Book Review: Julie Jason’s AARP Retirement Survival Guide

ulie Jason’s book is entitled: “The AARP Retirement Survival Guide: How to Make Smart Financial Decisions in Good Times and Bad”. It’s a title done by committee. Really it’s a guide to avoiding the sharks swirling around you in retirement. It’s filled with hints of things to watch out for, with sections called “Julie’s Don’t-Be-Fooled Rules”. I liked her clear explanations and approved of her hints and warnings. I think it did good coverage of the issues and clearly specified which issues she was NOT covering as beyond the scope of this book. I appreciated that and approved of the scope she chose as wide-ranging enough for most people.

There was not enough about budgeting. Budgeting skills are HUGE in retirement, and having a decent handle on your budget is the foundation of all the other pieces. (How much annuity should you buy? Depends on your budget needs. Should you take that lump sum or a pension? Depends on your budget needs. Should you delay taking social security? Yes, if you have assets to plug the budget gap until you’re 70. Should you get Medicare Part D? Depends on your medical spending habits. Budgets are HUGE and she did a very cursory version of this. I preferred “Getting Started In A Financially Secure Retirement: Pre- and Post-Retirement Planning In a Time of Great Uncertainty” by Henry Hebeler for a more thorough treatment of budget issues including potential budget busters to watch out for.

My other quibble with Julie Jason’s book is that her guide to finding an advisor would find only her. She’s a “Retirement Income Advisor”. Huh? Personally, I’m a CPA. My people come to me each year to discuss their finances in the context of paying taxes on their income. I expand on that service to offer them advice on how to get a handle on their budgets, how to build net worth by managing debt and saving and investing, and keeping an eye on financial planning issues like saving for college or planning for retirement, disability or death. I do not sell securities. Many of my people do their own investing and I guide them in asset allocation buying low cost index mutual funds or ETFs, although some of my people also have a financial advisor who gets a fee for assets under management who might do budgeting and planning, I don’t know. Some do, some don’t. A few of my people have brokers who just get paid on commission and never talk to my people. I advise my people to save the money and just invest it themselves. Some do, some don’t. (Store-front commission-based advisors are lacking in fiduciary responsibility, I’ve noticed.)

Most of my people also have a lawyer to draw up wills and POAs and possibly estate planning documents like bypass trusts. But a “retirement income advisor”? Seriously. I’m glad she has a niche clientele in her Stamford Connecticut practice. But 99% of the readers of this book aren’t going to find a “retirement income advisor”. Sheesh. Ask the CPA or personal financial planner or lawyer you already USE these questions!

But I liked her writing style and I’d read other books by her.

Originally published December 12, 2011 at