This is my review of Retirement Rx, a book that presents a “prescription” or plan for living a happy and fulfilling “rest of your life.”
This book is not about financial planning, although that is part of the “prescription.” Instead, it is more about implementing or fine tuning personal and life-living characteristics that are key to whether you have a positive retirement experience.
The short version of this review is that this book is a must-read for any baby boomer who wants to plan a successful transition to retirement living. Let me explain.
The Science of Retirement Success
Retirement Rx was written by two physicians, Frederick (“Fritz”) Fraunfelder, M.D. and James Gilbaugh, Jr., M.D., who each were deeply involved in academic and geriatric medicine. These “retirement docs” as they call themselves recognized from working with thousands of retired seniors that some were distinctly happy and content in retirement and others were not. They also realized that it was not all about the money. Therefore, they resolved to find out (for themselves and for others) what factors and traits were associated with a “highly successful retirement.”
The authors devised a survey – scientifically and statistically sound – intended to identify the retirement success factors. The reader of the book can actually take a shortened version of the retirement docs quiz in the book. The survey was effective and provided data that set the stage for the rest of the book. Indeed, the survey and scientific basis of the authors’ conclusions and recommendations are what distinguish this book from most retirement guides.
The Four Phases of Retirement
One of the important findings from the retirement docs survey is that retirement is separable into four distinct phases:
- Planning for Retirement
- Shifting into Semi-Retirement
- Full Retirement
- Restricted Full Retirement
Of course, these phases are dynamic and interrelated. All must be considered. And in many respects, they are different from what earlier generations of retirees have experienced. As baby boomers, we must be cognizant of the existence of these phases at all times in our planning.
The Eight Traits of a Successful Retiree
The Retirement Docs used the survey results to identify eight traits that were present (statistically significant) in each of the successful retirements (the top 20% of happy/contented retirees in the survey).
The eight traits identified are:
- Positive Attitude
- Acceptance of Change
- Support System
- Leisure Time
- Passion and Purpose
- Spiritual Life
Of course the book describes these traits with a lot more detail. This is important to the baby boomer reader who needs more than vague generalizations to derive value and learning from the book.
You and Successful Retirement
Most of Retirement Rx is dedicated to guiding the reader toward living a life in harmony with the eight necessary retirement success traits. This is the important part of the book. For most of us, it means that we have work to do. Following the plan laid out by the authors requires effort and the willingness to be self-aware. But not much in life is easy, and that includes preparing for a happy and contented retirement.
In short, this is not the kind of book that you read, put down, and forget about. This is a thinking person’s book. To obtain full value, the reader’s active participation is required.
Final Thoughts and Recommendations
I have read many books about retirement. Most of them focus on the financial aspect, which is important. Retirement Rx goes well beyond the money into areas that too many of us overlook. The authors give us the science to convince readers that work needs to be done. They also submit concrete ideas and processes for completing that work.
I think my fellow baby boomers should read this book.