• Book Review: The Number (1 Star out of 4)

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    This week I picked up a copy of The Number ($26.00, published by Free Press) by Lee Eisenberg after reading a recommendation from Financial Reflections. I read it cover to cover in an evening at home followed by a day in the waiting room at the hospital. In a nutshell, here’s my review:

    Read this book if you have to wait in a hospital waiting room and the only alternative is watching the TV, which is on mute. Or, if you are approaching 50 or 60 and have neither saved enough for retirement nor managed your retirement savings well, this book is for you.

    It scored highest for me in the entertainment/trivia department. The book is well written in a conversational tone with plenty of amusing digressions, including the history of Sun City retirement communities and other fun facts.

    Despite the title, this book does more talking around The Number (the dollar amount you predict you’ll need for a comfortable retirement) than about The Number. Like college, this book just shows you how little you know. Eisenberg offers several ways to quickly calculate your Number, but spends most of his book casting doubt on the accuracy of any Number calculation formula. In short, this book will help you orient your mind so you can tackle emotional questions such as, “What does comfortable mean to me?” and “How long can I expect to live, with life expectancies constantly rising?” After you have prioritized what your goals are for the rest of your life, then you can meet with a financial planner (although Eisenberg makes them all sound like scam artists and frauds) and together, devise a plan to meet your goals.

    Eisenberg writes confidently, but in the end you’re left staring at the sky, waiting for it to fall. Eisenberg posits that:

    You haven’t saved enough for retirement.
    If you think you have, you’re wrong.
    You don’t know enough about managing your retirement accounts.
    If you think you do, you’re wrong.
    You can’t trust your (or any) financial advisor, unless your nest egg is over $20 million. Even then, it’s a crapshoot.
    If you think you can, you’re wrong.

    And he offers very little applicable knowledge to help you get out of this situation. If you are writing a thesis on the history and future of retirement, this book is a great reference. But if it’s your own future you’re concerned with, you’ll need something more instructional.

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