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"How to Retire Happy, Wild & Free"

In 2015, I attended “Paths to a Creative Retirement,” an annual three day workshop hosted by the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement at UNC Ashville, a member of OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute).  How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free by Ernie J. Zelinski was included on a recommended reading list I received at the workshop.

I started out wanting to not like the book, but it did grow on me.  The book is subtitled, “Retirement wisdom that you won’t get from your financial advisor.”    He begins by suggesting that North Americans are overly concerned with the financial side of retirement and as a group we work too long and miss out on the benefits of retirement.  While that may be true, I took offense to his claim that, “Most financial advisors paint a picture of a penniless and destitute retirement for those with less than a million or two in their retirement portfolios.  They emphasize higher earnings instead of lower spending as the key to having money to retire.” 

The following quote from the book summarizes the Zelinski’s philosophy on early retirement.  “Voluntary early retirement gives you a chance to purse new areas of study, work part-time in an area that interest you, or move to a warmer climate.  It’s a great opportunity to pursue your goals and dreams while you are still young, energetic, and healthy enough to enjoy them.  In addition, retirement may be your last shot at being the person you would like to be.”

Zelinski goes on to provide a list (he’s big on lists) of eight reasons why an 80% income replacement ratio in retirement, used as a rule of thumb by many financial planners, is too high.  While I concede that 80% is too high for some, it’s too low for others.  I did appreciate his quote from Berolt Brecht:  “Life is short – and so is money.”  Life is a series of decisions and we believe a retirement income plan for an individual or couple, should be based on their unique circumstances and priorities.  Income replacement ratios vary by individual or couple.

Now let me tell you what I liked about the book.  In his own way, Zelinski addresses the elements that contribute to happiness in retirement.  He discusses health, lifelong learning, travel, and most importantly the importance of meaningful relationships.  He includes many lists, exercises, quotes, and anecdotes that make for an easy and entertaining read.

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free is the last in the series of books on the lifestyle side of retirement I will review prior to leading an OLLI class at SVSU in April titled, “Someday Is Here.”  I’m not buying everything Zelinski is selling.  However, I have included elements of his “retirement wisdom” into the class.



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