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The Number: What Do You Need for the Rest of Your Life, and What Will It Cost? [Paperback]

Lee Eisenberg
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (26 Dec 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743270320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743270328
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 16.4 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The Number: What Do You Need for the Rest of Your Life And What Will It Cost?

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
This financial and life-planning book wraps basic fiscal planning information around the timely mantra, "The Number" - the amount of savings you need to retire. The first 75% of the book offers retirement basics, including a selection of insights from financial planners. Throughout, it reads well, in a breezy magazine style, no surprise given author Lee Eisenberg's illustrious career at Esquire. But be patient: the richest meat of the book is near the end where he gets more specific about how much money you need to retire, and how to live both well and purposefully. The book's suggestions about how big a nest egg you must hatch to live well during retirement are mostly directed at those who are already pretty comfy. Eisenberg also offers insights on purposeful living, "a completely different way to think about the rest of your life." We find that financially savvy readers can skim the fiscal advice, while those who are unfamiliar with retirement financial planning could read it more slowly (though not as the last word on the subject). While you are pondering feathering your nest for the long term, you may want to give more attention to Eisenberg's thoughts on purpose than to his thoughts on payoffs.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Aimed at USA Citizens 24 Mar 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Most of the examples in this book are fine if you are a citizen of the USA but not if you live in the UK.
Some useful stuff at the end re planning for retirement and achieving your number but you can skip the rest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read this is you are over 40.... Period. 19 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An accessible, enjoyable read. But my real point is this book was entirely instrumental in my understanding, and giving serious thought to planning, what I needed for my retirement. Having previously sat through numerous meetings & presentation on the subject, seen reams of relevant industry literature and much else besides, this book actually connected for me. Maybe it will for you.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good & important message, but a poor book 16 Oct 2010
A Kid's Review
The message of this book is important to everybody. It describes how much money is needed to live the lifestyle you want or the amount of money you need to retire. As a certified financial planner I fully agree with the message.

Unfortunately the book itself repeats the same again and again. Its a pity it was not written in a different style. In the end I was quite bored so I just read the most important parts.
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  117 reviews
355 of 393 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but unpractical 8 Jan 2006
By Gaetan Lion - Published on Amazon.com
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. Now some mutual fund companies have included Monte Carlo engines within their retirement advice section of their websites. This is however not for the faint of heart from a quantitative standpoint. A nifty short cut around it, is to use different scenarios with overly conservative investment returns (within the calculation shown in above paragraph) to explore some "what if" worst cases.

The author has also a very strange idea of what the middle class is. He clearly confuses the Easterners top deciles with annual income over $200,000, net worth in the millions, and very self-actualized and successful careers with what the middle class really is. Well, people like that really don't have to worry much about the numbers. For the author and this group, it is pretty easy to say retirement planning is a lot more than just about the numbers.

If you want practical advice on retirement planning and investing, let me recommend a far superior book: "The Random Walk Guide to Investing" by Burton G. Malkiel.
128 of 143 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What's Your Number? 5 Jan 2006
By Scuba Diver - Published on Amazon.com
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."

"1 percent of the population--nearly three million people--currently has as much money as the hundred million people at the bottom of the ramp."

"...one of every 125 Americans is today a true millionaire..."

"Roughly 80 percent of those eligible do indeed put some money into a 401(k) plan--typically 5 to 6 percent of their pay."

The statistics are eye-opening and woven seamlessly into Eisenberg's work--but why not cite them with the appropriate source to add further credibility to their substance?

In addition to the total lack of citations on the statistics, the author probably should have partnered with several respected Financial Advisors to contribute or even co-author the book. I had trouble putting credence in the author's qualifications to write a work so many Boomers will probably take as financial advice verbatim. Barring his generational fit and Rolodex of peers, this is a tough sell if the reader is looking for practical, no-kidding experience from the field. On a marketing and sales standpoint, however, this book IS a phenomenon and perhaps the author primarily wanted to bring to light, in the form of this work, discourse on what he considers one of the least talked-about subjects for the Baby Boomers. If that is the case, then this book has indeed succeeded. It brings to light the many assumptions, conflicts, and unspoken conversations about the unique challenges each Boomer is faced with when developing a very personal "number." Well marketed!
76 of 87 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and Negative 22 Jan 2006
By Laura D - Published on Amazon.com
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.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The lazy man's guide to retirement 5 April 2007
By working stiff - Published on Amazon.com
Like other reviewers here, I found the book promising by its blurbs and cover, but was greatly disappointed with the substance contained within.

First, the author needs to lose his 'cutsey' style. It adds nothing to the content and makes every topic seem inconsequential and frivolous.

Second, it would be very nice and respectful of his readers were he to actually get his hands dirty and do some real research and I don't mean getting on a plane to talk to upper income financial and life planners.

He would do us a service by digging into some real statistics about savings rates, projected pension fund failures, inflation, health care costs. You won't find any of that in this book.

And yes, the book is heavily east-coast, upper middle class skewed. Does the author realize that a 4-entry table the bottom entry of which is "1-3 million" in savings and goes to ">100 million" might be of interest to a small percentage of the reading public? Like less than 5%? (but then, I wouldn't even know that from reading this book, it is so short on hard facts). And, I'd have to marvel at the IQ of someone with $100 million in retirement funding seeking advice from Eisenberg, whose professional career (the details of which the author finds necessary to relate to us early in the book) is less than stellar. I regret my funding of this guy's retirement by my purchase. It pays to have friends in the East Coast literary establishment pimping your sloppy writing, I guess.

It's a lazy man's guide to retirement planning--the "lazy man" being the author.
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Financial planning - by the Number 17 Jan 2006
By M. J Bauer - Published on Amazon.com
My first bit of financial planning advice is to save the money you might spend on this book and invest it. you will immediately be further along.

Is this book all bad? No, of course not. I gave it two stars since it does prompt you to consider your non financial goals as a key driver.

The author begins by telling us about how poor all of us are about financial planning, then we meet a series of multi-millionaires who keep striving for an ever bigger number. There, you have the synopsis. Save your money and time, if you see this book in a bookstore, open it, read the last couple of pages and you will have most of the sound advice in the book.
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