Are you ready to retire? Have you done all of the things you should have in the few years leading up to retirement? These are the questions our guest today has answered in her comprehensive book on retirement readiness, The Five Years Before You Retire.
I had the pleasure of interviewing author Emily Birken to discuss her book and these important retirement issues. Emily let us in on some secrets for what you should be thinking about and doing when you’re in the “red zone” before retirement. Some of the topics we cover included:
- Why rules of thumb don’t work as you near retirement
- How to determine how much income your nest egg can generate
- How many different ways can you opt to receive social security
- The pros and cons of annuities
- How to deal with debt in retirement
Here’s a transcript of the interview:
Rob: Emily, welcome to the show.
Emily Birken: Thank you for having me.
Rob: We were just chatting a little bit before we started the podcast, and we talked about it being a small world. You’re in Indiana now, but you actually spent some time in Columbus, Ohio and taught at Grove City High School, right?
Emily: I did, yes. I was an English teacher at Grove City High School for four years.
Rob: And that’s significant to me because I grew up in Grove City. My mom still lives there. So there you go; it’s a small world.
Well, listen, thank you so much for your time today. We’re going to talk about your book, which I thought was fantastic and incredibly comprehensive: The Five Years Before You Retire. But before we get into the book, why don’t you tell everyone a bit about yourself?
Emily: Well, I am a personal finance blogger, primarily. I’ve been doing this for about four years. I write on a number of topics from budgeting to retirement to saving for college – pretty much anything finance related. That’s something that I’ve been doing for a little while.
Last year, I had the opportunity to write The Five Years Before You Retire to help people get ready for retirement – the ones in that red-zone where they know that it’s coming but they’re not exactly sure what to do. There’s so much out there about how to save more for retirement, but they don’t tell you what to do once you’ve done all that saving.
Emily: That was the opportunity I had last year, and it’s been an incredible ride. I had a lot of fun writing the book, and now that it’s out, I’m having some fun promoting it.
Rob: I’m sure, and I’ve got a ton of questions for you about the book. I’m curious, though. You said you write for personal finance blogs. Who do you write for?
Emily: There’s a number of them – Wise Bread, PT Money, Money Crashers, and the Dollar Stretcher are some of the main sites, although you can see me other places every once in a while. I’ve been on Huffington Post and Yahoo! Finance, among other places.
Rob: That’s great. I’ve been in the personal finance blogosphere since 2007, and I know all of those blogs that you’ve mentioned. They’re all great websites, and folks ought to check them out. I know the bloggers behind them. It’s sort of a tight-knit community.
Emily: A small community, yes.
Rob: And you work with FinCon, right?
Emily: I do. I was the main blogger for FinCon’s blog in 2013, and that’s a relationship that just continues to grow. I have a great deal of respect for Philip Taylor from PT Money and Finance.
Rob: Right. Yeah, I know Phil really well. He obviously started FinCon, which has been just a wonderful conference for personal finance bloggers. Yes, it’s been a great way to build a community.
Rob: So my first question about your book is, how did you come up with the idea for the book? Because your book focuses on the red-zone – which is a great way to think about the five years before retirement. But how did you come up with that idea?
Emily: The idea really came from the fact that there is so much information out there, that it seems to conflict.
So, for instance, I had a friend last year who was telling me her husband was turning 65, and she heard from three different places – all of them somehow official – what he needed to do to sign up for Medicare. She was just not sure what to believe – what was true; what was not true.
The idea was I wanted to create a resource that would give all of that information in one place without it being overwhelming. So that people could say, “Okay, here’s what I need to do in order to be ready for this.”
Because with so many different aspects of retirement, there’s a lot of information. Some of it is good. Some of it is not good. And it takes a lot to read through it.
My idea was to provide all of that information in one place, so that people who are in their early 60s or a few years from retirement aren’t trying to page through all of the information on how to start a 401(k) and how to find more money in their budget to put aside, when what they really need to know is, “How do I sign up for Medicare?” or “What can I expect from Social Security?” Those sorts of questions.
Rob: The thing that struck me about your book is the scope of it. You mentioned a couple of things like Social Security and Medicare. You could probably have a whole book on each of those topics, yet you are able to boil it down in a way which is easy to read.
Far beyond that, I mean, you cover annuities, reverse mortgages, whether you should have debt when you retire and if you do what you should do about it. What if you don’t have enough saved?
We’re going to cover some of those topics today. But the scope of it was very impressive. Just curious, though, how long did it take you to write this book?