5 Books About Retirement That’ll Prepare You for Your Golden Years

These books about retirement will help prepare you for your next stage through fiction and nonfiction.

A senior couple on the beach reading.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s been said that a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. So, if words on a page can introduce us to what it’s like to live in another century or a faraway land, then why not introduce us to life in retirement, too?

After all, most people view retirement as a whole new chapter in life, one with its own unique adventures but also unique challenges. That’s why retirees in a 2023 Edward Jones study overwhelmingly agree (93%) that “preparation, flexibility, and willingness to adapt are keys to success in retirement.”

With that goal in mind, these five must-read books about retirement will help you prepare for that next chapter.

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Die with Zero: Getting All You Can from Your Money and Your Life

By Bill Perkins

Many people enter retirement with the primary goal of “not running out of money.” The 2023 Retirement Confidence Survey found that nearly half of retirees plan to maintain their current assets compared to only 7% who plan to spend them down as needed. What, then, is the point of wealth if you don’t use it?

Die with Zero by Bill Perkins is a financial and life-planning book that challenges traditional retirement thinking. It encourages readers to align their spending and life experiences with their values and passions, urging them to optimize their time and money to create a fulfilling life and leave a lasting legacy. 

The book emphasizes the concept of “dying with zero regrets,” making the most of life’s moments, and ensuring financial decisions support personal happiness and growth.

Highlight this: “Remember: In the end, the business of life is the acquisition of memories. So what are you waiting for?”

My Brilliant Friend

By Elena Ferrante

Don’t be surprised to find fiction on this list. Research shows reading fiction improves empathy, which is essential in forming relationships. And relationships are the key ingredient to living a healthy and happy life, according to a Harvard study conducted over nearly 80 years.

Written by pseudonymous Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend delves deeply into the intricacies of friendship and its transformative impact on individuals. Set in post-war Naples, the story revolves around the lives of two women whose friendship serves as a catalyst for personal growth and self-discovery. 

The book depicts the joys and complexities of long-lasting relationships, revealing how deep emotional bonds ultimately mold us throughout life. It is a touching reminder of the vital role relationships play in all stages of life.

Highlight this: “When there is no love, not only the life of the people becomes sterile but the life of cities.”

A woman reads a book in a sunny room.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life

By Arthur C. Brooks

We live in a society that generally emphasizes youthfulness and vitality. As a result, we learn to fear growing older, perpetuating stereotypes and overlooking the value and wisdom that comes with aging.

Author and Harvard professor Arthur C. Brooks pushes back against this way of thinking. In From Strength to Strength, he argues that the second half of life can be even more rewarding than the first. He writes that the inevitable decline in our abilities as we age can free us up to focus on the most important things, like relationships and purpose. 

This inspiring book makes a strong case that the second half of life is when we can finally achieve our true potential, make a difference in the world and find lasting happiness.

Highlight this: “Get old sharing the things you believe are most important. Excellence is always its own reward, and this is how you can be most excellent as you age.”

The Midnight Library

By Matt Haig

Another novel for your reading list compels you to ask some deep retirement planning questions: If you could live life all over again, would you change anything? What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do? What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life, and how will you do it?

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is a poignant and reflective novel that follows the life of a woman who is overwhelmed by regrets and unhappiness. When she reaches a point of despair, she finds herself in the Midnight Library, where every book on the shelves represents a different life she could have lived if she had made other choices. Through these alternate realities, she learns valuable lessons about the power of choice, self-acceptance and the pursuit of happiness, ultimately leading her to a newfound appreciation for her own life and the infinite possibilities that lie within it. 

The novel beautifully weaves together themes of regret, second chances and the importance of living authentically, reminding readers that it is never too late to change the course of one’s life and find contentment.

Highlight this: “We don't have to do everything in order to be everything, because we are already infinite. While we are alive we always contain a future of multifarious possibility.”

The Year of Magical Thinking

By Joan Didion

Lastly, here is a book about grief. The reality is that we will all likely experience loss in retirement. In fact, more than 75% of retirees in the Edward Jones study above said the most disruptive curveball in retirement was the loss of a spouse or partner.

The Year of Magical Thinking is a memoir written by iconic essayist Joan Didion, chronicling the year following the sudden death of her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne. The book delves into the emotional journey of grief, loss and the struggle to come to terms with the reality of death. Didion examines the complexities of grief and the ways in which the human mind copes with loss through what she calls “magical thinking.” She concludes that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

The memoir is a heart-wrenching exploration of the profound impact of death on one's life and the attempts to find meaning and understanding in the face of profound loss.

Highlight this: “We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves.” 

Ultimately, what resonates with you is personal. So, as you prepare for retirement, what books are on your nightstand?

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Jacob Schroeder
Contributor

Jacob Schroeder is a financial writer covering topics related to personal finance and retirement. Over the course of a decade in the financial services industry, he has written materials to educate people on saving, investing and life in retirement.

With the love of telling a good story, his work has appeared in publications including Yahoo Finance, Wealth Management magazine, The Detroit News and, as a short-story writer, various literary journals. He is also the creator of the finance newsletter The Root of All (https://rootofall.substack.com/), exploring how money shapes the world around us. Drawing from research and personal experiences, he relates lessons that readers can apply to make more informed financial decisions and live happier lives.