3 Best Books to Read for Retirement Planning in Australia

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Are you dreaming of that longed-for retirement?

That pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; the reward for working so hard towards achieving financial independence.

In the FIRE community, we tend to focus on the financial aspects of retirement – how to calculate how much we need to retire and how to achieve that financial independence.

Planning for an enjoyable retirement (early or otherwise) involves looking at more than our finances.

We may have all the money in the world at retirement and still be unhappy because we’ve lost our purpose in life. Conversely, we may have the most fantastic dreams for our retirement but not the money to make them happen.

As a late starter, I can attest to the anxiety that a lack of retirement savings brings – it is real.

But as I take action and implement FIRE strategies, the financial side of things are looking up. I am planning to retire early(ish) at 55. In fact, I’ve set my retirement date – Dec 31, 2026.

I recommend reading the following 3 books as you prepare for your retirement. You will learn that planning for retirement is an active process and involves more than just the finances.

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I’m a fan of Noel Whittaker because he can explain finances in simple terms. This is his third book that I’ve read. The other 2 are Making Money Made Simple and Superannuation Made Simple.

Quite simply, if you plan to retire in Australia, you should read this book. Although it is a book geared towards traditional retirement, I like it because of its focus on the Australian system.

In Retirement Made Simple, Whittaker explains about investing, taxation, superannuation, the age pension and estate planning. All this I expected from Whittaker.

What I didn’t expect was the non financial aspects such as choosing where to live, downsizing and looking after your health as you age.

Of course, the non financial parts may have financial implications. For example, if you look after your health, you won’t have to spend as much on medications, doctor visits, medical procedures etc.

He teaches you what to take into consideration as you calculate how much you need to retire and the sorts of risks that will influence how you get there depending on your time frame and return on investment.

He points out the 3 general sources of income available – you working for it, your money working to make more money and lastly, charity or welfare. And how to fund your retirement. He ephasises that access to welfare (the age pension) is progressively tightened so we may not be able to rely on it when the time comes.

What I like about this book is the specific advice for Australian retirees in particular the capital gains tax, franked dividends, how to catch up on superannuation contributions, using superannuation to pay off mortgage debt and so on.

How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free was published in 2009 but is still very relevant today. It deals more with the non financial aspects of retirement.

And challenges the traditional retirement timeline – as “you are never too young to retire.”

Zelinski’s philosophy can be summed up by this one sentence – “To not plan for an active retirement is to set yourself up for a difficult one.”

He writes about having purpose and creating a new identity in retirement. And to be a more creative version of yourself.

I especially like his ‘Get-a-Life Tree’ illustration, which is essntially a mind map.

At the centre is ‘Options for my Retirement’. Coming out from this centre are 5 sections or spokes –

1. Activities that turn me on now

2. Activities that turn me on in the past

3. New activities I have thought of doing

4. Activities that will get me physically fit

5. Travel

As a result of reading the book, I have started lists for the above categories. I confess that the category of ‘activities that will get me physically fit’ is woefully sparse. But it’s no surprise that my ‘Travel’ category is overflowing 🙂

The aim is to generate lots of ideas to explore and pursue in retirement. And in Zelinski’s words again – “To be bored is to retire from life”

I’ve been following Fritz on his blog The Retirement Manifesto since I found FIRE. And was thrilled when he wrote a book!

Keys to A Successful Retirement has a good combination of financial and non financial advice of retirement planning.

Gilbert likens retirement planning to baking a cake – just as you would choose the ingredients to include in your cake, so too should you decide on the ingredients that will make your retirement a successful one.

There are 24 tips scattered throughout the book – my top 5 are:

Tip 3 – Spend time thinking about the non financial ingredients of your retirement. In time, you’ll find they’re more valuable than money.

Tip 15 – Take as much time as possible preparing for retirement while you’re still working. It is the single biggest differentiator between success and struggle.

Tip 19 – Rather than thinking about seeking your passion, ask yourself “What can I do with my time that’s important?” Committing your energy to something that matters to you is the true frosting on your retirement cake.

Tip 21 – Seek to develop interests for all the spokes in your life. A wheel rolls best when the spokes are the same length.

Tip 24 – Never stop learning. Cultivate your curiosity, and apply what your’re learning

The financial parts are US centric but there are universal principles – how to save for retirement, setting up ‘buckets’ in your retirement plan and track your spending so you can more accurately work out your retirement needs.

Final Thoughts

Planning for your retirement is an exciting time.

We look forward with a little bit of trepidation – who knows what the future holds? But also with anticipation of a time of freedom, a time when we can do what we want whenever we want, for however long we want and with whom we want. What bliss!

Reading these 3 books –

Retirement Made Simple by Noel Whittaker

How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free by Ernie J Zelinski

Keys to a Successful Retirement by Fritz Gilbert

will give you a solid start to retirement planning.

All three books will teach you to consider both the financial and non financial aspects of retirement. And exhort you to start planning as early as possible.

Happy reading!

What are your favourite Retirement Planning books? Or resources?

The 5 Most Valuable Lessons from I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi

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I never wanted to be rich.

To be rich brings up a lot of negative associations for me and is one of my money limiting beliefs.

So I admit that the title itself – I Will Teach You To Be Rich – turned me off for a long time.

But through the internet, I am aware of Ramit’s philoshophy of “Spending extravagantly on the things you love and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t” and it has always resonated with me.

So finally, I decide to read I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

Specifically I read the second edition, UK version.

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I loved it.

Even though the book is aimed at the youngsters – 20 to 35 year olds.

It’s a 6 week personal finance program – step by step guide on how to use credit cards, set up automation of savings, investments and retirement accounts, setting up a Conscious Spending Plan (no budget here … another of Ramit’s philosophy that resonates a lot with me, haha) and so on.

There is a ton of advice – how to talk to your partner about money; negotiating a raise; how to save for a wedding; should you pay off your student loans or invest; rent or buy a house and so much more.

I also enjoyed references to his Indian heritage as I relate to a lot of it. My Chinese heritage is not dissimilar ie parents wanting good grades, tertiary education a MUST for progressing in life and of course, marriage and kids (big fail here – which my Dad always reminds me every Christmas and Chinese New Year)

So, what lessons did I, a late starter, learn from I Will Teach You To Be Rich?

Lesson 1 - What does your Rich Life look like?

Ramit asks this question early in the book – What does your rich life look like?

I love, love this question!

Because without knowing the answer, it seems pointless to be saving, automating investments and salary sacrificing into retirement accounts.

After all, what is the money for?

It’s easy to think that I am saving for my retirement, that I want to be secure and that saving will give me options later. But options to do what, exactly?

I have been pondering a version of this question for most of the year. And will likely do so for the next 5 years as I transition to retirement at 55.

Questions such as – What do I really want to do once I fully retire? What will be my purpose? Will I still be productive? And useful? How will I use my free time? What will my lifestyle look like? And endless more ..

But Ramit challenges you to be SPECIFIC.

He wants you to have a vision for what to do with your money. To have that vision front and centre will motivate you when you make decisions to pay down debt, save and invest.

If you know what you value and what you don’t, it is much easier to “spend extravagantly on the things you love and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.”

And this is where I found it quite hard. I have never really wanted to dream or ask for specific things because I never want to be disappointed if I don’t get them.

Gosh, that is such flawed thinking, isn’t it?

So what does MY Rich Life look like?

This is my attempt to be more specific about what my rich life looks like. I look forward to expanding on this initial list as I learn not to be so afraid to have specific dreams.

In no particular order, my rich life looks like this.

  • Eat well – I can afford to use quality ingredients when cooking at home and be able to indulge in fine dining while on holidays. When I eat out, I always want to be able to afford desserts at the end of the meal. I want to eat what I feel like eating and not be concerned about the prices of the meals. I can eat all the cheese I want – not stopped by cost but by health reasons 🙂
  • Travel – I can afford to travel overseas at least once a year and enjoy experiences unique to the destination. I want to slow travel, staying put in a place for weeks or months instead of days and really getting to know the local culture, food and lifestyle.
  • Read – I have all the time in the world to read. Additionally, I am not restricted by what my local library has in stock. If I want to read a specific book that my library doesn’t have, I can buy it.
  • Continuous learning – I can afford to attend workshops and buy courses, cooking lessons and gardening classes.
  • Unfettered time to spend with family and friends here and overseas. If a family member needs my help overseas, I can drop everything and be there for them.
  • Wake up whenever I like, without an alarm clock – this would be HEAVENLY for me
  • Cook for others, whether that is having friends and family over or volunteering in a soup kitchen. Be adventurous and experiment with new recipes and ingredients
  • Visit museums and art galleries, attend plays, musicals and concerts – in my own city and not just while I’m on holidays elsewhere
  • Be healthy enough to do all the physical activities I want such as walking and hiking
  • Write in some form
  • Pursue any project or hobby without time or cost constraints
  • Not having to work to support my lifestyle ie I have sufficient passive income or a big enough investment portfolio that I can draw down ie working for money becomes optional
  • The ability to do my chores on weekdays instead of cramming everything into the weekends
While some of these activities require money, a lot don’t.
Writing this list has shown me that I am living some version of my rich life already, yay!
Full length of rich woman in elegant dress standing against limousine and private jet
No, this is not what my rich life looks like 🙂

Lesson 2 - Guilt free spending

I am a spender.
But after discovering FIRE, I’ve tried to reform my ways 🙂 The result of which is that sometimes I feel guilty spending money.
I realised while reading about how to set up a Conscious Spending Plan that I don’t have a splurge account for guilt free spending.
When I first found FIRE at 47, there were so many competing priorities for my money.
I felt so very behind in my finances – I didn’t have enough saved in my superannuation; my shares portfolio had languished for years; non existent emergency fund.
Therefore the last thing on my mind was an account for guilt free spending. Any inexpensive fun stuff was lumped with every day living expenses.
I suppose my travel sinking fund can be considered a splurge account. But because it is named as a travel fund, I feel guilty using it for anything else.
And lately, I’ve raided it to pay for blogging expenses, courses or memberships (so many skills to learn, lol!) It has been building nicely due to not being able to travel for the last 2 years.
I know the money is mine to do as I wish but I feel guilty nonetheless.
And of course I’ve reviewed my money allocation in the past. But it was to add more sinking funds – for a future car and home maintenance.
But now, my emergency fund has 6 months of expenses; my superannuation is at a point where I can reduce my contribution drastically; I am at Coast FI. More than 3 years down the road to FIRE, my financial situation has improved dramatically.
Therefore it is time to review my automated money flow again and make a few changes.
Before – a sum would be deducted from my pay and deposited in my investment account. Every 5 weeks, I would transfer it to Pearler, my brokerage platform where I had set up automatic investment.
Now – to simplify the process, I’ve set up a weekly transfer to Pearler directly. And when it hits a certain amount, it will automatically invest in my chosen ETF – VAS. I will miss out on miniscule interest to be earned in my bank account but it is much simpler this way.
Therefore I have renamed my investment account to “Invest in Myself” account. And automated a weekly deposit of $50 – it’s not a lot but it’s a start.
I will use this account primarily for buying courses, books, workshops etc totally guilt free. In addition, if there’s something I particularly want for myself, I’ll use the funds here.

Lesson 3 - Decide ahead of time what you'll do with a windfall or a raise

I never really thought about this before.

Any bonuses I received would go to my investment account. Or I’d use it to pay for upcoming expenses. For example, my tax refund was used to pay for my medical out of pocket expenses earlier in the year.

Ramit suggests you should spend some of it as a reward. So that you’ll always look forward to getting a once off unexpected income.

So  from now on, if I win the lottery or get an unexpected bonus, 50% will go to my Pearler autoinvest account, 40% into my travel fund and 10% into “Invest in Myself” account.

Any overtime payments go into having a one month buffer for everyday living expenses. Once this is funded, any overtime payments can go to my travel fund.

And any cash dividend under $100 will fund “Invest in Myself” account. Any single cash dividend greater than $100 will be transferred to Pearler. The vast majority of my dividends are automatically reinvested via Dividend Reinvestment Plans so cash dividends are minimal.

If I get a raise, I’ll just increase the contribution to my Pearler autoinvest account. The faster I build up my shares portfolio, the faster I can retire. But I don’t want to do this at the expense of my sanity.

Lesson 4 - Set some spending 'framework'

This one is a bit dangerous for  me, being a spender.

Ramit’s example is if he’s thinking of buying a book, he’ll just buy it. Even if he learns one thing from the book, it would have been worth it.

Here are mine – the first revolves around travel.

When travelling, if there’s an expensive experience or activity I want to do or a fine dining restaurant to visit, just do it – I may never return to this place again.

Time is precious – only look for direct flights or one connecting flight if direct flights are not possible.

My second spending framework involves food.

I never ever want invited guests to go home hungry or needing to buy McDonald’s on the way home. So I don’t mind spending a bit more and having more food than absolutely necessary – I love leftovers anyway and nothing is wasted.

I can’t come up with any more spending frameworks at the moment but it has made me think.


Discovering local parks in my area - trying to live life outside my spreadsheet

Lesson 5 - Live life outside your spreadsheet

Yes, I needed this reminder.

Lately, I have been charting many metrics related to my FIRE journey. I’m blaming this on seeing many pretty charts on Instagram. And on the current lockdown that seemed to drag on forever.

I keep checking my numbers to make sure I’m still on the right track. I’m driving myself nuts.

The truth is I have automated my savings and investments and I am on track.

It is time to live outside my spreadsheet and charts and just trust time to do its thing.

Final thoughts

I Will Teach You To Be Rich is essentially a 6 week step by step guide for managing your personal finances, aimed at 20 to 35 year olds. But it is so much more than that.

I am not the book’s target demographic plus I have already automated my savings, investments and bill paying before reading the book.

But even so, I loved it for the ‘higher level’ thinking it’s provoked in me.

To recap, the 5 most valuable lessons for me are:

– Be specific about what my rich life looks like

– Have an account for guilt free spending

– Decide ahead of time what to do with a windfall or a raise

– Set some spending frameworks

– Live life outside the spreadsheet

Have you read I Will Teach You To Be Rich? What lessons did you learn from it?

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