An Interview with Lee Eisenberg – Part 1

Lee Eisenberg, author of The Number, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule so that I could interview him about his book. So, without further delay, here’s Part 1 of the interview:

JLP: Why did you decide to write The Number?

LE: I wrote “The Number” because that when I thought about my own future — what would it take to feel secure over the next few decades? — I realized that there were a lot of key questions I couldn’t easily answer. On the financial side, sure, I could turn to online retirement calculators and lots of conventional wisdom in self-help financial magazines and books. But long-term satisfaction and security doesn’t just revolve around HOW MUCH? The better question is HOW MUCH — AND FOR WHAT? And yet, as I began to talk to people in their forties and fifties, I realized that most of them were either uncomfortable or unaccustomed to talking about these things. Admitting to money anxiety, or letting loose with what would really make you happy, struck me as taboo subjects for many people. So I figured it would be interesting to delve into this muck, get some well-protected secrets out into broad daylight. What better way than in a book?

JLP: What exactly is “the number?”

LE: “The Number” is how much money you’re going to need to fund the various things — and not just the material things –that will bring you satisfaction over the course of the long-term.

JLP: Does the Number change over the years? How often should people evaluate their Number?

LE: Obviously, no one Number fits all. Some people need a huge Number if all they care about are houses, boats, and playing golf at the world’s best courses. And Botox, of course. But if what you really want is to write the great America novel, the Number required is very different. So it helps to figure out your goals BEFORE sitting down with a calculator, or even a qualified financial adviser.

JLP: What is one lesson that you would like your readers to take from the book?

LE: The biggest lesson I learned is that the unexamined life may or may not be worth living — but an examined life often costs a lot less.

JLP: Is the concept of retirement changing? How?

LE: Retirement” is obviously changing, we hear about it ad nauseum. People live longer, they’re healthier and more vital. They don’t want to be put out to pasture, they want to be productive and engaged. On the financial side, we’re finally beginning to realize that the old funding systems — corporate pensions and Social Security, for example — are increassingly fragile or non-existent. We’re now captains of our own retirement ships, or leaky tubs, even though we may not feel very equipped to steer our boats to that happy sunset on the horizon.

I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow.

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