He should know.
His book, "Get a Life: You Don't Need A Million To Retire Well" (Nolo Press, paperback, $24.99), is now available in an expanded fourth edition.
It was good reading two years ago. It's essential reading now.
I wrote about the book two years ago because I had been struck by the excessive emphasis on getting rich and becoming wealthy that I saw in the glossy personal finance magazines. It struck me as fundamentally wrong-headed. Ralph Warner offered an antidote.
Today, things are only slightly different. Millions of people have less money than they had two years ago. The glossy personal finance magazines are filled with stories about the repair and rebuilding of nest eggs. The repeated theme is restoring wealth lost.
But the emphasis is still wrong headed.
Ralph Warner researched retirement directly. Instead of doing financial analysis, he interviewed people who were happily and successfully retired. He asked what made them happy. He asked what worked to make a good retirement.
The answers: Health. Family. Friends. A fully engaged life.
Money was an after-thought. The fourth edition of his book expands on those themes, adding new material and references.
"I did the first one as much for myself as for others," he said.
" I was trying to figure out what was wrong with all the advice that I read. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did for myself."
Now 61, he wrote the first edition in his mid fifties, a time when many men reassess what they are doing and where they are going.
"A big part of doing the book was finding people who were inspired retirees. It took me a while to realize that nearly every one of them was nearly an older athlete. They were people who had strategies for being healthy and retired. It took a little luck, but all of them were physically active."
His interviews led him to conclude that deep bonds with family and friends were equally important. Too many people, he learned, over-commit to work at the expense of family and friends.
"My sense of people that I know who are most successful is that they are not the people who work 70 hour weeks--- one thing I talk about in the book is overworking and choosing not to do it. I think a lot of people do have a choice.
"In the short run, many people are caught in tough situations in their lives. But in the long run, we can make changes. We can change the size of our house, we can choose a shorter commute, and we can find a way to work four days a week instead of five."
We live in a world of products. We are bombarded with advertising messages. They tell us that one (new) thing or another will bring happiness. Large amounts of money will bring security. The greatest service Mr. Warner performs in this book is to remind us that the true economy is much, much larger than the money economy.
One of the best examples is in his chapter on Long Term Care Insurance, the latest Anxiety Product from the insurance industry. In the world of products, the salesman calculates the amount of money needed for long-term care and shows that insurance is the best way to provide the money.
Mr. Warner takes another tack. He writes, "…the key question I wanted to answer is not, "How do I pay for a decent nursing home?" Instead, what I really wanted to figure out is, "How do I reduce the likelihood of needing long term care in the first place?"
After pointing out that 86 percent of all men and 69 percent of all women will never need a nursing home, he suggests that attention to our personal health--- regular exercise, attention to weight and diet--- is a good start, followed by building strong family relationships.
Financial types, particularly those who sell product answers to human problems, will laugh at this. In fact, I believe Mr. Warner is on to something. 'Investing' in ourselves, building family bonds, and growing our relationships with friends is a far greater 'opportunity' than any financial product.
If Scrooge can figure that out, so can we.
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