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Spend 'Til the End: The Revolutionary Guide to Raising Your Living Standard--Today and When You Retire [Kindle Edition]

Laurence J. Kotlikoff , Scott Burns
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $20.99
Kindle Price: $10.38
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

Rich or poor, young or old, high school or college grad, this book, written by economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff and syndicated financial columnist Scott Burns, can change your life for the better! If you follow the advice in this book, it will raise your living standard (possibly by a lot), improve your lifestyle, and help you spend 'til the end. And it will completely transform your financial thinking, turning every bit of conventional financial wisdom on its head.

If this sounds like a revolution in financial planning, you got it. So do The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, Consumer Reports, and other top publications that have been featuring the authors' economics-based "consumption smoothing" approach to financial planning.

Spend 'Til the End substitutes economic wisdom for the "rules of dumb" that currently pass for financial advice. In the process it indicts the investment and financial-planning industry for giving most people saving and insurance targets that are much too high and then convincing them to invest in risky mutual funds and expensive insurance policies. The result is that most people are scrimping and saving during the years when they could be spending and enjoying their money -- and with no sure payoff.

Easy to read, this book is packed with practical and often shocking advice on whether to work, how to pick a career, which job to take, where to live, what sort of house to buy, how much to save, when to retire, which kind of retirement account to use, whether to have kids, whether to divorce, when to take Social Security, how fast to spend down your assets in retirement, and how to invest.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kotlikoff and Burns (coauthors of The Coming Generational Storm) turn conventional retirement planning wisdom on its head in a feisty financial guide that questions the financial benefits of college and argues delaying filing for Social Security benefits. Unfortunately, many provocative insights are buried beneath fairly recondite economic analysis. Math-phobic readers may be unable—or unwilling—to follow along as the authors couch their methods to maximize spending power in a number-heavy narrative with awkward case studies that fail to properly personalize the financial challenges new retirees may face. According to the authors, truly sophisticated planning is best left up to computer programs (such as the one Kotlikoff himself has developed and offers online at Readers in search of a user-friendly primer might be put off, but there are nuggets of useful information to be mined—the authors efficiently address Roth IRAs and provide an eye-opening exposé of the duplicity rampant in the personal finance industry. Intrepid readers able to navigate through the numbers will be rewarded—if they keep from drowning in the evidence. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In The Coming Generational Storm (2005), the authors presented a dire warning about the consequences of the $51 trillion debt America has amassed, forecasting huge tax obligations and the collapse of the U.S. economy as we know it. Here they take a more cheerful tack, guiding the would-be retiree on the most efficient ways to maintain a decent standard of living during the golden years. Eschewing the standard financial advice to use replacement income as a guide on how to save, they instead accomplish this by analyzing spending habits, utilizing consumption smoothing as a way to ensure that you neither starve yourself in old age nor end up with more money than you need by depriving yourself during your working years. Through a long series of useful examples, they dispel many of the myths surrounding whether one should pay off the mortgage early; begin taking Social Security at 70 or at 62; maximize savings in a Roth, 401(k), or regular IRA; or even hold mutual funds at all. These exercises are sure to create new rounds of discussion as they turn much of the conventional financial wisdom on its head. --David Siegfried

Product Details

  • File Size: 1007 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (June 4, 2008)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0015DRPZE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #360,229 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
91 of 96 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but too erratic read why. July 14, 2008
Kotlikoff is a very interesting writer/economist. His previous book The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know about America's Economic Future is a must read for anyone interested in the actuarial position of Social Security. Now, Kotlikoff and Burns focus on financial planning. To investigate it, Kotlikoff developed a sophisticated program (ESPlanner). Its underlying methodology is "consumption smoothing" that consists in evening out your discretionary income over your lifetime.

Per the authors, the financial service industry ignores consumption smoothing methodology for several reasons. First, it is really complicated. It includes many variables (mortgages, change in member of households, AMT, Social Security benefits taxation, etc...). Second, it reduces retirement savings needs. Third, it reduces the investment risk you need to incur to reach your goals. Thus, consumption smoothing would cut into the sales of financial products.

The authors spare no one in the financial service industry. The mutual fund managers don't earn their fees as 70% of them routinely fall behind the stock indexes. And, the 30% that beat the market change every year. Thus, the 30% who beat the market are just Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets. Hedge funds don't have a chance to make up for their high fee structure (1% management fee; 20% of returns). Insurance salesmen care more about their commission than your finances.

The authors are at their best when dealing with the intricacies of Social Security and Medicare.
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75 of 84 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Income Smoothing 101 August 9, 2008
A little background on myself before I start the review: I have read over 200 books on investing, so I count myself lucky if I learn 1 new thing for each new book I read. I have read quite a few columns by Scott Burns and generally agree with him on his ideas. I have read several papers and articles by Kotlikoff. I have not read any prior books written by either of these gentlemen. I have been a fan of index fund investing since 1990.

Before I read this book, I was also aware that Kotlikoff sells his own software package ESPlanner for $150 a copy plus $50 annual update fee ($200 for Monte Carlo version plus $50 annual update fee).

My first comment is that my perception is that Kotlikoff wrote the majority of this book. I base this upon the early writings of Kotlikoff and Burns that I have read.

I have long known that index funds usually beat roughly 70% of the actively managed funds in any given year......and my gut intuition is that similar statistics apply to the latest rage.....hedge funds. Kotlikoff points this out in a slightly different way saying that if 70% of mutual funds with the managers paid 1% of assets per year and 0% of the profits can't beat their appropriate index.......then there is no way a hedge fund charging 2% of assets per year and taking 20% of the profits will ever beat out index funds.

Kotlikoff also expresses the lack of financial literacy of Americans in a new way. I already knew that almost all Americans received no education in investing in our high school and college system. I used to get a kick out of the periodic investment tests that Money magazine used to give to average Americans..........and they consistently received grades of F on the test.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important, stimulating, regrettably flawed August 15, 2008
The greatest value of this book is that it got me to "think outside the box" that has been built for me by decades of financial writers, employer 401(k) seminars, and retirement guides. It is a popular introduction to a new way of thinking about financial planning called "consumption smoothing," advocated in particular by BU professor Laurence Kotlikoff. I think almost everyone should read it. We are all sick from an overdose of the conventional wisdom and this book is therapeutic.

But I'm going to devote the rest of this review to knocking it.

It is a popular introduction. Too popular. The breeziness of the writing style goes beyond the Strunk and White's worst nightmare. Schticks like naming hypothetical characters "Bill and Hillary" or "Donald and Ivana" or "Dr. Ruth" annoy and distract me like the scraping of a fingernail on a blackboard. The book is replete with dialog like "I'm going to convert!" "You found Jesus?" "Not quite. I'm going to convert all my 403(b) money to a Roth IRA to save taxes." Ewwwwww!

What I take from this book is that our financial lives contain such unexpectedly complicated interactions that few decisions can be intuited or considered in isolation. For example, the financial aspects of a mortgage: the interest is deductible, but only if you itemize... and interest decreases with time while the standard deduction, being inflation-indexed, increases with time. So for many families, the tax savings on interest deductibility last for only a few years. But there are other complexities as well; by the time I finished the chapter on the tax and consumption-leveling implications of a mortgage, my head was spinning. I was glad that I paid off my mortgage long ago and don't need to think this stuff through.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Financial Epiphany
Provides extraordinary clarity into impact of decisions that affect your quality of life.
Highly useful preparation for talking to a Financial Planner.
Published 6 months ago by Larry R. Luther
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bible for Retirees and Wanna-Be Retirees
Kotlikoff takes on conventional wisdom in a thoughtful discussion of how to get the most out of your retirement savings. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Big Bad John
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for New or Experienced Investors
I have been a fan of Scott Burns' investment articles for years and bought this book because it was recommened by him and co-authored with Professor Kotlikoff. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Hutch
4.0 out of 5 stars A concept that is a little different
The focus of the book is in part about consumption smoothing and in the end it steers the reader towards the planning calculator developed by the author that follows this concept. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars just fine
Sure wish i had read this 40 years ago. Probably takes a few reading for some of this to sink in too
Published on November 26, 2012 by David Latham
4.0 out of 5 stars Why and how to maximize lifetime consumption
Save just enough to be able to spend consistently for the rest of your life: That's the sensible premise of this book. Read more
Published on October 11, 2011 by Smitty
3.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, and Debatable
'Spend 'til The End' examines numerous life decisions with financial implications (eg. where to live, buy or rent, go to college or not) and makes recommendations intended to... Read more
Published on August 9, 2011 by Loyd E. Eskildson
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard Slog to Some Simple Truths
Spend 'Til The End has been called controversial, but really many of the main points are quite simple even though the writing is dense enough to make you think otherwise. Read more
Published on January 30, 2011 by goldenrulecomics
4.0 out of 5 stars CJR review
Excellent book, a refreshing guide to DIY without a broker, lots of lively examples and concrete dollar-for-dollar comparisons. Read more
Published on October 2, 2009 by AddledByBooks
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for readers deciding when to begin social security
First, I should reveal I met Larry at a conference of practitioners and academics in New York City and was familiar with some of his thinking. Read more
Published on February 24, 2009 by James Lange
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