Tag Archives: The Coming Generational Storm

Get What’s Yours Rise to the Top Demonstrates Our Insecurity

GetWhat'sYoursCoverWhat does it say about Americans when a book about Social Security zooms to the top of the best-seller lists?

I say we are just insecure.  Or uninformed.  Or panicky.  Or lots of things.

As a elixir, book readers are buying Get What’s Yours:  The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security (Simon & Schuster, 2015) by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Philip Moeller, and Paul Solman.

Here is where the book stands on Amazon.com as I write this today:

The book is # 3 on the Wall Street Journal hardcover business best-seller list and # 4 on the non-fiction list.  I cannot find updates for the Bloomberg Business Week.  The book’s website claims that it is a New York Times best-seller, but I cannot verify that this morning as I write.  But, since the book has only been out since February 17, 2015, its rise to the top is meteoric.  It certainly did not hurt sales when Jane Pauley said this is “an indispensable and surprisingly entertaining guide for anyone who is retiring or thinking of retiring with all of the Social Security benefits they’ve earned.” With a flurry of endorsements from financial experts, many readers must have flocked to the physical and on-line outlets to see what it says.  Or, it likely did not hurt when the summary on Amazon.com proclaimed, “Many personal finance books briefly address Social Security, but none offers the thorough, authoritative, yet conversational analysis found here. You’ve paid all your working life for these benefits. Now, get what’s yours.
And, who wouldn’t be interested in a book with a summary from such as this:  “It tells you precisely which months you should collect retiree, spousal, survivor, divorcee, parent, and child benefits to achieve the highest lifetime benefits.  Maximize My Social Security incorporates all Social Security provisions and options for singles and married couples.
Who are these authors?  The book’s website provides these details:

Laurence Kotlikoff

Laurence J. Kotlikoff is William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and a professor of economics at Boston University.  He is also president of Economic Security Planning, Inc., a company specializing in financial planning software.  His company websites are ESPlanner.com and MaximizeMySocialSecurity.com.  He is author or co-author of sixteen books, including Spend ‘Til the End and The Coming Generational Storm (both with Scott Burns).  His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Bloomberg, Forbes, The Economist, Huffington Post, and other major publications.  He has served as a consultant to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, governments around the world, and major U.S. corporations including Merrill Lynch, Fidelity Investments, and AON.  In addition, he has provided expert testimony on numerous occasions to committees of Congress.  He lives in Boston.

Philip Moeller writes about retirement for Money magazine, the PBS website Making Sen$e, and other media outlets.  He is also a research fellow at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, and the founder of Insure.com, a site for insurance information that has provided original insurance content to the Web’s leading business portals, including Microsoft, Yahoo, America Online, and MarketWatch.  Formerly a contributing editor at U. S. News & World Report, he has spent forty years as an award-winning financial journalist, Internet entrepreneur, and corporate communications executive for a Fortune 500 financial services firm.  He lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Paul Soloman

Paul Solman is the longtime business and economics correspondent for The PBS NewsHour.  His many awards for work in business journalism include Emmys, Peabodys, and a Loeb award.  He is also a Brady-Johnson Distinguished Practitioner at Yale University, where he teaches in the Grand Strategy course, as well as teaching at New Haven’s Gateway Community College. He has been a member of the Harvard Business School faculty and a visiting professor at his alma mater, Brandeis.  Solman has written for numerous publications, from Forbes to Mother Jones, co-authored (with Thomas Friedman) Life and Death on the Corporate Battlefield, and wrote the introduction to Morrie: In His Own Words, created entirely from interviews with his former Brandeis sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz (of “Tuesdays with Morrie” fame).  He lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

We won’t have this book at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, as we don’t include individual-based finance books in our monthly coverage.

But that doesn’t mean that plenty of our attendees will find this important to read.  While they won’t identify themselves, I am sure we get some people who are insecure, uninformed, and panicky about their retirement years.  Maybe they. and many others will find this book a great relief to that anxiety.

An Era Starved for Substance — Some Thoughts on the Value of a Good Book Synopsis

This is primarily a blog about business books, and the ideas and implications in and of such books.  And, to state the obvious, there are good books and bad books – valuable books and not so valuable books.

The Coming Generational Storm

The Coming Generational Storm

I want to share a story.  A regular participant at the First Friday Book Synopsis has hired us to deliver book synopsis presentations for a client of hers.  The gathering was a “development” gathering.  You know, the client team gets a room full of people and wants them to know what they can provide that they might need.  This client team provides financial services and financial products.  People want to know what to do with their money – what they can do to grow their money, but, especially now, what they can do to keep their money safe.  They brought me in to present a synopsis of the substantive, disturbing book The Coming Generational Storm:  What You Need to Know About America’s Economic Future by Laurence J. Korlikoff and Scott Burns.  Here’s a key excerpt, candidly calling for realism and honesty:

The stakes here are too high to let hope conquer fear and to let wishful thinking perpetuate inaction.  There is, in fact, no realistic painless escape from our date with demographic destiny.  And as we now point out, that date is now much closer than most people seem to think.

The discussion covered the coming generational shift, the huge and growing national debt, and numerous concerns regarding “what do we do with our money now.”  But the conversation was “started” by the questions raised by the book, and thus prompted by the book synopsis.  It was book synopsis as a tool, as PR, as conversation starter.  I think it is  a great use of a book synopsis.  And the members of the client team, competent and trustworthy in the financial arena, were able to address the concerns of the clients and potential clients who attended.

Now here’s the moment that most grabbed me.  After the event, one participant was discussing how much she gained from the book presentation, and she said (paraphrased – I wish I remembered her exact words):  “I think we are really needing some content, some substance these days.”

I think we may be done with shallowness for a while.  The times are too serious.  The needs and dilemmas are too large.  We want to feel like we are actually learning something about how to think and how to be and what to do.  Ours is an era starved for substance – for guidance, for content.  Shallow dives don’t work, and won’t work in such a time of uncertainty.

It is a new era starved for substance.  And that is both a signal of worry, and a sign of hope.


To purchase my synopsis of The Coming Generational Storm, with audio+ handout, go to 15minutebusinessbooks.com.