Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Book Review: New Rules of Retirement by Warren Mackenzie and Ken Hawkins

Well done Warren and Ken! You have a written a heck of a fine book. It is a straightforward, practical, readable, succinct, comprehensive, well-edited, topical, balanced, accessible and fair explanation of how to make the right decisions for those approaching retirement. It is an ideal retirement planning starting point for any Canadian.

The first quarter of the book paints a picture of retirement as it actually is, knocking down myths and presenting the corresponding reality e.g. happiness in retirement depends less on income than factors such as health, the reason for retirement, family/friends and a purpose for living. This section covers non-financial issues and the main thrust of the advice is to guide thinking onto the key issues and present alternatives so people can make their own decisions for their own circumstances and desires.

The second quarter of the book gets more financial, though softer, non-quantifiable issues still enter the discussion, e.g. in examining whether or not to sell the family home. This part of the book leads one through the estimation of retirement income and expenses.

The last half of the book is about investing. It sets forth principles and methods for doing it successfully. It includes a sensible discussion on whether someone should DIY or use an advisor (with explanation of the difference between a salesperson "advisor" and a real one who operates in the client's interest).

Now as fine a book as this is, would CanadianFinancialDIY ever say it is perfect? Here are my humble (!) suggestions for improvement in a second edition.
  • a little bit more detail on "how" one should do certain things to follow up the "what" one should do. 1) Rule 16 includes a good explanation of the incredible impact of the timing of different rates of return on a portfolio, about which I wrote last year in The Necessity of Monte Carlo in Financial Planning, but it would be very useful to have a link to one or two such planners; I could not find one in the online link references in the book's Bibliography. 2) there needs to be a discussion of how to generate cash to spend from a portfolio - my own view is that one should sell to maintain the target asset allocation rather than design an asset allocation to generate more cash but what do the authors believe is the right method? Tax considerations affect the correct design of a portfolio too as after-tax cash is what one spends.
  • add some links to ETFs resources in the text or in the Online Resources section at the back; only iShares is listed there; I notice that the book's web page under the Resources tab has a few more ETF links, like one to Claymore. A link to a general ETF website such as Stock Encyclopedia, which lists all US and Canadian ETFs by category, would also be very helpful. This may seem trivial but the book is very favourable to ETFs so adding this detail is worthwhile.
  • change the sub-title from "What Your Financial Advisor Isn't Telling You" to "Everything You Need to Know and What To Do". My reaction on reading this on the cover was "oh no, a negative rant, a bashing of the financial industry, financial advisors and mutual funds". I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book is not at all written in such a vein or with such a tone (that's why I called it fair). I think the negative impression undersells and diminishes the book. It is a wonderful, positive, helpful book for individual Canadians. Let it look that way from the cover onwards.
  • replace the back cover "Praise for" quote because it looks stupid: "Street-smart advice from an industry veteran." Are there not TWO authors? Or is only one of the two street-smart or an industry veteran? You could put in "an ideal retirement planning starting point for any Canadian" - CanadianFinancialDIY, for instance ;-)
I highly recommend New Rules. My rating 4.99 out of 5 ... aw, what the heck, 5 out of 5.

... now that I have completed this review and my day's work in my semi-retired state, I will conform to the book's image of mixing work and leisure by heading off to the golf course.

1 comment:

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