by Michael A. Dalton
Reviewed by Gary W. Silverman, CFP®
I've been a bad boy. I've had both of these texts for over a year and while I got started reviewing them long ago, the review never quite got finished. You see, while I teach college occasionally, I can't say that I am enamored with the idea of reading a textbook. Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits for Financial Planners and Estate Planning for Financial Planners are both textbooks to be used as part of a financial planning program.
Michael Dalton is certainly qualified to write these texts. He has a series of credentials that would be hard to fit on a business card. He is a Ph.D, J.D., CPA, CLU, ChFC, and CFP certificant. It's a wonder he's had time to be an associate professor of accounting and taxation at Loyola University, board member of the CFP Board of Standards, and chairman of the CFP Board of Examiners.
Since I'm not ready to argue with Dalton, and since I get bored reading textbooks, I looked over Retirement Planning to see how I would be able to use it in a classroom setting, rather than check it for material accuracy. (I did a lighter, cursory review of Estate Planning, but it appears to be written and laid out in the same manner.) What I found was indeed a textbook. A big textbook—624 pages of textbook. And they are big pages. There are quizzes, discussion questions, and even a multiple-choice test at the end of each chapter (I assume that the instructor's edition includes a key).
The book is very comprehensive and would make an excellent introductory text for a CFP program or finance class with a concentration on retirement planning. It would be of less use in a financial planning office due to gradual obsolescence, but might be a good text for junior employees with limited financial backgrounds.
My main beef with the book is that it is an old-school textbook: black text on white pages with some blue thrown in for emphasis. There are very limited graphics, no story boxes, no pictures, and there is little attempt to provide references or support material, particularly the Internet. I would expect, at a minimum, a series of Web pages to support the text with interactive features and downloadable spreadsheets. Heck, modern history and English texts do that.
Don't think that this means these texts are not useable. They have a good flow to them, are very comprehensive, and contain a lot more material then you'd ever have time to cover in a semester. They just don't have the flair that students expect in their texts today. This might not be all bad…after all, the teacher has to do something.
Gary W. Silverman, CFP®, owns a fee-only financial planning firm in Wichita Falls, Texas. He is the host of the television show Falls Informer, editor of the financial newsletter Personal Money Planning, and a frequent contributor to the print and broadcast media. Gary also teaches university courses in finance and management.