There are many things you can learn by doing, but retirement shouldn’t be one of them. Rather than waiting until you quit your job to figure out how you’ll pay the bills and spend your time, start planning well in advance.
If you aren’t sure where to start, pick up one of these titles which are commonly noted as the best retirement planning books.
- “The Richest Man in Babylon”
- “Your Money or Your Life”
- “Die With Zero”
- “The Index Card”
- “The Bucket Plan”
- “The New Rules of Retirement”
- “Retirement Planning Guidebook”
- “The Money Queen’s Guide”
- “10 Costly Medicare Mistakes”
- “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness”
“The Richest Man in Babylon”
First published in 1926 by George S. Clason, “The Richest Man in Babylon” is considered a personal finance classic by many.
“Using stories set in ancient Babylon, this book explains how to get out of debt, increase savings, build passive income and more,” says Craig Kirsner, president of Kirsner Wealth Management in Coconut Creek, Florida. “While these stories take place centuries in the past, they follow people struggling with and overcoming very similar issues to those that plague today’s world.”
Some people may find the language archaic and the stories dry, but they have proven inspirational to countless others.
“Your Money or Your Life”
Authors: Joseph R. Dominguez & Vicki Robin
Many consider this book – first published in 1992 – as the spark for the Financial Independence, Retire Early movement. Written by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, this book lays out nine steps to walk you through the process of evaluating how much money you earn and the value it provides.
Even those who don’t want to follow the book’s nine steps, which include adding up your lifetime earnings and tracking every cent you spend, may find “Your Money or Your Life” provides the inspiration they need to buckle down and make wise financial decisions.
“Die With Zero”
“Die With Zero” was published in 2020 and has gotten a lot of buzz within the personal finance community. That’s because author Bill Perkins takes a different approach to retirement savings. Rather than hoarding mountains of cash to be left for heirs, he proposes that people try to spend what they save before they die.
“Perkins dives into the challenges of using your money for what you enjoy while you are alive,” says Jay Zigmont, certified financial planner and founder of Childfree Wealth. “If you don’t plan on leaving money to another generation, his book is a must read.”
“The Index Card”
Authors: Helaine Olen & Harold Pollack
Personal finance – including retirement planning – doesn’t have to be complex. That’s the premise of “The Index Card” which lays out nine rules for creating a solid financial future.
“I like this book because it is based around the premise that everything you need to know can fit on an index card,” says Kendall Meade, a certified financial planner with financial services firm SoFi. “While the book expands and provides more detail than just what would be on the index card, it does a good job of taking a complicated matter and simplifying it into just what you need to know.”
The book came out in 2016 and is written by Helaine Olen, a financial journalist, and Harold Pollack, a University of Chicago professor.
“The Bucket Plan”
Financial planner Jason L. Smith published “The Bucket Plan” in 2017 to lay out a strategy for retirement savings that is designed to minimize sequence-of-returns risk. That’s the risk that retirees face when the market takes a downturn right as they leave the workforce. To minimize the risk, Smith recommends placing funds in different buckets – such as investments vs. accounts – depending on when the cash will be needed.
The information in this book is presented through a series of conversations between Smith and his clients. Some readers may find this style makes the information relatable while others may find the long sections of dialogue off-putting.
“The New Rules of Retirement”
Author: Robert C. Carlson
For those close to retirement age, “The New Rules of Retirement” by Robert C. Carlson is an accessible overview of all the basics you need to understand, from claiming Social Security to purchasing annuities to writing a will. Originally published in 2004, look for the more recent edition which was updated in 2016.
However, keep in mind that even the updated version is likely to include some outdated information. For instance, the age at which people need to begin to take required minimum distributions has changed twice since 2016. Still, this book is a good primer for those who are ages 55 and older.
“Retirement Planning Guidebook”
Densely written and completely comprehensive, the “Retirement Planning Guidebook” is a wealth of information about all things retirement. Author Wade Pfau tackles topics such as when to start Social Security benefits, how to minimize taxes and what should be included in your estate plan.
As with “The New Rules of Retirement,” you’ll want to look for the most recent edition of this book to ensure you’re reading timely information. Look for a copy published in 2023 to get the latest update.
“The Money Queen’s Guide”
Historically, women have been left out of many conversations involving finances, but “The Money Queen’s Guide” is one of several titles that have been published in recent years to rectify that.
“The book gives you actionable steps to take throughout the decades of your life to get and stay retired,” says author Cary Carbonaro, a certified financial planner and director of the Women and Wealth division at financial firm Advisors Capital Management.
First published in 2015, this slim title provides an accessible overview of topics such as detaching finances from emotions, setting retirement goals and communicating with beneficiaries during retirement.
“10 Costly Medicare Mistakes”
Author: Danielle K. Roberts
Health care is a major expense for many retirees, and making smart decisions regarding Medicare can help minimize costs. Initially published in 2020 and updated for 2023, “10 Costly Medicare Mistakes” delves into the details of Medicare coverage and when retirees need to sign up.
While the Medicare website provides a wealth of information, too, the government’s health care program for seniors can be difficult to navigate. “10 Costly Medicare Mistakes” breaks down the system into understandable sections that can help you avoid expensive errors.
“Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness”
Authors: Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein
“While it’s not specifically about retirement, Nudge (is) all about little decisions that result in big change,” says Andrew Meadows, senior vice president at Ubiquity Retirement + Savings, a 401(k) provider for small businesses. Richard H. Thaler, who wrote the book along with Cass R. Sunstein, is considered the “hero” of modern retirement, according to Meadows.
First published in 2008, “Nudge” is less about actionable steps for individuals and more about what systems can be put into place to help people succeed. For instance, in the realm of retirement, automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans may be part of the answer to shoring up worker savings. If you’re interested in the big picture of how to help people make better retirement decisions, add this book to your must-read list.