An Aging with Freedom Book Club Review

A Peer We Admire and Follow

In our journey into a successful retirement, we’ve met some fellow travelers. They’re seeking the same destination. Fritz Gilbert first attracted our attention through his blog, The Retirement Manifesto. Philosophically? We share a lot in common. A focus on DIY retirement. (DIY = Do It Yourself.)

Fritz may love numbers, investing, and spreadsheets even more than us. We both share common interests in financial independence. And the online FIRE community. (FIRE = Financial Independence Retire Early) That led to a connection through FinCon. Where we were both nominated for the Plutus Award’s Best Retirement Blog. Fritz won. It was easy to cheer for him. He’s a happy, likable guy. Fritz leveraged his Plutus win into even more blog engagement and collaborative interactions. Okay, now we’re getting a bit jealous of his traction and level of interaction. He’s doing it right. He’s definitely a peer we admire and follow.

When Fritz published his recent book, we knew we had to read it. And share it in our Aging With Freedom™ book club. Here’s our take on Keys to a Successful Retirement, Staying Happy, Active, and Productive in Your Retired Years, by Fritz Gilbert.


Fritz and his wife Jackie are a bit farther along on the transition into retirement. But Keys to a Successful Retirement struck us many times with how much we have in common.

  • We both retired to more rural and affordable small-town resort communities.
  • Both wives experienced caregiving for aging parents with dementia.
  • A huge overlap in the list of influential books, experts, and resources.

Some of that is a function of age. Like, Time Power, by Charles Hobbs. Swear this was Lori’s secret superpower in a career of project management. Time Power was the de facto owner’s manual for DayTimer™ fanatics. When paper folio calendars ruled the business world.

Much of the overlap comes from our involvement in the FinCon community. And mutual commitment to financial freedom. Fritz’s list of influential financial freedom websites and podcasts parallels our own.

But other overlaps reflect self-selection by attitude. Like Simon Sinek, of Start with Why fame. Or the inclusion of a favorite YouTuber, Josh Scandlen of Heritage Wealth Planning. Josh encourages average retirees with his “You don’t need no stinking job” attitude. Including those with less than a million dollars. And several more shared influences.

We agree there are variables on both the income and expense side of the equation. Too many financial folks only look at the accumulation of the nest egg side of the equation. There’s a lot to control in the spend-down phase.

We share a certain emphasis on positive attitude and gratitude. And especially purpose.

Shared Conclusions

Keys to a Successful Retirement closely parallels our own conclusions and practices. Shouldn’t be surprising with so many shared influences. There’s almost nothing with which we disagree. We might word a concept differently or chose a different illustration. But it’s remarkable how similar Fritz’s conclusions are to our own research and experience.

We started our blogs from different perspectives. Our original focus was on where to live in retirement? Rather than, how much money do I need to retire? But both questions are too narrow. Happiness is more internal than the building or geography in which you live. Or how much money you have. A successful retirement requires enough financial freedom to empower a range of personal choices. But that’s the starting point. Not the end.

Financial Freedom, the Foundation

But we and Fritz ended up in the same place with the same conclusions. The money always matters. But it’s never the only thing that matters. And surprisingly? It’s not even the most important thing in retirement. Keep reading for that, “There’s gotta be something more” element.

There’s gotta be something more. . .

Still, Fritz’s money or financial system is almost identical to ours. Fritz’s first near-term investment bucket is 2-3 years of required living expenses. This bucket is a guard against ever having to sell equities into a bear market. And defends against the sequence of return risk. (Losses early in retirement with cascading consequences through retirement.)

The mid-term, bucket two refills the cash bucket one periodically from the locked-in returns of bonds and other fixed return investments.

And Fritz learned the lesson of the Great Recession. You have to stay in equities for long-term returns and defense against inflation. So his long-term third investment bucket is equities.

Fritz shares a good process for calculating how much is required in each bucket for your unique circumstances.

Budgeting, Baseline or Discipline?

We love monthly budgeting more than Fritz. Fritz budgeted for a year to establish a baseline for effective planning. We’ve budgeted monthly for ten years. Ever since Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University taught us both the why and the how. We use You Need a Budget or YNAB for short. YNAB controls our expenditures. Personal Capital‘s (affiliate link for $50 savings) tools track and manage our assets.

We used to think that budgets are what poor people have to do. Now? We know that budgets are how rich people get that way. Our budget lets us control our money. Rather than letting our money control us.

Fritz shares his approach to annual budgeting. And includes planning for irregular but not unexpected expenses. We do the same with sinking funds. “Surprise expenses” are now pain-free. Because we plan for them. Life happens.

Physical and Mental Health

Fritz covers the money in Chapter 1 and 2. Finances are only a foundation. Other factors beyond sufficient money for a successful retirement? Of course, there’s your health. And the opportunity to be intentional about preserving and extending your health. Keys to A Successful Retirement addresses both physical health and emotional health. Relationships play a big part in our happiness. Fritz reminds readers about the risk of gray divorce and depression. Both are risks approaching or in retirement. And gives resources to address emerging dangers.

And Fritz addresses the cost of healthcare insurance as an important consideration, especially for early retirees.

DIY Keys to a successful retirement by Fritz Gilbert. "Fritz shares both his own research and personal positive experiences. And the challenges encountered on the path. The combination of personal experience, research, and advice of others is convincing."

Purpose – from success to significance

But even money and health don’t guarantee happiness. The wisdom of those who have gone through retirement before is clear. Purpose is the indispensable ingredient for success and happiness.

Fritz demonstrates this progression in both the order and names of his book chapters. We summarize it in our Aging With Freedom™ trifecta tagline. High Wealth, High Health, High Purpose.

My favorite line in Fritz’s book reiterates the importance of purpose. “Now [retirement] is the time to move from success to significance.” Great advice, Fritz.

Preparation Predicts Success

Keys to a Successful Retirement is a quick, informative, and practical read. The metaphors and illustrations hit home. Fritz emphasizes preparation is the single best predictor of retirement success. And reminds us that most of us won’t choose the exact timing of our retirement. So, it’s important to prepare in advance. Health, bosses, or the economy make the timing choice for at least 60% of us.

Practical, Not Original

The book’s 23 Tips are practical. Fritz and Jackie’s retirement is the prototype. They are living out the principles in the book. Fritz’s personal guidelines (on page 99) are worth a read. And inform the entirety of Keys to a Successful Retirement. And Fritz’s public persona on The Retirement Manifesto.

Fritz doesn’t claim great originality in his conclusions. In fact, he builds on the advice of those who have gone into retirement before. But it’s a nice concise, synthesis of collected wisdom.

There are two ways to learn. The easy way and the hard way. The hard way is having to make every mistake yourself. The easy way is to learn from the experience of others.

Keys to a Successful Retirement is a roadmap to the easy way. Fritz shares both his own research and personal positive experiences. And the challenges encountered on the path. The combination of personal experience, research, and advice of others is convincing.

DIY Retirement

But don’t misunderstand. Keys to a Successful Retirement lays out a process. It doesn’t dictate your path or answers. Fritz helps you ask the right questions. But you’re in charge of finding the answers that fit you. A DIY retirement indeed. The plan may not be perfect, but planning is everything. It prepares you for success.

The single best description from Fritz? Success is a “self-directed retirement.” And not just in finances. How you spend your time is even more important. Your answers won’t be the same as Fritz’s, even if the essential questions are the same.

At Aging With Freedom? We call this “DIY retirement.” Planning gives us freedom of choice to enjoy building our unique DIY retirement. You must be proactive, not a victim of circumstances. Take responsibility to make intentional choices. Even if that means making do with some imperfect options.

Retirement won’t make you happy

Keys to a Successful Retirement is a great reminder. Fritz’s 23 Tips are easy to read. But harder to do. They take time to implement. Money doesn’t dictate or determine your happiness or success in retirement. Our lesson? If you were unhappy pre-retirement? Retirement won’t suddenly make you happy. Fritz’s emphasis on planning, process, and progression can help nudge you down the path to a life of meaning.  Purpose. And happiness. But you still have to choose happiness. Worth the read. Especially if you’re still meandering, aimlessly toward or in retirement. Prepare. Don’t let retirement happen to you. It is your DIY retirement. Own it.