BOOK REVIEW: The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security

Miller, Mark. The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, N.J. 2010. 223 pages.

$11.53 at Amazon, $11.69 at Books-A-Million.

The timing couldn't be worse, as author Mark Miller points out in his introduction: The largest generation our nation has ever seen is approaching retirement during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Miller, a journalist who covers retirement security issues, has written a much-needed manual packed with strategies for achieving a happy and fulfilling retirement despite the dismal economy.

Aimed primarily at boosting the retirement I.Q.s of baby boomers, The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security's focus is on how approaches to money, work and living can be interwoven and leveraged for retirement security. In the section on money, Miller outlines in easy-to-read fashion the main retirement income options -- from Social Security to income annuities to 401(k)s -- and how to wring the last penny out of each. A chapter on managing nearly inevitable health expenses offers a reality check on what health care will cost in retirement, despite the existence of Medicare. Incorporating the recently enacted health reform law, this chapter also briefly explains COBRA rules for those too young for Medicare and presents a thumbnail guide to long-term care insurance, which Medicare covers hardly at all. (Medicaid planning, however, receives scant attention.) Another chapter examines the impact of taxes in retirement and explains basic strategies for minimizing them, including using a Roth IRA. For those who want to go beyond do-it-yourself planning, there's a helpful chapter on how to interview and select a financial advisor.

More than half of Americans file for Social Security at age 62, before their normal retirement age. The section on work quantifies how working a little longer can brighten one's retirement picture considerably and offers valuable pointers for those competing against younger workers for jobs. The section addresses, for example, which sectors are hiring older workers, e-mail etiquette tips and what LinkedIn is all about and how to use it. (The good news is that the jobless rate for older workers has been lower than average, even during the recession.) There's even a chapter on becoming an entrepreneur after age 50. As Miller points out, this is something about which he has firsthand knowledge. Readers of this intelligent and valuable guide will be among the beneficiaries of Miller's new career.