(MoneyWatch) Television and radio personality Clark Howard's new book, "Living Large for the Long Haul," shares tips for how people of different financial means can live life to the fullest while still successfully saving for retirement. The book is full of sound practical advice that can help everyone.
Howard told CBSNews.com that this book, which he wrote with Mark Meltzer and Theo Thimou, is the favorite he has written to date, even more so than his 2011 New York Times best seller, "Living Large in Lean Times." Howard explained that he noticed a fatalistic attitude with groups that he spoke to. The purpose of this book was to offer readers some inspirational and upbeat stories of real people who implemented simple strategies to get out of debt, get more for their money and reach financial independence, he said.
Howard said that "doing things right is dull" (which obviously struck a chord with me, given my trademarked "Dare to Be Dull" slogan). The book goes into 14 areas of inspirationally dull ideas on dealing with everything from credit and cars to homes and health care.
The only way to retire with any degree of financial security is to get control of your money. Reducing debt and a relentless focus on saving have a much greater success rate than counting on winning the lottery. And it's much easier to save by getting more for your money, as the tips from the other chapters explain. Automatic savings is key here, and research shows how critical automation and feedback are.
Howard said that just getting people started on putting money away is the biggest challenge, so his advice to newbie savers is to start by contributing one percent of their pay into the 401(k) account and then to increase it by one percentage point every six months. In five years, the consumer is then saving 10 percent of his or her pay without missing it. Just get started and do it, advised Howard.
The book's advice on investing is also boringly brilliant. Owning gold and silver doesn't constitute a diversified portfolio, but owning a few diversified low-cost index funds does. Investing savings on a regular basis helps minimize the emotional highs and lows that tend to make us performance chase. The book advises that investment fees should be kept below 0.50 percent annually. Howard agreed that the lower the better, and 0.50 percent looks pretty good compared to annuities. The book recommends DepositAccounts.com as a place to find high CD rates, and Howard seems to agree with the strategy of finding high CD rates with minimal early withdrawal penalties.
During our interview, I questioned Howard's advice to keep a mortgage with rates at historic lows. When I noted the particular circumstance of comparing the mortgage to a taxable bond, we reached heated agreement. I also questioned the book's citation that it takes 27 years for a Chevy Volt to make economic sense, and he agreed that(discounts and tax credits) had changed things. Howard told me his family has two electric cars, a Tesla and a Nissan Leaf.
Every book and financial media expert has some biases, but Howard is so good in part because he works hard to minimize conflicts of interests. He has no "endorsed local providers" or product manufacturers paying him money. He also has a knack for making practical advice both inspirational and entertaining. Whether you are just beginning to save and invest or have already reached financial independence, this book will be a fun read with real implementable advice on getting more for your money.