February 18, 2013

7 Deadly Sins (No, Not Those Sins)

You are aware of what are known as the seven deadly sins:
  • Pride
  • Envy
  • Gluttony
  • Lust
  • Anger
  • Greed
  • Sloth
Jimmy Buffett adds an eighth one: Pizza, but that isn't really official.

No, this post isn't about avoiding these pitfalls. It is a brief review of a clever new book, The 7 Deadly Retirement Sins, by financial planner, Ryan Zacharczyk. He covers the biggest mistakes folks tend to make while planning for a satisfying retirement, but in a unique way. He has created a fictional character who interviews 35 retirees and uncovers the seven common mistakes that these folks made.

Samantha, known throughout the book as Sam, is as freelance writer who has an aunt facing the loss of her house due to poor money management. Desperate to help her, Sam sinks all of her financial resources into a cross country trip to visit and interview nearly three dozen retired people who tell her about the mistakes they have made. Sam's desire is to find some answers that will help her Aunt Cindy while turning the information she finds into a series of articles. The book traces her journey of discovery that leads her to an important decision: there are really only seven key financial mistakes that we make over and over again.

In an unexpected twist at the end, Sam's articles are so well received she is able to turn them into a book and establish a fund that gives money back to the interviewees who made it all possible.

The 7 Deadly Retirement Sins is an easy read but contains a strong restatement of what we all need to know for our financial health. Of course, our financial health has a direct influence on our physical, emotional, and relationship health as well.

I enjoyed Ryan's writing style and his creation of a character who is memorable and believable, except in one aspect: she completes her transcontinental, three month journey, by train! In America, trying to travel around the country on any type of schedule and under any reasonable budget cannot be done with Amtrak. But, I like train travel so I suspended my rational mind and let her complete her journey.

What are the 7 deadly sins? I could suggest you buy and read the book, but in the interest of time saving let me give you a sneak peak. Here are the common sins Sam "discovers:"

1. Retiring too early & living above your means
2. Allocated your assets improperly
3. Collecting Social Security at the wrong time
4. Working with the wrong (or no) advisor
5. Paying too much in fees and expenses
6. Trying to time the market
7. Lack of insurance to protect against a major health event

The author is a financial advisor so #4 is no great surprise. But, I was pleased that he kept any strong "sell" for what he does and its importance well in check. He lets the stories of each retiree make his point.

The book is available on-line between $12 and $16 in paperback and $8 for an electronic version. For more information visit Amazon or  7sinsbook.com

I enjoyed this book and can recommend it as a helpful reminder of steps we all should consider as we plan for our satisfying retirement. As the author states at the end of the story, "Retirement is not about money. Retirement is about freedom, exploration, and your ability to enrich your life, as well as the lives of those around you."


Note: I received no compensation for this review beyond a free copy of the book.


  1. The book sounds like an interesting read in that it puts a bit of a spin on a topic that has been written about often. For that reason I'll probably get the Kindle edition. But in reality most of the help in this book, like so many things in life, is just plain common sense (e.g. "don't live beyond your means".)

    Since I am fairly proficient when it comes to investing and financial topics, and have no need of an adviser, I also find it frustrating when people give good money to an individual or outfit for things they can do themselves. But I have begun to realize that the majority of Americans have no interest in educating themselves on something that is so important to their everyday lives and future, namely their finances. Perhaps I can also come up with some angle and write a book that will help more people reach their goals, but in a way that will not make their eyes glaze over.

    1. You've identified the target of this book, Chuck: those unable or unwilling to educate themselves about the basics. For them this book might help explain the basics in a way that doesn't cause their eyes to glaze over. They are also those most in need of the stabilizing effect of an advisor.

  2. I'm guilty of 6 out of the 7 original Deadly Sins, but only 3 of the 7 retirement deadly sins. So I must be doing okay, huh?

    But knowing the economics of book publishing, I have to assume the part about making enuf. money to establish a fund must be fiction!

    1. I assume the fund described is fiction, but who knows.

      So, now I have to guess which deadly sin you are not guilty of?

  3. I cringe whenever someone tells me they are an early retiree. Why? Because eventually most of them have to return back to work at some point. Give it 10 years or so. And in today's economic climate, most people lose their jobs in their late 50's and 60's anyway so why stop working in the first place? Let nature take it's course.

    The dictionary defines retirement as this:


    The action or fact of leaving one's job and ceasing to work.
    The period of one's life after leaving one's job and ceasing to work.

    The only way I could believe a person is retired, regardless of age, is that they are no longer working. If they are back earning money, they're doing something other than being retired. Just don't know what to call it, however.

    I stopped working full time at 50 and continued to work part time till I was 62. Now, at 62 I am collecting Social Security and NOT working at all. I consider myself, retired. Finally. Since I never did earn a lot of money, if I waited till I was 66 to collect SS, the difference from then to now would only be $115 a month. Not worth the wait. Since I will get automatic 1.5% COLA increases every year, I'd be sorta closer to that extra $115 by the time I turned 66 anyway.

    I aimed my life after 50 downward towards living on what I would get from SS plus my savings. That meant no debt. If I miscalculated, I'd go back to work part time somewhere. I pay nothing in fees. Trust myself with my own money and have the needed insurance coverage to tide me through should calamity hit.

    My library doesn't have this book in yet.

    I'll wait.

    1. You sound like you have this retirement thing (or whatever is the better name) under control.

      If you do find a name that more accurately describes this phase of life bring it on. I've been looking for 12 years.

  4. Check, check and check . . . or should I say uncheck? Meaning we are not guilty of committing a single one of the sins on your list. We will likely be delaying SS withdrawals until we reach the maximum age as the difference between the payout at age 62.5 vs age 67 is very significant in our case. Just as we lived below our means during our working years, we continue to do the same in retirement, giving us considerable flexibility, peace of mind and confidence that our portfolio will outlive us rather than vice versa.

    I do have to give a positive nod to retiring early, however, in contrast to the opinion voiced in the comment above. If one plans prudently, lives below their means, and continues to live below their means after quitting work, there is no reason to fear running out of money. Certainly we can't control everything, but if the world goes to heck in a handbasket, everyone will be in trouble, not just early retirees.

    I would guess that at the end of our lives, not a one of us will wish we'd spent more time in the office and less time away from the office enjoying life.

    1. You guys planned very well, otherwise you wouldn't have just returned from Thailand, with Italy and other exciting places on the horizon.

      Like you note, we can't control everything that may or may not happen to us. But, to live in fear and do nothing isn't living.

    2. I'm with Tamara on the early retirement thing, although your author of the book was saying"too early," which can even mean folks retiring at 65 if they don't have adequate resources to live the life they want.

      As a gal that retired at the ripe old age of 44 though, I'm not sure I would agree with the comment that if you are earning money, you're not retired. I manage my investments and earn money on those, I don't think that makes me not retired. And I've had occasion to make a little money with my new-found love of writing. But as Tom points out about the publishing world, it wouldn't be enough to pay the bills if I weren't already "retired."

      Although, if someone wants to call me a writer instead of retired, I'm ok with that too!

  5. I plead guilty to the sin of pizza. Retired at 58. Took Social Security ASAP, which worked fine (just as it did for "Early Retirement Journey") because most of my working life income wasn't covered by SS. The best thing we did was pay off all debt (mortgage and auto loans) well before retiring and acquiring no new debt in the 19 years since. The second best thing was refraining from stock market gambling. We are well-insured, living at a higher standard than when I retired, and are able to travel or buy stuff when we want. Living below our means for 52 years together, I think, was the key to our successful retirement

    1. I had pizza for dinner two nights in a row and left overs for lunch. Now, that's bad.'

      I absolutely agree that one of the keys to my satisfying retirement was to live beneath my means and continue to do so 12 years into the journey. I will admit, however, that I will be happy to see my first SS check in June.