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The Number: A Completely Different Way to Think About the Rest of Your Life Hardcover – January 3, 2006

3.1 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eisenberg's arc through life could be used to define the baby boom. In the 1970s, he coined the term power lunch; in the 1980s, he edited Esquire and invented rotisserie baseball. In the 1990s, he wrote books on finding the good life through golf and fishing, and at the end of the decade, he joined an Internet retailer. These days, he's thinking about retirement, particularly about his Number: the amount of money he'd need to have socked away in order to be confident that his postretirement life would meet his expectations. Everyone's Number is different, Eisenberg says, and though his book is not an especially useful financial guide, it isn't really meant as a how-to. Instead, it provides an illuminating and charmingly written consideration of an aging generation's retirement worries and of the investment business designed to profit from them. Heartfelt discussions of goals, health and health care, "downshifting" to enjoy life while spending less money and the meaning of postretirement life pepper its pages. Financial planners are interviewed, partly to get information about savings and investment, but mostly to explore the meaning of the field and the type of people who practice it. A few of Eisenberg's chapters feel scattershot, but his perceptive analyses of real and fictional people's financial hopes and strategies will inspire readers to reconsider their Numbers and their methods for investing. BOMC Alternate.(Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"[Eisenberg] has a deft way of making abstract financial principles both personal and funny. His book will definitely make you think about where you're going and why."
-- MoneySense

"[Eisenberg's] tips are timely for millions of baby boomers who are hurtling toward retirement with little sense of what they want from it or how they'll get along once they no longer bring home a paycheck."
-- Hartford Courant

"Today's hottest personal finance book is Lee Eisenberg's The Number...read The Number, think about the Number."
-- Dallas Morning News

"An important book, one that illuminates the appalling mistakes that many baby boomers are making as they approach later life."
-- Wall Street Journal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (January 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743270312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743270311
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #416,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The book is very well written, easy to read, informative, yet really unpractical. The author is bent on rendering a not so complex issue really Byzantine. The amount of money you need to retire so your lifespan does not exceed the one of your retirement portfolio is not that complicated of an issue. Let's say you want to retire on $100,000 a year. Assuming that you and your spouse will pull $30,000 a year from Social Security, and $20,000 a year from old defined benefit pension plans; you have a gap of $50,000. As a short cut, you can use the Dividend Discount Model to value stock. Using a conservative after tax investment return of 7.5% and a long term inflation rate of 2.5%, by dividing $50,000 by (7.5% - 2.5%) you need $1,000,000 in your own retirement funds (401K, IRAs) to retire. In reality, you need a bit less because the Dividend Discount Model assumes you live forever.

However, the author ponders on the above number for over 250 pages. What if the Social Security system is semi-privatized as the Bush administration is talking about? If you are over 55, the current system is grandfathered. Given Bush momentum, Social Security reform as of now is not forthcoming anyway. How about if your employer goes bust, and your pension evaporates. Depending on who is your employer this may be an unlikely outcome. Otherwise, the Government picks up the tab and typically pays you at least 50 to 75 cents on the dollar. If this is a concern, use just 50% to 75% of your expected pension income in the calculation mentioned above. The author mentions other complications including the fallacy of using average returns in your calculations and instead using Monte Carlo simulation method.
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Format: Hardcover
Eisenberg's premise in "The Number" is at first blush sound. He defines "the number" simply as "How much money do you need to secure the rest of your life?" Focused squarely on the Baby Boomer generation, although the dust jacket expands the audience to include "...every man and woman over thirty," the reader becomes acutely aware of a looming financial crux. With unsustainable spending rates and little or no preparation for retirement, many Baby Boomers find themselves at the crossroads of their retirement woefully unprepared and asking the question just how much is really enough. The concept of condensing retirement simply to "the number" is intriguing, but unpractical as a financial solution.

Fortunately, "The Number" reads well and quick. Delivered in three parts (Chasing It, Figuring It, and Finding It) through 17 chapters, "The Number" tries grappling with a nearly insurmountable topic and one that is hard-tested by even suggesting a rote method of dealing with it. Indeed, it is not until the reader reaches page 156 that the author advises "developing a realistic lifetime income plan" as a potential solution! In very next chapter, however, Eisenberg dully provides the reader with the flip side of the coin. The reader is indulged with a protracted discourse into the theory that perhaps, just maybe, the oft-termed "number" is not numerical dollars, but rather "...meaning, fulfillment, and life's true calling?"

The author's use of selective statistics is superb. Consider:

"Of workers fifty-five and older, only one in four has invested assets of more than $100,000; one in three has less than $50,000.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up The Number hoping for some practical tips--maybe formulas and exercises to help me plan for the future. But halfway into the book, I was so depressed I could barely muster the energy to turn the page.

People with many millions more than me are worried to death that they don't have enough for retirement. And here I was thinking we were pretty well prepared to retire comfortably.

Clearly, I'm completely out of touch--or else Eisenberg is.

Eisenberg's world is downright unpleasant--he says people are more willing to talk about what kinds of animals they are, uh, cozying up to than they are to talk about how much is in their retirement savings. All the top-earners he writes about either support mistresses, or would be suicidal to have to give up their Paris chateaus in retirement. And, he says, there are only four types of people when it comes to retirement planning--all of them hopelessly naive or stupid.

He goes on in fine Chicken Little style (he is a journalist, after all) to tell us how unprepared baby boomers are to retire, how unprepared everyone is. This is helping me how?

In fairness to Eisenberg, I'll admit that I didn't read to the end. Maybe it gets a lot better in the last 50 pages. But just as I wouldn't sit and listen to someone's narcissistic complaining for hours on end, I just couldn't hold out long enough to get to whatever reward might be at the end of this book.

This book appears to be selling well--and maybe that was the point. Although I'm no better off for buying it, at least Eisenberg is closer to his Number.
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