Thurman, the CEO of Retirement Investment Advisors, clarifies at the outset of this second edition of his 2015book that it stands on the shoulders of the first, looking at far more data over a larger span of time to offer the most information he can in roughly 200 pages.Since the appearance of the first edition, he notes, a company called Global Financial Data has drawn together data on “the performance of every major asset class offered in the financial markets,” going all the way back to 1930. Using this and a wide array of other sources, he takes readers through a barrage of things to consider as they look at retirement, including whether they’re really ready to retire in the first place. The key focus of the book is reflected in its title, as Thurman concerns himself not with projecting sunny or even standard retirement conditions but rather with anticipating the worst—the kind of financial “perfect storm” that can upset even the sturdiest plans: “This is your retirement income we’re talking about,” he writes. “There are no do-overs, and little margin for error.” He points out that a solid framework for retirement finances covers a 40-year time span and has enough flexibility to allow retirees not only to do plenty of things while still active, but also to keep enough funds in reserve to handle mounting costs in later years.
The most prominent aspect of the author’s approach is how it aims to help readers take stock of their individual situations: There are simple questions and simple answers about everything from income sources to equity, fixed investments, stock market speculation, annuities, and the Byzantine complexities of the American social safety net. He opens the book by striking a pitch-perfect balance between the personal (recounting a touching story about his father) and the briskly professional. He never condescends to his readers, and at no point does her ever gild the lily; the book feels like a long, friendly, but no-nonsense visit from a trusted financial adviser. He demystifies all the various investment options and empirically demonstrates how some things that initially look enticing can prove poor choices in the long run. He combines plenty of charts and numerous, personalized anecdotes, always with an eye toward clarity and concision. His program is designed to help readers make the shift from “dollar cost averaging”—the kind of money-into-the-pot saving they’ve been doing all their working lives—to “reverse dollar cost averaging,” involving the smartest, most practical ways of taking that money out. He leads readers smoothly and confidently into a discussion of the value of diversifying one’s holdings, which he notes is a key to surviving unstable markets and lean years. At every turn, Thurman tends to advise a conservative, old-school approach to money management (“prudent and practical,” he calls it), foregoing flashier tactics with higher immediate yields for solid portfolios and strategies.