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Get a Life: You Don’t Need a Million to Retire Well

I don’t know what it is with me and retirement books. I’ve always been sort of semi-retired, but like many other people I think I have anxiety about having enough money when I’m older in a way I don’t have anxiety about having enough money now. Even though this book is put out by Nolo Press, it’s short on legal mumbo jumbo and really good at talking about more nebulous lifestyle issues like happiness and loneliness. Warner’s main thesis is that while it’s important to have money for your retirement, there are other things you need that are equally if not more important. These things are: your health, good family/friendship network, and interests and activities that get you in touch with other people from other age groups.

He takes these issues in turn and goes over things like how and why you might want to improve your health, how and why you should make sure you have people close to you, how and why you can and should find hobbies and other interests. Starting many of these projects can be done well before people reach retirement age and some of them, like staying fit, can be lifelong avocations and are better started early. Warner includes many testimonials from happy retirees who mostly talk about what they are doing in their post-work life, how they decided what to do, and how important money was to their sets of decisions. He’s not all sun-shiney, he also includes a few less-personal stories about seniors who had a hard time adjusting to retirement or who found it hard to make new friends or find new interests once they were already in their seventies.

This is not to say that the book is all feelgood talk about making friends and eating vegetables. There is also a lot of sound advice about finances, including how and when to save, and particularly what sorts of financial advantages you can get if you, for example, buy a three year old car instead of a brand new one, or if you pay an extra fifty dollars towards your mortgage every month. Warner knows that saving isn’t easy, but he’s also very clear that saving earlier and smarter is better than having to make tough choices about working later and later into your life when you’re less excited about it. His advice is sound and his approach is very people-centered in a way that you don’t find when you’re watching the ads for financial planning companies or listening to the advice of your banker.