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286 of 294 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2004
Book Review: "We're Not in Kansas Anymore," by Walter Updegrave. (Crown Business. 2004)

By George Fulmore

The subtitle of this book reads, "strategies for retiring rich in a totally changed world." Maybe I've been at this personal finance stuff for too long, but for me that subtitle means that I'm about to learn something new. In reading "We're Not in Kansas Anymore" I did not find that to be true.

To me, what this book is saying is that the old world of retirement pensions is gone and cannot be depended upon. Many of us have known that for decades. In my case, the defined benefit program where I worked was converted to a defined contribution (401K) program by the mid-80's. This is not big news. And this would seem to be one of the many books now coming out that warn Baby Boomers that they need to take this savings stuff serious or else. Again, I'm not sure that this is new stuff. (And I'm not sure that all those state, federal and county government workers need to be sweating out any of this. Their pensions will hopefully be there for them.)

The bulk of the book talks about standard personal financial stuff that has been printed for decades elsewhere and that you can find in endless current books: start early, think long-term, max out deferred options, don't think it's too late, don't be too conservative or too risky, live within your means, review your overall plan at least once a year, yada yada yada. This takes us to page 244 of this 277-page book.

Sure, if one follows all this, he or she or they build up a nest egg that will prove its worth in retirement. And that will be wonderful. But if we don't do all this, then we will be in the soup, unless we somehow catch up in time. What the author does not spend much time with are the real world reasons why these things do not work out. That's not his concern. And, of course, he never really defines how much is enough. Nobody knows all the variables of the future, so nobody really knows the answer to that one.

The final 33 pages are why I bought the book, but they do not contain enough insight or information for me to urge others to do so. He talks of a "longevity risk," which is all that stuff about running out of money because one lives too long, but he also says, "there's no way to know in advance exactly what mix of stocks and bonds will make your portfolio last the longest or how you can set a withdrawal rate just high enough to give you the most income without your nest egg expiring before you do." Thanks a lot, buddy. That's a big help!

There are about 14 pages on annuity strategies, which I was hoping would be the bulk of the book, as I think converting illiquid assets into income over time is the name of the game in retirement. And he is generally talking about that in this brief section. (No mention of charitable trusts annuities, which I generally prefer.) The final pages urge the retiree reader to make periodic reality checks on how things are going, mixed with advice about how not to get too caught up in all this finances stuff in the first place: "don't let the planning get in the way of living a happy and fulfilled life." You get only one retirement. Enjoy it while you can."

I you are looking for a good book on personal finances leading to a sufficient retirement nest egg, I guess this is as good as any; although, I'd think you could save yourself some money by going to a used bookstore to pick up one of the many books on this subject that have been around for years. If you are looking for a book that deals primarily in retirement financial strategies in today's world, I'd keep looking. This book is not it, in my opinion, and my guess is that there will many, many more to follow in the next
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37 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2005
Updegrave succeeds in capturing the essence of the Baby Boomer's retirement dilemma--they are responsible for their own economic viability as ERISA legislation has largely shifted the burden of support from employers to employees. The challenge now is how to capitalize on the various tax-deferred and individual retirement plan allocations that will establish a safe and effervescent income stream. "We're Not In Kansas Anymore" does a good job of laying the framework for readers hoping to understand the big picture of the retirement of their futures. Additional work on actual strategies and implementation would have been helpful, especially for individuals who have fallen behind in establishing their nest eggs. (See perhaps "Rich Dad's Prophecy", "The Intelligent Asset Allocator", or even "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" for further reading.) With that said, Updegrave's writing makes it quite clear there is no financial panacea. I found his focus on leading a life of value and substance refreshing, all too often material wealth is glorified over the simple, free experiences of life--Scarecrow's brain, Tin Man's heart, and Lion's courage I dare say are all priceless.
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