Retirement book review Larry Swedroe

Retirement Book Review Series: Volume 1 Larry Swedroe

Your Complete Guide to a Successful & Secure Retirement by Larry Swedroe

Today, I’m launching a new series called retirement book reviews. Hopefully once a month or so, I will pick up a new retirement book and review it. For fun, we will grade it as well. In order to score well, it has to be pertinent to my audience. Specifically

  1. Does it work for DIY or is meant to sell a system/product?
  2. Is it for wealthy folks or an attempt to be everything for everyone?
  3. Is it actionable or full of fluff?
  4. And finally, what is the overall rating.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at our first book in the retirement book review series.

Larry Swedroe: Your Complete Guide to a Successful & Secure Retirement

Larry Swedroe is an investment guy who decided to write a retirement book. He probably should have stayed in the investment arena, but I guess that gets old too. He works for a super large wealth management firm, and likely twisted Wade Pfau’s arm into writing the forward. I don’t know any of that for sure, but it seems likely the investment-turned-ghost-written retirement guy somehow induced the super-wonk to throw down the forward.  


Forward and Introduction

Wade Pfau provides the forward, with many “you need a this” and “you need a that.” He encourages us to apricate the “broad scope” of the book. I can tell Wade is a little disappointed, and I will point out why when we feature one or two of Wade’s books next in this series.

Wade foreshadows the topics of longevity risk, sequence of return risk, and his new favorite risk, the need for long term care. With that, we are off to the introduction.

The introduction immediately begins talking about how poorly prepared people are for retirement. Loosing big points here Larry with our DIY folks who have plenty to retire on. This, again, brings up my biggest pet peeve with retirement books in general: they are written for folks who have plenty but tell horror stories from those who have little. This is my whole JUST RIGHT idea with retirement planning, that is has to be written for you. Don’t talk about how poorly prepared people are to people who are prepared and looking to do right by their retirement.


Four Horseman of the Retirement Apocalypse

I do really apricate Larry’s Four Horsemen of the retirement apocalypse! He talks about 1) high equity valuations 2) low bond yields 3) longevity and 4) Long Term Care. These are the four horseman that need addressed. Nice literary turn, but again this shows the focus of the investment guy rather than the retirement planner. Next comes a mélange of risks which are randomly generated and provide non-actionable advice.

With this, we conclude the introduction and move on to the actual chapters of the book. Just a few notes here:


Early Chapters

Larry starts his book off with general ideas about retirement and considerations about keeping yourself busy. Next, how to work with someone (maybe his group?) to come up with a plan.

Then, of course, on to asset allocation, Investment Policy Statements and Monte Carlo Simulations. So, maybe this is a good book for a bare bones beginner, but what do any of those have to do with retirement planners for an advanced DIY?

Next, we move on to strategy. Should you invest in active funds or passive funds? Hmmm, I don’t know Larry… Up next, how do you build a portfolio. Wait, is this a book about retirement? I guess I forgot what kind of book I was reading.


Middle Chapters

Larry then tries to learn you something about IRAs, HSAs and asset location. As IRAs and asset location require their own books, you know this is a superficial treatment. Again, there is heavy focus on the investment theme.

Next, chapters on social security and Medicare. The one on social security is way too long. After all, social security is an easy decision. Yet, the chapter on Medicare barely scratches the surface. Retirement books shouldn’t include sections on Medicare. Perhaps this is another pet peeve of mine, but you need to read a whole book about that, or at least have an excellent insurance agent to help you with your plan. A comprehensive book on retirement should skip Medicare and complex requiring individual thought. 


The Kitchen Sink

In order to make this book comprehensive, there are also chapters on:

  • Annuities (but just SPIAs and DIAs) which are mistakenly lumped into longevity protection
  • Insurance, including an incomplete treatment regarding LTCI
  • Reverse mortgages
  • Issues related to Women in Retirement
  • Estate planning and preparing your heirs


Review of On-Line Reviews

Your Complete Guide to a Successful & Secure Retirement has 126 reviews and an average score of 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon. Pretty damn good! I do like the highest ranking reviews on the site. These score the book at 4/5, but offer appropriate warnings regarding the comprehensive (“Complete Guide”) nature of the book.


Conclusion Larry Swedroe: Your Complete Guide to a Successful & Secure Retirement

Well, most DIYers will want to skip this book. We start with the sob stories about how people are not prepared, but then try to talk wealthy people into investment rather than retirement considerations. It seems like a sales pitch thinly veiled in retirement advice. Larry goes deep on investment topics, but adds very little insight into retirement topics. Another example of an investment guy who fails when talking about retirement.

In addition, the book already seems dated despite being published last year. There are some evidence-based information, but this book is largely a sales pitch for their wealth management firm. If you want a read, check out (ad) Larry Swedroe: Your Complete Guide to a Successful & Secure Retirement

  • DIY 2/5 Stars
  • Wealthy 2/5 Stars
  • Actionable 3/5 Stars
  • Overall 4/5 Stars



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    • Good question! I think the book is pretty darn good. It is just not necessarily for the DIY investor, and it isn’t just for the wealthy. So, I guess it is a better book overall than what I was looking for in a retirement book for myself.

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