Financial Advice for Retirement, Social Security, IRAs and Estate Planning

About Bob Carlson

Many people ask me how I found my way to this business of writing the only publication devoted to all the financial aspects of retirement and retirement planning. It was not a direct route, and certainly not something I dreamed of as a youngster. I was trained as a CPA and attorney. I passed the CPA exam at the end of college at Clemson University and went straight to the University of Virginia School of Law. My intention was to become a tax attorney and adviser. But I always served on the school newspaper, enjoyed writing, and unlike most people who have a facility with numbers, was told I wrote well.

I soon learned that I liked writing and researching for a broad audience more than practicing law. I found myself editing several different newsletters over the years and also writing books and reports. I settled at a newsletter called Tax Avoidance Digest that eventually changed its name to Tax-Wise Money. While writing the newsletter in the 1980s I noticed my mail (yes, it was snail mail in those days) started to contain a lot of questions about how to take money out of IRAs. After looking around I realized there was no good source of information to which I could direct these readers. There were IRS regulations, but they were long and difficult to read.

In response I wrote and published a little book I titled Retirement Tax Guide. It discussed the short-lived surtax on seniors to pay for a federal catastrophic care (or long-term care) benefit. The tax and benefit were quickly repealed. The book sold well enough, and I had a list of buyers who kept writing with questions.

Again after looking around the market In 1991 I decided to launch a monthly newsletter that would cover all the financial aspects of retirement. My tax work and research had long ago brought me into broader financial issues. I realized that looking at the entire financial picture was much more interesting and useful than examining only a segment, such as investments, taxes, or insurance. Retirement Watch was born by sending a postcard offer to buyers of my little book. That book by the way has gone through four editions, and in 2008 I completely re-wrote it and am researching publishing options.

Retirement Watch has been popular and done well. There was, of course, a need for an independent source of expert information and advice on all the financial aspects of retirement. That need has grown as the population has aged. Readers seem to appreciate the objective, unbiased nature of the research and range of topics covered. Rather than having a solution in search of problems, we listen to our readers to learn what their problems are, and then we seek potential solutions. We also do not take a cookie-cutter approach to solutions. We try to offer different solutions and define which members should consider each.

In addition, there is a desire for our margin-of-safety investment advice. Early on we took a different approach to portfolio management, one that is more suitable to today’s retirees and retirement environment. That approach to portfolio management has stood the test of time and put our readers on a much higher investment level than most individual investors.

As Retirement Watch grew, other opportunities arose. Two books have been published by John Wiley & Sons: The New Rules of Retirement and Invest Like a Fox…Not Like a Hedgehog.

When not working on Retirement Watch I am interested in a range of other matters. I am active in my community. That led in 1992 to an appointment to the Board of Trustees of the Fairfax County Employees’ Retirement System. In 1995 I was elected chairman by the board and since have been reappointed a trustee and re-elected chairman. From 2000 to 2005 I also served on the Virginia Retirement System Board of Trustees. These appointments not only allowed me to contribute to the community but provided information that is not generally available to those who advice individuals on their retirement.

During this time I earned a private pilot’s license and obtained an instrument rating. Other activities I enjoy are bicycling, hiking, and golf. I also formed a separate business, Carlson Wealth Advisors, L.L.C. Through this business I manage portfolios for Retirement Watch members and others who are interested.

That is a short essay of how Retirement Watch developed and what I have been doing the last few decades. Of course, I have a more formal biography set out below.

About Bob Carlson

Bob Carlson is editor of the monthly newsletter, Retirement Watch. In it, he provides independent, objective research covering all the financial issues of retirement and retirement planning. Carlson also is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Fairfax County Employees’ Retirement System, which has over $2.8 billion in assets, and has served on the board since 1992. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Virginia Retirement System, which oversaw $42 billion in assets, from 2001-2005.

His latest book is Invest Like a Fox…Not Like a Hedgehog, published by John Wiley & Co. in 2007. His previous book was, The New Rules of Retirement, as published by John Wiley & Co. in the fall of 2004.

He has written numerous other books and reports, including Tax Wise Money Strategies, Retirement Tax Guide, How to Slash Your Mutual Fund Taxes, Bob Carlson’s Estate Planning Files, and 199 Loopholes That Survived Tax Reform. He also has been interviewed by or quoted in numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, Barron’s, AARP Bulletin, Money, Worth, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, the Washington Post, and many others. He has appeared on national television and on a number of radio programs. He is past editor of Tax Wise Money.

The Washington Post calls Bob’s advice, “smart… savvy… sensible… valuable and imaginative.” He’s been widely quoted in The Wall Street Journal, CNN, CBS MarketWatch.com. SmartMoney.com, Reader’s Digest, Barron’s, AARP Bulletin, Money, Worth … just to name a few. You can also hear Bob as a featured guest on nationally-syndicated radio shows, such as The Retirement Hour, Dateline Washington, Family News in Focus, The Michael Reagan Show, Money Matters and The Stock Doctor.

Carlson is an attorney. He received his J.D. and an M.S. (Accounting) from the University of Virginia and received his B.S. (Financial Management) from Clemson University and passed the CPA Exam. He also is an instrument rated private pilot. He is listed in several recent editions of Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.

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