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Retirement's Instruction Manual

Cullinane and Fitzgerald, who hold retirement-planning seminars around the country, cover an impressive number of issues in this 486-page guide. Among the things they discuss:

• Great places to retire. (Here's a hint: They aren't all in Florida, although that state would be my No. 1 choice.)

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• Career opportunities after retirement.

• Tips on how to use your free time.

• Estate planning.

• Taxation of Social Security benefits.

"This isn't your father's (or mother's) retirement," Cullinane and Fitzgerald write. "The conventional definition of retirement itself needs to be retired. Retirement is now recognized as a process, involving perhaps several forays into and out of alternative projects, pastimes, and jobs."

This book is really an instruction manual for retirement. The first section of the guide focuses on lifestyle issues (what makes retirement successful, travel information, how to use your time). The middle and largest part of the book addresses where you might want to live in retirement. I especially like that the authors included some unique places, such as Ivy Acres, a nonprofit, continuing-care retirement community in North Carolina that organizers say is the first African-American-sponsored community of its kind in the United States. And for you baseball fans, they list spring-training towns.

The final section gets to the money issues (taxes, insurance, health care costs, etc.) One rule of thumb you've probably heard is that you'll need about 60 percent to 80 percent of your pre-retirement income to live comfortably after you stop working. But as Cullinane and Fitzgerald point out, that rule of thumb won't work if you have parents to take care of, you don't have adequate health care insurance, or you are planning your retirement to be a 20-year-long vacation.

"The real answer to 'How much do you need?' is that you can't rely on anyone's rule of thumb -- you need to make your own judgments after considering your own retirement plans," they write.

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