Money in the Middle

Sandwich Generation Talking About Money Up, Down and Across Generations

Making Smart Financial Decisions

with 2 comments

As the stock market climbs back from the deep dark depths of recession, many are feeling optimistic that the worst is over.  Maybe.  But continuing unemployment and foreclosures indicate that we have a way to go yet.   

Lots of articles too on people yielding to pent up demand and heading back out with credit card in hand.  Good for the economy; not so good for their savings plans. 

So since it’s National Retirement Savings week what is it that we can do to get started or get back on track to retirement savings.  There’s lots of advice out there.  Here’s the Retirement Savings Week site.

But I think that for many of us who are beyond the “why should I save” and are struggling with “how do I save for retirement now”, there are two “musts” that often get overlooked:

 1. Understand the financial products you are buying and how they fit in with your goals.

2. Understand who makes money when you purchase the product and what how their goals align with your goals.

 aarp retirement guideI recently received a copy of The AARP Retirement Survival Guide:  How to Make Smart Financial Decisions in Good times and Bad by Julie Jason. 

 While calling it a survival guide may be a bit over ambitious, it is a good guide to answering the two key questions above – how does the product really work and who makes money when you buy it.

 It’s a practical book.  Subject headlines like: Hint, WARNING and Julie’s recommendations help you shine a bright light on the pros and cons of the product.  That ultimately makes it easier to see if the product is a right match for you.  She also provides lots of good questions to ask and easy to navigate language free of financial jargon.

Lately, I’ve come across more people who are confused about the relationship they have with their “financial advisor.”  That person could be a broker, an insurance agent, a financial planner or a register investment advisor but many people think they are just different names for the same thing.  Not at all!  Jason has a great information and a chart (p.87) on who gets compensated in what manner.  It’s also easy to see who has what responsibility to you. Most often it is a standard of suitability.  Fiduciary responsibility is reserved for registered investment advisors who must put your interests ahead of his/her own.  It’s important to know the difference so you know what you should expect from someone advising you on financial products.

So if you’re a baby boomer or senior thinking of getting some help on what to do next with your retirement savings, The AARP Retirement Survival Guide is worth a read.  It can help you ask smart questions and make you more knowledgeable about what really can help you reach your retirement goals.


2 Responses

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  1. Laura,

    As the author of the “AARP Retirment Survival Guide,” I am pleased that you found the book helpful — and that you spotted the big issue that most people miss – there are differences between advisers, which means you have to know how to manage the one that you are working with. No one type of adviser is better than another – it all depends on what you are looking for.

    If anyone has a question that aders to send me questions at

    Julie Jason

    Julie Jason

    December 15, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    • Thanks Julie. When it comes to comparison shopping for insurance – life, long-term care insurance, even Medicre plans, it’s good to know what the commission is that the agent gets. You’ll know whether your interests and the agents are really aligned.

      Laura Rossman

      December 21, 2009 at 7:34 pm

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