The Complete Retirement Survival Guide

Peter J. Strauss and Nancy M. Lederman. The Complete Retirement Survival Guide. 2nd. Ed. New York: Facts on File. 2003. 420 pages.

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This is a completely updated edition of a book that the authors -- two practicing elder law attorneys -- published in 1996 under the title The Elder Law Handbook. The Guide is one of the most thorough and informed discussions you're likely to find on legal and financial issues affecting the elderly. It is as clearly-written and well-organized as its predecessor and more user-friendly thanks to a less forbidding typeface. New chapters have been added on managed care, long-term care insurance, and IRAs, among others.

The Complete Retirement Survival Guide also is a better name for the volume because it covers topics that many other elder law books neglect. You'll find practical guidance on such subjects as choosing a hospital, how hospitals are organized, age discrimination, pensions, and tenants' rights, in addition to cogent discussions of more typical subjects like Medicaid, Medicare, powers of attorney and guardianship (although note that this 2003 book does not cover important changes in Medicaid asset transfer rules made since then).

Also helpful are the appendices that list organizations, advocacy groups and state agencies, such as each state's elder abuse hotline and nursing home ombudsman.

Given that the book covers the waterfront in its 420 pages, it can't be expected to treat each subject in depth. This is particularly true of the discussion of long-term care insurance. While the Guide offers an admirable overview in a little over six pages, those seriously considering such coverage should probably consult a book largely or completely devoted to purchasing this most complex of insurance products -- such as Choosing the Right Long-Term Care Insurance, Long-Term Care: Your Financial Planning Guide or The Complete Idiot's Guide to Long-Term Care Planning.

Despite its attention to detail, The Complete Retirement Survival Guide is clearly and engagingly written and benefits from frequent section breaks. And, although intended for the layperson, it could be of use to professionals seeking general information on areas of elder law.