Critical Stuff: Read some of the introduction! This book isn’t for everyone, and the intro will give you a good idea about its suitability for you.

In This Chapter: The good news: Longer lifespan, the bad news: You can’t afford it.   My qualifications: Life? My sources: The Web.  The meaning of pono.

Who reads introductions? Well, this one might save you some time. If your reaction to the next few paragraphs is to run away screaming with your fingers in your ears, then this book is not for you.

After I wrote the first draft of this book I went through it with a critical eye and eliminated anything I thought the reader might not need. Then I added workbook elements, both to give a clear plan of action, and to set a simple path that enables you to check your progress. I’ll eventually derive an action list to post on the accompanying website for easy reference.

Most retirement books start out by telling you that you need a plan. But there’s a big problem with that idea. No matter how carefully you plan, you aren’t really ready for the kind of retirement that faces modern Americans. You may have started planning and saving at an early age (and welcome to the skinny end of the bell curve, you one percenter, you) but are you really ready to spend your last thirty or more years unemployed?

Historically, retirement was pretty easy, and that easy retirement is the one you’ve actually planned for. You saved some money, the company you worked for gave you a pension, you had some social security. You retired at 65 and promptly died (average male lifespan in 1935 was 62.7 years). Your wife lived modestly on survivor benefits for fifteen more years in a little apartment with two cats named Inky and Mr. Mittens.

So hey, that worked great. But that was then. If you turned 65 today, on average you’ll live 20 more years. Social security will probably be diminished in some manner in ten years. Company pensions are rare. Your IRA looks anemic and your technical chops are as outdated as a Walkman. You need more than just a plan. You need a bunch of plans.

Even if the financial side of your retirement is well in hand, how long do you want to spend sitting in the kitchen in your underwear? How long do you think it will be before the same spouse that used to say “you never have time for me” will say “Leave me alone, I have a life. No, I don’t want to have lunch with you.” We’ll cover some of the get-a-life stuff too, it’s my true area of expertise.

And finally, no matter how much you save, if you’re unhealthy your medical expenses will consume that. We’ll cover some basic approaches to geezer health.

I’m a wizard at the fun part of being retired, but I once considered myself a financial moron. So why would I write a book that’s mostly about the financial aspects of retirement? The quick answer is that I’ve made some serious (but correctable) blunders in planning and executing my retirement, but I’ve taken charge of my retirement and made it my job to learn all I can to do it better.

I think there’s value in learning the basics of a task like retirement from someone who isn’t a financial expert. I’m a little closer to the ground and I’m not focused on theoretical issues–I’ve experienced things you don’t want to experience. My concerns are more like yours. For the more sophisticated solutions, you need to go elsewhere. I can point you where you need to go, but I can’t give you a guaranteed recipe for having a successful retirement. Hell, I can’t do that for myself.

My Sources

This book is highly derivative. When I started it I had only a passing understanding of financial markets. So I googled every aspect, read hundreds of articles, and googled whatever those articles used as sources. Made notes, cut and pasted. Built a structure for the things I learned and started writing.

Unfortunately, I didn’t track the sources of everything I read and cribbed from. To put it simply, I don’t KNOW where a lot of this information came from, so I can’t properly attribute it.


I’ve read more deeply as I went along, rewrote sections, combined similar chunks of articles, and added my own voice and ideas. But if you recognize some fragment here as being suspiciously similar to something you wrote, it probably is, and I’m sorry that I didn’t credit you. I’m certain the material here meets the modification criteria for “fair use”, but I generally try to hold myself to a higher standard than “more or less legal”. This is a living document. If you see something you’d like fair attribution for, then send me an email: and I’ll credit you. With traditional publishing that would be slamming the door after the horse has bolted, but the modern publishing model makes it feasible to update books already in readers hands.

There are two books that I found highly useful in my efforts:

The Smartest Retirement Book You’ll Ever Read, by Daniel Solin

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning (several authors)

I read many more, but these two were clear, honest, and well structured. I highly recommend both.

You might wonder what this book is for if most of the advice is contained elsewhere. This book has my own spin, but any reliable information comes from multiple sources. Would it be better if I were just making this stuff up? My aim is to offer a more holistic view of retirement that includes the financial aspect as a means to an end. That end is to be successful in managing the retired segment of your life, which will be very different from your prime earning years. But if your only criteria is originality then I’d suggest a novel. I wrote a couple, but I cribbed the style from Elmore Leonard, so maybe that won’t work either. But here’s a link to my first:

My primary blog is which is about doing things better. Pono is a Hawaiian word with a host of meanings, mostly centered around doing things righteously. When a person is pono they feel all is right in their life, because they are living their life with integrity. My preferred definition of Pono is to be continually trying to improve.

I wish you a pono life.


The Retirement Trap Copyright © by Bill Babcock and Babcock, William. All Rights Reserved.

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3 Responses to Introduction

  1. covewantstostayretired on April 7, 2015 at 6:24 am says:

    So far so good…second sentence from the end should begin: ‘More importantly’ or ‘But more importantly’….

    I get the not wanting to pay the portfolio manager. Maybe they can’t do any better than an index fund over time. You have to find a lot of not so easy to find information out in order to know what it is, exactly, that you are paying. Where are the fees hidden? The investment management fees are tax deductible, if you can itemize. But that barely covers any of the expense. I’m at the moron level, even though a few times I’ve gotten as far as almost idiot. I’ll be staying tuned. Maybe I can figure out a way to keep from continuing to get fleeced because I’m pretty sure that’s what’s happening. Right under my goddamn nose.

  2. Robert Seelig on February 17, 2020 at 9:58 am says:

    I would appreciate learning about your experience with John Gorlow and Cardiff Park Advisors?
    Did you stick with them? How long have you been with them?
    If you left, why?
    And if you left, who did you choose as an alternative?

    • ponobill on February 17, 2020 at 7:21 pm says:

      I’ve not only stayed with John, but I’ve also connected him to a close family friend who is equally delighted.

      John does a spectacular job, we meet over the phone once per quarter and any time we have a question. He has cost us a tiny fraction of what the two traditional financial advisors we had before cost us, both in direct fees and the typical commissions and back door payments. His advice is straightforward, and in general it’s nothing I couldn’t do for myself if I was willing to do a lot of work managing money. But I appreciate both the careful management and the technical advice whenever we make a change.

      I highly recommended him.


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