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A well-marketed effort to get graying boomers to think about the personal goals and purposes in life in retirement planning.

Book Review: The Number by Lee Eisenberg

Lee Eisenberg’s The Number uses a hot media topic — the graying of the baby boomer generation — to suggest a different approach to thinking about personal finance and retirement planning. And as long as he’s got a hot topic, he’s going to use another one — blogs — to help get his message to the masses.

Eisenberg’s target audience is baby boomers, who, as Newsweek and innumerable other media outlets tell us, are hitting their 60s. Thus, boomers are starting to think about and confront retirement. The Number is “the amount of money you need to secure the rest of your life.” But Eisenberg, a former Esquire magazine editor, takes a different approach. He doesn’t crunch numbers or give specific financial and investment advice. Instead, perhaps reflecting what he speculates to be an aspect of the boomer generation, he wants readers “to think about the rest of your life.” In other words, Eisenberg believes the Number can only be calculated if an individual has an idea of how they want to spend their retirement. Thus, his focus is on “life planning,” not retirement planning.

Although the book urges boomers to essentially think about what they want to be when they grow up, Eisenberg attempts to put some structure to the process. He breaks the book into three parts.

The first part — called “Chasing It” — is predicated on the thought that everyone is chasing the Number, whether we want to admit it or not. As a result, he classifies people into four personality types:

Procrastinators – Those with no plan, no real sense of the Number and “no nothing.”

Pluckers – Those that have a vague plan and an arbitrary Number.

Plotters – Those that have a plan and a Number but no purpose.

Probers – Those with a plan and a Number that is centered on what would really make a difference in their life in retirement.

In Part 2 — called “Figuring It” — Eisenberg takes a look at four members of a hypothetical family to show how the Number varies depending on background, career, interests and lifestyle. Both here and in the third part of the book — called “Finding It” — Eisenberg also looks at differences and changes in financial planning, trying to find the purpose any individual may have in retirement and how that purpose impacts the Number.

Eisenberg strikes a fairly good balance between plain financial and investment advice and touchie feelie thoughts about finding a purpose to retirement. Because Eisenberg’s theme is more holistic in thinking about purposes and personal goals in retirement, the main text never suggests any particular formula for coming up with the Number. There is, however, a calculation tool in the appendix. Still, the main benefit of the book is perhaps giving a different slant on retirement and retirement planning that is not strictly financial or motivated by money.

The blog connection? Showing his (or someone’s) media and marketing savvy, Eisenberg is using the blogosphere as a marketing tool. Through e-mails and the book’s web site, Eisenberg encouraged bloggers to obtain a free advance copy of the book. There was no explicit obligation to review the title in exchange for the copy. Still, the marketing strategy evidently has some success because here’s one more blog review.

About Tim Gebhart

After 30 years of practicing law to provide shelter for his family, books and dogs. Tim Gebhart is now perfecting the art of doing little more than reading, writing and sleeping.

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