the "4% rule," $200,000 in savings translates to income of $8,000/year ($200,000 x .04 = $8,000). If your pre-retirement income is $80,000 and your Social Security benefit is $35,000, that's total retirement income of $43,000.
Only you know if you could live a little more than half of your pre-retirement income, but most would find it very challenging.
I wrote the book based on the following five core principles, which are foundational to its purpose:
1. Most of us know that planning for the future, including retirement, is wise and good. But it's easy to fall behind, and "catching up" requires thoughtful, deliberate action.
I don't discuss it in detail in this book (I developed it extensively in Reimagine Retirement: Planning and Living to the Glory of God), but Scripture plainly encourages us to plan for the future, which would include some time in "retirement," is a good, necessary, and therefore wise, activity.
We see this in the Genesis account of Joseph saving up grain in anticipation of future drought, in the ant in Proverbs 6 storing up its food for the future, and the wise man in Proverbs 20 who doesn't consume all he has.
Even if you haven't read Reimagine Retirement, you're probably familiar with Dave Ramsey. His "baby steps" toward financial peace will help you "retire with (financial) dignity." I reference Dave's baby steps in my book:
. . . [they] include things like 'pay off all debt except your mortgage.' For most people, that's not a baby step. It's a giant leap—it can take five or ten years to complete—and progress comes little by little. In this book, the things we'll look at to help you achieve financial dignity in retirement are not baby steps either. They'll probably require decisive, consistent action and may require some pretty big steps on your part.Chapter 1, pgs. 8–9
Furthermore, as I also wrote in chapter one,
If you've fallen behind in planning for retirement, I want to remind you of this single, unalterable truth: If you don't take care of funding your retirement, no one is likely to come to your rescue—not the government, your family, or your friends. Sure, you may get help here and there, but it may not be enough to retire at the level of financial independence and security you need. And even if you do, that probably isn't your preferred solution. In other words, this book is for those who haven't completed all [of Dave Ramsey's] baby steps or ran into challenges or problems along the way.Chapter 1, pg. 9
Many of the suggestions I offer in the book will make you at least a little uncomfortable. They aren't easy or fun, but they can make a big difference. As I expressed in the last chapter,
I sincerely believe it's far better to know what you have to do and then choose to do it or not than to go into retirement with wide-eyed optimism and enthusiasm not rooted in reality. Better to take deliberate steps now and make changes and adjustments when you can than have them forced upon you by events beyond your control.Chapter 20, pg. 198
2. Time may or may not be on your side. However, a late start is better than doing little or nothing and hoping for the best.
I can't say this any better than Ben Carlson did in his latest book, Everything You Need to Know About Saving for Retirement:
Whatever the reason, there are a number of people who wish they would have started saving when they were younger but didn't. Beginning the process of saving for retirement in your 40s or 50s isn't ideal, but it's not a lost cause either. If you got a late start on retirement planning there are still steps you can take to fund your post-working years. You just have to make some potentially uncomfortable moves and stop wasting time. The best time to start saving was 10 years ago but the second best time is today. Don't be discouraged if you're in this place. Many people in this same situation give up saying it's too late but that's not the case.
I elaborate on this in chapter one:
I don't intend to shame you or play the "they told you so" card. There are a lot of excellent reasons you may be behind in saving for retirement. But if you've made it to your 40s, 50s, or 60s with little savings, you may be fearful. Maybe that's why you're reading this book. Still, it's not my purpose to scare you into doing something about your retirement. There's already too much fear-mongering by the media, financial professionals, and government bureaucrats about the so-called "retirement crisis," no matter how real or contrived. . .
Chris Hogan wrote this about fear and finances in retirement:
Fear is a real thing. . . It is often the first sensation we feel when we take an honest look at our planning and dreams for retirement. We end up asking . . . what if we outlive our money in retirement?" The fear of running out of money before we run out of life is genuine for many, but it can also prompt us toward decisive action. "Bad fear" distracts and paralyzes; "good fear" motivates for action. While acknowledging fear as a great motivator, Hogan reminds us "it won't keep you motivated and focused over two, three, or four decades of working and saving. . . Fear may be an effective motivator, but it's a terrible master." I agree. . .
If you've read Ramsey's and Hogan's books and others' but still wonder if you'll ever be able to retire with confidence, this book is for you. I will spare you a lot of inspirational platitudes and instead offer you hope in the form of helpful information and detailed practical guidance. . .
Fear, regret, and anxiety are your enemies. You shouldn't beat yourself up if you haven't been able to save the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to maintain your standard of living after you retire. Lots of people are in the same boat. Anxiety and fear are your worst enemies. Instead, regardless of your age and time to retirement, come up with a workable plan and then go get 'er done.Chapter 1, page 11
3. There are multiple "levers" you can pull to improve your financial situation in retirement.
Those with less time to catch up will have to put most of their focus on strategies other than just saving more. (You can—and should—try to save more. But with limited time for your savings to grow, it will have less effect.)
Of course, the younger you are, the more options you have. You can save and invest more. But if you're older, you don't want to put what you have at too much risk in the stock market. If you weren't able to invest your way to sufficient savings during the last few decades, you probably aren't going to get it done in the five or ten years before you retire.
If you didn't save enough over the last several decades during the longest bull market in history (when you had an income from work and weren't withdrawing from your portfolio), it's unlikely that you will be able to invest your way out of your problem. Going "all in" the stock market in hopes of higher returns in retirement is suicidal. You will have to pursue other strategies, which I cover in the book:
- Work longer
- Spend less
- Manage your home equity and mortgage
- Maximize your Social Security benefits
- Build a secure income "floor," and
- Be very careful with your risk-based investments
In addition to those strategies, I also discuss debt, insurance, making extra income, and others. These strategies, executed in some combination with each other, can make a big difference.
To try to "make it real," I use an example couple, who I named the "Samples" (clever, huh?), to illustrate the effectiveness of different catch-up strategies over time, which I trust will encourage you that they can work for you as well. (They aren't a real-life couple, but I try to simulate the process reasonably and realistically.) But since I don't want to give away everything, I'll say that they go from "no way" at age 47 to an income surplus at age 70!
4. The goal is to have "enough."
The last chapter in the book is titled "When You Have Enough." If you're successful doing many of the things I discuss in the book, you may eventually have "enough." That will look different for each household, but in the book, I define enough this way:
Remember, the goal isn't to save for a luxurious retirement filled with cruises and golfing at the country club. We're talking about having enough—sufficient savings to supplement other income to enable you to live with financial dignity, having your essential needs met without being inordinately dependent on the government, or your family, or others for support. . .
At a minimum, that means having what you need for food, shelter, transportation, medical care, and ideally some emergency money should you need it, and not much else. If you have anything extra for sharing with others and discretionary spending, then you have more than enough. . .Chapter 20, pg. 195
It may be challenging to be content with only "enough," but the alternative—not having enough—is no picnic either. Moreover, it's important to remember that happiness in retirement comes from more than just having enough money to pay your bills.
Hopefully, if your finances are challenging, you can get to a place where you believe it's perfectly fine and acceptable to live a "small" life in retirement. Not small in terms of productivity and enjoyment, or love, kindness, and generosity toward others—but relative to how much money it takes for you to pay the bills, be content, and live happily. You can then live each day to the fullest, with a generous heart and life. Such is the life of a truly redeemed retirement!Chapter 20, pgs. 204–205
5. Doing the math is part of the solution.
The book has a lot of math in it, mostly in the form of relatively simple retirement planning equations. I use them to help you get "hands on" with the numbers for your situation. Nonetheless, I am very aware that few things have the ability to stir up fear as when we are confronted with complicated math, and worse, with numbers that reveal the cold, hard truth.
As I wrote in the book,
Math is the default language of retirement planning, making it one big, lifetime story problem. Not getting it right has more significant consequences than miscalculating whether train A or B will arrive at the station first. These calculations involve all kinds of variables and hypotheticals: if you're aged X, you should have saved X so that you can have X amount of replacement income for retirement (which is unknown) by the time you retire at age X, assuming you or your spouse will live to age X (based on factors such as gender, genetics, other income, healthcare costs, and inflation; all of which are unknown).
Doing the math forces us to look at uncomfortable issues, such as budgets, mortality, and legacy. And this takes a lot of financial courage and perseverance to face these issues. Although I use math in the book, I do so to replace fear and anxiety with confidence and hope, doubt with trust, and reduce complexity to make it all as understandable as possible wherever I can.
Still, I present quite a few mathematical formulas. Most are very simple, and you can apply them using a calculator and the values pertinent to your situation."Introduction, pg. 5
Announcing Book and Financial Coaching Giveaways
To celebrate the book's publication and as a thank you to my current blog subscribers, I'm announcing a book giveaway. I plan to give away 10 paperback copies and also the option of one hour of retirement stewardship coaching by phone or videoconference to the first 10 subscribers who email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the following information (which will be kept strictly confidential and not used for any other purpose):
- Your name and full mailing address, and phone number (for shipping)
- Whether you want the one hour of retirement coaching and your main topic (issue, goal, question, etc.) for discussion
I am also offering a free download of the book's introductory material and the first two chapters.
If you'd like to purchase the book, you can do so here:
Please Spread the Word
If you get the book and find it helpful, I would appreciate it if you would spread the word.
There are lots of ways to do that, and you probably already know this, but Amazon customer reviews are one of the best ways to motivate other people to buy the book. If you receive the book as a gift or purchase—and read it—I would be thrilled if you would click this link and leave a review on Amazon's website.
Note: You are NOT REQUIRED to agree to do that to receive a free copy of the book!