Boomer or Bust

Steve Weisman. Boomer or Bust: Your Financial Guide to Retirement, Health Care, Medicare, and Long-Term Care. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2006. 288 pages.

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This book is a rarity '“ a fun read that also offers a wealth of financial guidance to hard-pressed members of the "sandwich generation" who are planning for retirement, helping their kids and worrying about aging parents.

Many books on the market cover similar territory, but few are as much of a delight as this one. Author Steve Weisman, a former ElderLawAnswers member Massachusetts, draws on his expertise as an elder law attorney and financial planner to uncover the latest tax, investment and planning opportunities and "loopholes" that will help boomers and their parents meet their long-term care needs.

All this could be eye-glazing stuff, but as was the case with his previous book, A Guide to Elder Planning, Weisman keeps the pages turning with an engaging style that includes occasional humor and references to cultural trivia that will be familiar to baby boomers, if not to their children.

In an explanation of how Social Security benefits are taxed, for example, Weisman finds a way to work in Mr. Lucky, a short-lived CBS show from the late '50s for which Henry Mancini wrote the theme music. Similarly, the chapter on "Retirement Investing" includes references to Yogi Berra, Robert Palmer the Platters, The Jeffersons, The Hunt for Red October, Johnny Carson and the board game Risk. Sugar like this helps the medicine go down easily. In this case, readers learn such valuable information as a rule of thumb for how much to withdraw from their portfolio each year and still have enough money to last a lifetime; the optimal ratio of stocks to bonds based on one's age; what target funds are; and how parents and grandparents can use "529 plans" to fund their own education later in life.

Weisman even makes his explanation of Medicare Part D a pleasure to read, which by itself should earn him a Pulitzer Prize. The chapter on "Age Discrimination" also is excellent, as is the discussion of tax deductions available for the care of aging parents. (And, as he wisecracks, which parent is not aging?) Other chapters include: "IRAs and 401(k)s," "Annuities," "Reverse Mortgages," "Home Care," "Long-Term Care Insurance," "Choosing a Nursing Home or an Assisted-Living Facility," and "Medicaid" (including a discussion of the new asset transfer rules).

For busy boomers who don't have a great deal of free time to read but who need practical advice conveyed simply and entertainingly, this is the book.