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Mapping Your Retirement

Let me start this by telling you how much I loathe self-help books. They are usually written by people – whatever credentials they do or don’t claim – who are certain their answer to any of life’s problems is the only answer. Some of them even try to solve problems no one knew they had before, and if you’ll just buy enough of their books, attend their weekend-long seminars at $1000 a pop and repeat the mantra 25 times a day, you too will find eternal happiness. Phooey.

But every once in long, long while, I’m wrong.

Mappingretirement Mapping Your Retirement, subtitled “A Personal Guide to Maintaining Your Health, Managing Your Money and Living Well,” edited by Mark Skeie, Janet Skeie and Julie Roles rises way above the norm in this genre. There are no pat or patented answers in this book, but there are a lot of questions to help you think about how you want to live the years of late life and pointers on how to accomplish it.

Drawing on the conclusions of more than a dozen researchers and experts in the fields of life, health and money, the book is packed with nuggets of useful and thoughtful information. How could I, the woman who has been haranguing readers for four years now to ignore the cultural imperative to pretend to be young forever, resist this on page 29:

“It is time to attribute new, positive meaning to getting older and ignore the societal adoration of youth. All stages of life have merit and problems. The stress of supporting yourself and your family during middle age is just as much of a problem as is adjusting to various losses in later life. This time of life is loaded with opportunities for meaning and satisfaction.”

Divided into those three general areas of importance – life, health, money - Mapping Your Retirement is - well, a map of how to approach old age your way. Some are lists such as “Character Traits for Aging Well.” Others are questions to ponder about how you may want to spend the next 20 or 30 years of life after retirement. And many are practical guides on what to consider on everything from figuring out if what matters in life now is different from before; to making a variety of healthcare decisions; to financial risk management; to reminders how to eat well – and a hundred more topics.

This is primarily a workbook. Most chapters supply pages with plenty of space to answer questions that will help you make the best decision for you and your circumstances. Lists of facts on each topic can be used as guides. Q&As of common questions on each topic further enhance it. And at the end of each chapter are URLs of additional resources you can find on the internet.

And don’t think from the title that this book is only for people still planning their retirement. Even if you left the traditional workforce five or ten or more years ago, there is plenty of "news you can use" here.

Not everyone will want or need everything in Mapping Your Retirement, but there is little that isn’t valuable. You can flip open this book to almost any random page and find something of interest that is well-organized, thorough and extraordinarily well thought out.

The comprehensive range of practical, straight-forward, easy-to-use information packed into this book should make it one of the most well-thumbed references in your library.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kay Richard recalls the terrible trouble a tangle of teenage lies can cause in Party at the Sandbanks.]


Thanks for introducing me to what sounds like a good book for me to read and review!

Ronnie, like you I have never liked self help books. I have always been a planner. This year I have sold a home in a small town, built a smaller one, downscaled everything inside and moved. Moved to be near my children and grandchildren in the city. I am enjoying settling in, exploring my new surroundings. I stay busy with home, gardening, reading, family BUT what now. I have always had projects and really pushed myself. Finally recovered from what went on this year.
A part of me is really content and another part would like to take some small trips. Have not been brave enough to just take off by myself. Do not want tours.
Would like simple places and good food.
This is a constant thought so will see what happens. Blogging world is new to me. My editor daughter introduced me to you. First thing every morning I check to see what Ronni is saying. Thank You

When I first read this blog my flippant reaction was, "Been there -- done that." My second thought was, "Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men so often go astray". Looking at my friends who are now in their 80's and 90's I see a group of women that had planned well but circumstances intervened and the plans were shattered.

I am not trying to make light of judicious planning because we all need road maps to follow, but am making the observation that you must think of contingencies as well. And sometimes you just need to make a general outline (wise investments, etc.) and then 'let go.' Life has a way of taking over.

I think the biggest reason I hate self-help books is I always feel when handed a map that others think I'm lost and that can make me, even when I'm doing well, doubt if I'm on tract. I don't need the doubt. Let me plunge on.

Having said that, and from reading all the great stuff I read here, that puts so much of the garbage aimed at seniors to rest, I will keep an eye open for this book. If Ronni says, it can be helpful, I've not doubt it can be.

Darlene - I couldn't agree with you more about the surprises life throws our way. However, this book does not give you a map to follow nor does it expect you to make a hard and fast plan.

It is packed with good, solid information about many, if not all, issues we face in our later years and it's worth having for that alone. A reference.

Believe me, given my feelings about self-help books in general, I tried mightily to dislike this book. Now I've given it an easy-to-find place on my shelves - I'll refer to it many times in the coming years.

Thank you. :)

I love suggestions from someone I trust to have good judgment. Thanks for the review.

I all to often assume and you know what that makes; an ASS out of me. Guess I had better listen to your good advice, Ronni, and check this book out. I will never be too old to learn something new. Thank you.

Oh, Darlene, you never have been nor could you ever be an ass. I was just trying to point out how good this book is - and if you've read this blog long enough, you know how rarely I get this enthusiastic about anything...

I don't much like 'self-help' books either, Ronni, for all the reasons you mention. So it's kind of ironic that all three of the non-fiction books I've written could be – and often are – placed on the 'self-help' shelves. I think there are two things that make a a good self-help book. One is the author's motivation. If you write because you genuinely want to offer the fruits of your own experience – something elders are often good at – your work tends to be received with gratitude, since not everyone wants to pioneer and draw their own maps. But many self-help books are written merely because someone saw a market 'niche' and an opportunity to make money. The difference definitely shows.
The second thing that makes a self-help book stand out is when it is written in such a way that it leaves lots of space for the reader's own beliefs and experience. 'One size fits all' books don't work nearly as well. The commercially-motivated books usually fall down in that way also.
The book you just reviewed obviously scores well on both counts. It sounds like a very welcome addition to the genre.

Hopefully, through some of these self-help books more Seniors will become entrepreneurs concentrating on productivity for the benefit of society with much less emphasis on their own circumstances. I don't think it's important to 'map your retirement' but having the courage to express yourself not repress yourself; and the desire to focus on what ever dreams you have left to work on.

I just had to put in my two cents on this one. I love self-help books! I buy and read a lot of them. I feel like I'm meeting a new person with each one--folks like Barbara Sher, Helene Brenner, Susan Jeffers, Eric Maisel. To me it's like reading blogs--new ideas, or old ideas in a new personality.

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