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Book Review: “Common Financial Sense” – Required Reading for Retirement Savers

Book Review: “Common Financial Sense” is Required Reading for Retirement Savers. We know that the average employee struggles with saving for retirement. They perceive it as this big, scary, impossible thing, when really, all it takes is a series of simple steps, repeated and compounded over time, to achieve their savings goals. The hardest part is getting started, and then sticking with it. Among plan sponsors’ many challenges, of course, is helping employees understand how to maximize their workplace retirement plan to build their nest egg, and then making sure they stay on track to reach their goals.

“Common Financial Sense: Simple Strategies for Successful 401(k) & 403(b) Retirement Plan Investing,” a new book by wealth investment advisors Harris Nydick, CFP, AIFA and Greg Makowski, CFP, AIF, can help to make employees’ and sponsors’ lives easier. The book is written primarily for individuals who want to take advantage of their retirement plan at work to set money aside for their post-working years, but who aren’t quite sure where to start. That said, Common Financial Sense should be required reading for anyone looking for a primer on saving for retirement, from high school and college students, to those just starting out in their careers, to those looking to catch up on savings as they approach retirement. The advice Nydick and Makowski provide is spot-on, easy-to-digest, and right on the money for retirement plan participants or anyone who needs to up their financial literacy game.

With a forward by Ted Benna, known as the “father of the 401(k),” Common Financial Sense is a quick read — I finished it in a few hours. However, it’s so chock-full of useful information, readers will likely find themselves referring back to it, time and again. Nydick and Makowski hit all the key points of saving and investing in a workplace retirement plan, including figuring out how much money one needs to retire, how to invest, employer matching contributions, keeping track of one’s progress along the way, financial wellness, rollovers, and more. The authors make sure all bases are covered when it comes to planning, saving, and investing for retirement.

Additionally, all of the concepts are presented in straightforward, easy-to-understand language.  It’s very Finance 101, which is a positive here, in my opinion. Even those who tend to be intimidated by financial terminology will be at ease. The authors do a good job of metaphorically taking the reader by the hand and explaining traditionally difficult-to-grasp concepts such as retirement plan fees, investment returns, and employer matching formulas and vesting schedules. It’s all clearly laid out and simple to follow, without being dry, rote or boring.

One of my favorite parts of the book is  the grey “Retirement Myth” boxes the authors have strategically included throughout. Each of the 10 Myths is a common misconception many people have about retirement. For each, the authors include a paragraph or two that “busts” the myth. I found it to be a creative way to remind readers that how we think about planning, saving and investing for retirement can be very different from reality.

Chapter 13, titled “Monitoring Your Progress,” is one of the most compelling parts of Common Financial Sense. Through a series of well-designed bar charts, the authors illustrate, clearly and succinctly, the benefits of saving for retirement at as early an age as possible and the high costs of waiting to save. Each is a compelling reminder that saving early and often is the best way to plan for a long, comfortable, fulfilling retirement.

I would highly recommend Common Financial Sense for plan sponsors and advisors to share with employees and retirement plan participants. It’s a perfect way to start a conversation about planning, saving and investing for retirement, and/or to help enhance your existing plan education and communication efforts. The book drives home the benefits of workplace retirement plans, and positions them as an easy, accessible way for workers to set money aside today for a comfortable retirement tomorrow. To echo another reviewer, this is a book I wish I’d had when I was starting out in my career 20 years ago. It’s definitely one I plan to share with my younger friends and colleagues.

Common Financial Sense packs a whole lot of insight and information into one small book. It’s a must-read for today’s workforce, who needs help and guidance when it comes to navigating the complex, often confusing world of retirement planning.


Nydick and Makowski are co-founders of CFS Investment Advisory Services, L.L.C., a New Jersey-based wealth investment advisory and retirement plan consulting firm. Together, they have garnered accolades as top wealth advisors from Barron’s and Forbes.

Robyn Kurdek

Robyn Kurdek

Freelance writer with nearly 2 decades of financial industry experience, with niche expertise in the defined contribution (DC) industry. I also have defined benefit (DB) plan knowledge. I write all types of content for retirement plan participants, sponsors and advisors, including web copy, newsletters, white papers, fact sheets, blog posts, financial wellness articles, and more. "I speak DC."
Robyn Kurdek

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