The Best Retirement Planning Books

The Smartest Retirement Books You'll Ever Read

How to Prepare for Retirement The notion of life in retirement conjures images as varied as individual people. Whether your vision of retirement includes travel, time with family, or second act projects like writing a novel or hiking the Appalachian Trail, planning ahead for life after your career is essential. Yet for many, that planning is an often neglected task.

There are literally thousands of books about various aspects of retirement planning, from the financial aspects to the social and psychological. In this brief review, we’ll take a look at a few of the very best books on retirement planning currently available.

1) The 5 Years Before You Retire:
Retirement Planning When You Need it the Most by Emily Guy Birken

Ms. Birken’s book is based on the premise that while most Americans do save something for retirement, it is usually when they reach their 60s that they realize they haven’t saved enough. The 5 Years Before You Retire guides the reader through the financial, medical, and familial decisions that will be necessary as retirement approaches, and covers everything from company matched 401k programs to how to discuss housing options with family members.

With straightforward, concrete details, Birken shows how to maximize the last years of any career while setting up for a realistic retirement based on available resources. By managing both finances and expectations, you really can have the retirement you’ve always dreamed of. Though her book focuses on strategies as retirement is rapidly approaching, Ms. Birken’s advice is also valuable whether you’ve been saving since early in your career or have just begun to devise a plan.

2) How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free by Ernie J. Zelinski

Zelinski’s book is about much more than simply investing properly and maximizing your 401k situation. How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free is a much more holistic guide to preparing for retirement, and includes how to manage the hopes, dreams, and even fears we all  have about retiring. Noting that the key to happiness in retirement includes more than adequate financial resources, Zelinski focuses on the importance of developing creative pursuits and leisure activities that are challenging and rewarding.

By carefully assessing both what and where your dream retirement situation might be, the author encourages readers to put money in the proper perspective, so that mental well being and social networks can provide for both physical and spiritual health, without the need for huge reserves of capital. Also included in the book is a planning tool called “The Get-a-Life Tree,” an easy to use chart that helps readers plan for retirement in a deeply meaningful way.

3) How to Make Your Money Last by Jane Bryant Quinn

Financial expert Jane Bryant Quinn, called “America’s dean of personal finance” by Forbes magazine, has written a comprehensive guide to stretching retirement savings for the many people who are faced with the prospect of running out of money in retirement. Showing how to maximize the hidden value in Social Security, as well as detailing the pros and cons of lump sum vs monthly pensions, Quinn shows how the right decisions can both increase your retirement income and stretch out the money you have over many more years.

In How to Make Your Money Last, Quinn explains the different ways savings and retirement income can be invested, and offers advice about reverse mortgages as well. As Americans today are living longer than ever, Quinn notes that to ensure the nest egg will last, new retirees would likely be better served by investing for growth, even in their early retirement.

4) Ready to Pull the Retirement Trigger?
Your Strategic Guide to Retire With Confidence by Mary Sterk

Certified Financial Planner Mary Sterk takes on the complex issue of retirement planning with a professional’s expertise and offers straight-forward, easy to understand advice that’s remarkably easy to follow. She chronicles not only how to handle investments to ensure long term financial security, but also how to safeguard against the possibility of health issues that may jeopardize your retirement plans.

In Ready to Pull the Retirement Trigger, you will learn how to manage and balance your portfolio against the lifestyle you envision, as well as how to address complex decisions like long-term care, insurance, and housing options. Most importantly, Sterk’s book will help you calculate exactly how much money you need to finally ‘pull the trigger’ and be confident about your decision to retire.

5) Retirement Planning: The Soon-to-Be Senior’s Guidebook
to an Enjoyable & Hassle-Free Retirement by Ray Powell

Ray Powell’s Retirement Planning is specifically set up to help people who have been so concerned about the financial aspects of their upcoming retirement that they lose sight of the big picture. By focusing on the transitional years just before retirement, Powell coaches the reader through many issues, including relocating and selling your home versus retiring in place, budgeting retirement income, insurance possibilities and options, and an entire section on general wellness considerations.

Also included is a bonus chapter with a list of governmental and private resources for the soon-to-be retired. Using the resources and information in Powell’s book will help anyone facing retirement do so with confidence that their new lifestyle will be secure, fulfilling, and stress free.

6) The Complete Cardinal Guide
to Planning for & Living in Retirement by Hans Schell

Written by Cardinal Retirement Planning’s founder Hans “John” Schell, this complete retirement guide breaks down many of the financial complexities we all face in retirement. From Social Security and Medicare to pension, insurance, investments, and planning for long-term care, Schell’s book explores all in an easy to read, highly useful format. Including a series of easy to implement strategies that can be put in place now, Schell provides the reader with clear information that will allow for informed decisions about how to make your retirement years financially successful.

7) Retirement Planning in 8 Easy Steps:
The Brief Guide to Lifelong Financial Freedom by Joel Kranc

Focusing on the basics of sound financial planning for retirement, Joel Kranc’s Retirement Planning in 8 Easy Steps is a quick primer about how to envision an ideal retirement. Starting with fundamentally sound investment planning and how to maximize Social Security benefits, this book helps the reader understand how some simple planning strategies can reap large benefits throughout retirement. His list of 8 steps to reach your financial goals is supplemented by straightforward strategies for long term savings, worksheets to help track progress and attain goals, and charts and other resources that help simplify budgeting and investing.

8) The AARP Retirement Survival Guide:
How to Make Smart Financial Decisions in Good Times and Bad by Julie Jason

Against a backdrop of Ponzi schemes and plunging financial markets, Julie Jason helps soon to be retirees navigate the potential pitfalls of planning for retirement in a complex economic climate. Winner of the best Personal Finance Book at the International Book Awards, this book uses time honored retirement advice to help readers create their own “personal pension.”

Unraveling the complexities of evaluating retirement needs, anticipating future expenses, and converting present assets into future retirement income, Jason offers concrete strategies for confronting the challenges of retirement planning. She also includes a complete “tool kit” of tables, checklists, and self-assessment questionnaires designed to help the reader confront and control the anxiety often associated with the task at hand.

9) What Color Is Your Parachute For Retirement:
Planning a Prosperous, Healthy, and Happy Future by John E. Nelson

As a logical ‘sequel’ to the best selling What Color Is Your Parachute, Nelson’s book on retirement planning offers a similarly big-picture holistic look at preparing for life after your career. His book focuses both on the well-being and social fulfillment of retirees, as well as the practical aspects and financial challenges of post-career life.

Set against the new economic realities of what retirement looks like for many, Nelson offers concrete tools and exercises to help the reader craft a retirement that is secure, vital, and connected to community. His book also includes an updated section on social security, as well as a Retirement Well-Being Profile, designed to help develop a detailed vision of your ideal retirement, and take the necessary steps to get yourself there.  

10) The Retirement Rescue Plan: Retirement Planning Solutions
for the Millions of Americans Who Haven’t Saved “Enough” by Melissa Phipps

Based on her own experience, financial planning expert Melissa Phipps uses The Retirement Rescue Plan to show how to prepare for what she calls a “redefined retirement:” a vision of retirement that includes working less, earning enough, and being happier than ever. Rather than start with the financial aspects, Phipps begins with an assessment of what actually makes you happy. Only with a reasonable answer to that question will the rest of the retirement strategies be useful.

From there she ventures into taking control of your finances, including exercises and sample worksheets to begin to get a handle on what your new life might look like. Finally, she explores ideas for continued earning, focusing on how to use your personal interests and skills to fashion some income strategies in your retirement years. 

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