JLP Reviews Lee Eisenberg’s “The Number”

December 9, 2005

Here are my thoughts on Lee Eisenberg’s The Number.

First off, for those who may not be familiar with the book, the “number” is the amount of money you need to secure the rest of your life. Your Number is going to be different from your best friend’s Number. A CEO of a Fortune 500 company is going to have a different number than a school teacher in Hays, Kansas.

I enjoyed reading The Number. It was a light read but it wasn’t elementary. The entire time I was reading it I was thinking about who else I knew that needed to read it. Personally, I think EVERYONE needs to read this book. I hope this book is a runaway best seller so that we, as a nation, can get this issue out on the table. There are too many people who don’t have a clue (or they simply do not care) as to what their Numbers are as this passage from the book illustrates:

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. One out of every two baby boomers will not have accumulated enough to match their current standard of living. Nearly one of two boomers say they are less than confident they will outlive their money.”

I don’t know about you, but I find those numbers to be rather ominous.

The book is arranged in three parts: Part 1 – Chasing it, Part 2 – Figuring it, and Part 3 – Finding it. The author believes we are all “chasing” our numbers regardless of whether or not we are actually doing something about it. He divides number chasers up into the following groups:

  • Procrastinators – They have no plan and no real sense of the Number.
  • Pluckers – They have a vague plan and an arbitrary Number.
  • Plotters – They have a plan and a Number but no real sense of purpose.
  • Probers – They have a plan and a Number that is centered on what would really make a difference in their second-half life.

He then goes on to ask the question why the vast majority of people have no plan for their Number.

Part 2 of the book discusses the pitfalls that people get into when trying to figure their number. He uses a hypothetical multi-generational family as an example of just how personal the Number is for each person. I thought it was a powerful example. He also explains how unprepared and unorganized the planning industry is in trying to help people understand and plan for their Numbers.

Finally, Part 3 brings it all together with a series of chapters on living in retirement (or downshifting as he likes to call it). He believes that in order to successfully understand your Number, you must look beyond numbers and find out what is really important to you. He then introduces the concept of life planning, which in my opinion is a mixture of psychology and financial planning.

This book is a gem. I HIGHLY recommend it for EVERYONE to read. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about the issues discussed in the book. After all, I want to help you figure out your Number.

Here are some reviews from other bloggers that you may want to check out:

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity
Money & Investing

Other reviews outside of Bloggerville:
Wall Street Journal (free)
Business Week

7 responses to JLP Reviews Lee Eisenberg’s “The Number”

  1. This book sounds interesting and I have it on my list to read. It’s ranked pretty high on Amazon but no customers have posted reviews yet.

  2. What do you call someone who has a plan but doesn’t know their Number? That category isn’t mentioned in your post and that is the category I probably fit in.

    My plan is to put away as much as I can for retirement and then adjust my retirement to fit the results. If I know my number and had no chance of meeting it, then I would get depressed. On the other hand, if I was easily meeting the number, then I might be tempted to slack off on my saving.

    BTW, I haven’t read the book.

  3. I’m in the same boat as sam above — while I may not know what my “number” is, I’m already about as aggressive as possible [we live very modestly already, and save about 45% of our pre-tax income] with our retirement.

    On the other hand, I know a depressing number of people who don’t seem to have ever thought about retirement or savings, and figuring their “Number” might send them a much-needed jolt to start planning. Here’s hoping that the buzz surrounding this book can do that for people.

  4. I got a free copy of the book, and wan’t really that impressed. It seemed geared towards people whose income is int he top 5%, and who are in their mid 40s to mid 60s. That’s not me.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Wealth Junkie » Archives » Carnival of Personal Finance Number 26 - December 11, 2005

    […] What’s your retirement goal? From AllThingsFinancial, JLP reviews Lee Eisenberg’s upcoming book, The Number. […]

  2. Kicking Over My Traces » This Week’s Carnival of the Capitalists is Up! - December 19, 2005

    […] JLP at All Things Financial caught me because I’ve recently reviewed our retirement portfolio. (Annual review, followed by shallow depression.) Also, there’s a book invovled, and I’ve never been able to resist anything to do with books. The post is a positive review of The Number by Lee Eisenberg, on how much to save for retirement. […]

  3. MyMoneyBlog - January 7, 2006

    Book Review: The Number by Lee Eisenberg

    The Number by Lee Eisenberg was generously provided to me by the book’s publisher. It sounded neat, so I agreed to read it and review it. The Number, as you may have guessed, stands for the specific amount of money that people have in their mind that …