The Smart Woman’s Guide to Retirement Planning by Mary Hunt – Personal Finance Book Review

Money expert Mary Hunt returns with a new book, “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Retirement Planning,” to help women prosper financially in the New Year and beyond. While geared toward women, men can also benefit from Hunt’s money savvy, honed after she racked up more than $100,000 in debt earlier in her life; and she took 13 years to erase.

“Have you had a retirement wake-up call?” Hunt asks at the beginning of the book. “I promise you they intensify with age.”

Hunt publishes a 2012 survey that found 92 percent of women of all ages don’t feel educated enough to meet their retirement savings goals.

Saving for retirement takes determination and hard work; and Hunt believes that women can be successful. “If we lack confidence, it’s because we lack knowledge and desire, certainly not because we lack intelligence and skill,” says Hunt.

Time trumps all factors when saving for retirement. The earlier you start, the better. But, Hunt emphasizes, regardless of where you are in life, you need to start now. “It’s too late if you don’t start now. No matter where you are or how little you think you have, start now. Today. Start. Save.” Take small steps to produce long-term results.

Characteristics of Hunt’s teachings:

Retirement Savings Plan. Hunt promotes a six-step retirement savings plan, which includes:

Create an emergency fund. Also known as the Contingency Fund. Save money for life’s unexpected expenses (car repairs, home repairs, etc.) This money should be liquid (easily accessible within two or three days), safe from erosion (build in a free savings account of risk) and capable of financing at least six months of living expenses in the event of job loss or another event of compromised income.

Get out of debt. Eliminate all unsecured debt (credit card debt, student loans, personal loans). Hunt says they’re like cancer that steals your future. Incorporate Hunt’s Rapid Debt Repayment Plan (RDRP) to abolish debt.

Own your home entirely. Buy half of the house from your mortgage approval. Make monthly mortgage payments equal to the full amount approved to own your residence in half the time. Fiercely protect your home equity (the difference between your home’s market value and the mortgage balance). Avoid taking out a home equity loan or line of credit, which resets the clock on a mortgage to thirty years.

Consider hiring a financial planner once debt has been eradicated or managed, a respectable amount of savings has been accumulated, retirement funds are growing, or an IRA inheritance or other cash windfall appears.

Hunt describes three types of financial planners:

  1. Commission based. This planner does not charge for time, but for selling investment products. He or she earns commissions on those sales.
  2. Based on fees. This planner works on a flat fee or charges by the hour. Fees are set in advance and the planner is a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA). They are required by law to adhere to fiduciary standards, which makes them responsible for putting their clients’ best interests first.
  3. combined This planner is a combination of the first two. Clients pay a fee, flat or hourly, and the planner earns commissions when the client purchases financial products based on the planner’s recommendations.

Choose a financial planner with at least five years of experience, Hunt suggests. Make sure they are acting in your best interest and can explain financial concepts at your level. Beware of any planner who claims to be able to beat the market. Ultimately, collaborate with a planner; however, make your own investment decisions. Hunt stresses that “an adviser’s or planner’s primary allegiance will be to the hand that feeds him. That is just human nature.”

Hunt educates in a conversational tone, avoiding jargon, graphics, and mind-numbing data, making for an engaging read. A Christian, she teaches faith-based money management. Hunt believes that God is the source of all of life’s blessings, including money. An employer, spouse, investments, trust account, parents, or any other entity are the channels through which the money flows, but not the final source. He is making reasonable preparations for retirement without obsession; and trust God for the outcome.

While having retirement savings is important, Hunt reminds readers that there is more to life than money. Health, spirituality, nurturing relationships, staying active, continuous learning, and volunteering are some of the attributes of a well-balanced existence.

Decade-by-Decade Financial Planning, The Five Tools You Need for a Money Management System, Investing Basics (Automate All Payments to Avoid Skipping Monthly Contributions (Out of Sight, Out of Mind), Reverse Mortgages, and Paying Parents for your child’s college education (not required), are other building/saving money topics covered in the book.

Anyone who commits to improving their financial fitness in 2014 will reap life’s treasures beyond the limits of cash by inheriting Mary Hunt’s money practices.

To establish your financial baseline and/or monitor your progress, order your free credit reports from the Big Three credit companies: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, visit: Annual Credit Report.