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April 01, 2017

Book Review: Get The Most Out of Retirement

by David Godfrey


(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 38, Issue 4.)


In Get the Most Out of Retirement, Sally Balch Hurme offers a planning handbook in a fill-in-the-blanks checklist format to guide the reader through planning for retirement.  Successful retirement requires much more than leaving work for the last time and starting to draw your retirement income.  It is surprising the number of people who “fail” at retirement by not planning for what happens after they leave work with income, health insurance, where they are going to live, what they are going to do, how they are going to find meaning, value, and social connection in life. 

Organized into 12 chapters, the book walks through the process of planning for retirement.  Each chapter starts off with a description of issues, challenges and opportunities that should be considered. I have known Sally for about 15 years. Her voice clearly shows through in the text.  The book is based on her lifetime of research on issues of aging, and her personal experience of retiring a couple of years ago.  She openly shares the unexpected challenges she has faced giving a very personal perspective to the book that will connect well with many readers.  The


text is written at a consumer level; experts will find themselves thinking, “there is so much more to say,” but the book is well written for the intended audience. Each chapter includes a series of questions and checklists for the user to complete. The book is designed to be written in as a notebook for gathering information and organizing thoughts and plans.  This is the forth in a series of “checklist” books that Sally has written for ABA and AARP.    

The book covers things that need to be thought through before retirement.  Deciding when and where to retire is a critical decision that few people give enough thought to.  Timing has a huge impact on retirement income. A couple of chapters talk about income, managing finances, and basic legal planning for managing finances. Employers impact retirement timing both by needing time to plan for a person leaving and sometimes in offering incentives for employees to retire.  An unexpected loss of employment triggers unplanned retirement for many older persons.  The book talks about the opportunities and pitfalls in health insurance coverage changes that retirement can bring.  Retirement brings major changes in social networks, with less time spent with co-workers and more time available to spend with family and friends.  Planning helps to ensure that former co-workers are not lost forever, and connections with family and friends are strengthened.  Sally talks candidly about selecting the right place to live in retirement. An unexpected family illness resulted in her not living in her retirement dream home.

The book walks the reader through a thought process for planning a successful retirement.  If the reader answers the questions and checklists, they will have a lot of detailed information together in one place.  The book is written from the perspective of a traditional married couple with children and grandchildren.  Census data shows that nearly half of women at age 65 are single (about 18% of men are single at the same age.)  Much of the content will work, but a martial bias is noticeable. The checklists are limited by space, with “other” being my choice on some lists, and the space for filling in answers is limited.  The checklists are online and downloadable –as PDFs. The PDFs are a challenge for those of us who have a hard time reading our own handwriting.

What am I going to do with the book?  Give it to my spouse, who is planning to retire in two short years.

by David Godfrey

David Godfrey is a senior attorney at the ABA Commission on Law and Aging. He can be reached at [email protected].