Updated on 02.20.07

The Number: Buy or Don’t Buy?

Trent Hamm

This week, The Simple Dollar takes a look at Lee Eisenberg’s The Number, a frank, well-written, and entertaining book that addresses the one number that so many of us obsess over: the amount of money we each need to live the rest of our lives the way we want to.

Let me put my conclusion right at the start: I recommend The Number to a general audience of anyone who is even thinking about retirement. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read from beginning to end and is filled with tons of great anecdotes with very interesting nuances.

The strengths of The Number are many: quality writing, easy to read, and in some ways quite informative. It’s basically retirement planning set into a readable context, approachable by anyone, and it has enough meat there to make anyone take a few moments and think about their own life in some different contexts. As a mainstream nonfiction work, it succeeds brilliantly.

However, this is not the book you should be reading if you’re seeking solid financial advice for retirement. Even though this book does offer some advice, it is not a book that is going to give you concrete information on how you should be planning for retirement. In fact, that is one of the main themes of the book: retirement planning is a very individual thing, and cut-and-dried plans often don’t cut the mustard as there are too many things to take into account.

Another major flaw is that the writer assumes that the readers are all at a minimum in the upper middle class, earning at least $150K. This is a very unrealistic view of the middle class in the United States, as $50K and $150K are both middle class incomes but point to completely different ways of life. When you’re in the $50K range, you’ve got a much more fuundamental set of worries than the $150K club, and since this book focuses on the $150K club, parts of this book come off as seeming very trivial and self-centered (bits on “I need to be able to afford a Porsche in my retirement” just don’t ring true to me).

In short, buy this book for a very enjoyable read with some food for thought; don’t buy this book for concrete retirement advice.

You can jump to the other parts of this review of The Number by using the following links:
Chasing It
Figuring It
Finding It
Buy or Don’t Buy?

The Number is the tenth of fifty-two books in The Simple Dollar’s series 52 Personal Finance Books in 52 Weeks.

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  1. Flexo says:

    I enjoyed The Number primarily due to Eisenberg’s writing style. Many personal finance books “talk down” to the readers and use motivational tactics rather than solid information. Even though I’m not making the $150k a year you mention, I felt like I (as a reader) was Eisenberg’s peer rather than when I read books like Millionaire Next Door and Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which seem like they are written for people with limited intelligene.

  2. Martin says:

    Man, I wish I had the time to read 52 books this year. Are you purchasing these books, or just going to the library?

  3. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    My local library is quite good.

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