Monday, January 7, 2013

Retirementology: Rethinking the American dream in a new economy

Retirementology: Rethinking the American dream in a new economy
By Gregory Salsbury

Book Review by Richard L. Weaver II

This is a terrific book for many reasons.  First, Salsbury does a great job covering his topic.  Both the breadth and depth of the information is impressive, and any one approaching or in retirement — especially those who are pre-retirement — will find a great deal of material here from which to learn.  The subject of the book is behavior economics — your conduct when it comes to matters regarding money.

The second reason this is a terrific book is the way Salsbury makes his points.  It is consistently outstanding.  He uses examples where he places his readers in the position of having to make practical decisions on subjects closely related to their everyday experiences.  He then extrapolates those decisions to the broader context of retirement and makes poignant points about their importance and relevance.  Let me give you an example from page 12 of his book:

        “Dr. Kahneman often uses this seemingly simple math problem in his lectures.  A bat and a ball together cost $1.10.  The bat costs a dollar more than the ball.  How much does the ball cost?

        “Your intuitive side may quickly tell you that the ball costs 10 cents.  Tempting answer, but wrong.  In fact, if the ball costs 10 cents, that would mean the bat costs one dollar more than that or $1.10, so the two together would be $1.20.  After you put a little more thought into the problem, you realize the ball must have cost five cents.  The point is, it is important to distinguish between decisions that should be made by intuition and those that require careful thought and calculation” (pp. 12-13).

He uses these kinds of simple, practical, relevant examples throughout the book that make the text both engaging and interesting.

The third reason that makes this a terrific book is the author’s writing style.  The book is extremely readable.  Not onl that, Salsbury has a delightful and contagious sense of humor.  True, he doesn’t use it a lot, but as you read, delightful anecdotes or comments come at you in unexpected places and in unexpected ways.  Also, he is continually coining new words that are inventive and humorous.  They are all included in the glossary at the end of the book which he labels, “Reterminology: The New Language of Retirement” (pp. 205-210).  This book is fun to read.

There is a fourth reason, too.  He ends chapters with sections designed to help readers improve their Retirementology IQ.  These are different in each chapter; however, all of them are practical, advice-oriented, with specific suggestions to help readers who want to change their behavior and become better managers of their lives.

This may mark me as an academic (or, perhaps, as one accustomed to the old —more academic — style of writing books), but I enjoy having chapters that end with “Endnotes”—a fifth reason I liked this book.  I like to know where authors are getting their information or whom they are using to support their ideas.

Salsbury includes many, many footnotes — and they reek of credibility.  He has definitely done his homework, so, despite his own credentials, which I found at the website, Financial Times (FT) Press, his knowledge is thorough and impressive.

At the FT Press website, I found the following information about his background: “Salsbury received a master's degree in communications from the University of Illinois, and a second master's degree in communication technologies from the Annenberg School of Communications. He received his doctorate in organizational communication from the University of Southern California and is published in the areas of sales, marketing, employee motivation, behavioral finance, and retirement. From his work and experience as a long-standing executive in the financial services industry, Salsbury was uniquely positioned to craft a visionary view of retirement’s future. His landmark book, But What If I Live? The American Retirement Crisis, was a wake-up call for a generation of undersaved, overspent, and unprepared Baby Boomers.”

When I began reading this book, I could not put it down.  The information is relevant and timely, the approach is engaging, the examples and statistics are solid (numerous statistics are used to make his points), and the amount that I gained from the information is breathtaking, to say the least.  For pre-retirees, put this on your “must read” list.

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