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

Alright I’m be honest now. I’m sort of lost count of the number of retirement/personal finance books I’ve read. Yet all this time I’ve been looking for something in a retirement planning book. Up until now I’ve yet to find a book that balances the money aspect of retirement with all the non-money emotional issues that arise on how to have a good retirement. Most seem to deal with one half or the other, not both.

So when I sat down to read Get A Life: You Don’t Need a Million to Retire Well by Ralph Warner I was so grateful to finally find a book that did deal with both sides. Ok, granted it is a US based book, but don’t let that turn you off. This book should be required reading in my mind while doing some retirement planning.

The first seven chapters of this book don’t deal with money. In fact calculating how much you need for retirement only comes up in Chapter 8. For the first seven chapters he deals with issues such as what will you do when you are retired, health and fitness, family, friends, loving life, reaching out for help to create a successful retirement and nursing homes: how to avoid them or pay for them if you can’t. You see he gets you to define what you want and what works for a successful retirement. I especially enjoyed the interviews with retired people at the end of each chapter and how each of them dealt with difficult times and still enjoy their retirement.

Then from chapter 8 until chapter 11 we deal with the money side of the equation. At first he gives some guidelines to estimate what you will need and then provides some useful information on where that money can come from as well as how to save it all even if you don’t think you can. Then Ralph wraps up the book with a basic investment guide. Perhaps the only weakness in the book is the lack of detail in the money based chapters. Ralph tends to keep the information a bit general and his rock solid belief that Social Security is completely fine (which is actually somewhat debatable).

So overall I was very pleased to finally read a book that deals with being happy and having money for retirement. Even if you don’t need a hand with the money side I still highly suggest reading this book for insights on what makes a great retirement. After all if you pull the plug early you will be at it for a long time, so we might as well be happy.

Free, Free, Give Me Free Stuff

I’m rather amazed some days the amount of free produce I get each summer. Honestly it is rather ridiculous that everyone around me keeps sending me free food, except for the fact I made it this way. You see I know several people with large gardens or fruit trees or bushes on their property. I have also realized most people don’t like to waste food.

So I did the obvious thing to me. Anytime over the last few years anyone mentioned food going to waste I always said “Oh, why didn’t you give it to me? I’ll always take free food.” Now it seems to pour in each year. I’ve already got one huge head of lettuce, fresh dill, a friend already made me promise I’m going to help him pick his apple tree this fall and use them. I’ve also go my name down for a share of some free potatoes and carrots later this summer. I just recently found another free source of Saskatoon berry bushes that need some picking.

All because I’m not shy about asking for free food. Also as we work out what grow in our garden I do intend to pass some free food back to these people in terms of thanks. I don’t feel about about taking food from people when they honestly rather see me use it then it go to waste. So start you own campaign for free food this year, you might be surprised on how far it can go.

The Anti-Debt Culture

JD over at Get Rich Slowly recently had a good article about the America Culture of Debt where it was debated about who’s fault was it that so many people are in debt: the consumers who dug their holes or the banks who lead out the money in the first place. In the end it is sort of both, but what stuck me about this is what kind of long term blow back are we going to see from this. Will we see the rise of the anti-debt culture out of this?

I know I’m personally anti-debt. I dislike owing money to anyone for any reason. As such I’ve been finding the concept of using debt to buy assets difficult. I can do the math and understand how debt can be a tool to build wealth at the same time my gut keeps saying to me “this isn’t a good idea.” My mortgage is my last big debt hanging over my head and I have to admit I still like the idea of turning all my excess cash flow against the beast and killing the debt as fast as possible regardless of the math that shows that might not be a good idea.

So do you think any over excess consumption culture can spawn an anti-debt culture? I think it is possible in the broad sense, but I don’t think it will occur at once. People that did not learn any money management skills will tend to make the same mistakes as their parents, but the real test is can they learn the lesson of good money management faster then their parents. This could bring anti-debt into fashion when we all wake up from our collective debt hangovers and wonder what the hell were we thinking.

The long term issue with being anti-debt is it does limit your potential. By never taking on debt you can find yourself in a situation where you have a great potential investment but you are short on cash. The obvious thing would be to take on some debt for the short term to take advantage of the opportunity, but being anti-debt would make this a very difficult decision.

In the end I see anti-debt culture rising, but only as a phase. Very few people will stay anti-debt forever. In the end we will all learn (including myself) debt is like a gun. Just because you have doesn’t mean you have to use it and if you use debt it won’t make you good or evil. Debt is merely a tool.