Excerpts: Prologue | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 14 | Appendix

Excerpted from

The Appendix:

Your Number, Quick and Dirty

A good part of this book tries to explain why there are no easy formulas to arrive at the Number. While online calculators and magazine worksheets are freely available, most conventional aids are deaf and dumb to what it takes to lift your spirits and make your heart sing through old age. A financial plan without a meaning plan leads straight to the thudding realization that-duh-all the money in the world doesn't buy happiness.

Still, everyone clamors for a Number, however quick and dirty. A friend of mine, for example, is relentless. He says all he really wants to do is walk into a bookstore, pick up a book like this, and riffle straight to the single page, the chart, the graph, the formula, the elusive ark that will reveal precisely, and for him alone, how much money he needs to gain release from his temple of financial doom. So I tried, really tried, to come up with a quick and dirty way to give him what he wants, a deus ex Number with which to end this saga. I called several financial advisers and asked if they could devise a simple worksheet, an easy-to-use formula. Not surprisingly, every one of them warned that the Number was not something a thoughtful person should do on the fly, certainly not while standing in a bookstore with a cappuccino in one hand. They reaffirmed the need for diligence and access to at least one critical (if low-tech) tool: a shoebox. Into the shoebox would go a year's worth of bills and receipts that would yield a precise tabulation of your annual expenses, including how much pocket change you fritter away day to day; all current brokerage and cash management statements; a comprehensive net-worth statement; documents relating to how you plan to dispose of your assets upon your death; all durable powers of attorney, health care proxies; a complete file of insurance policies, including life, health, long-term-care, and liability. Thus stuffed, the shoebox is then emptied onto the desk of a qualified financial planner, who'll crunch the numbers until they reconstitute themselves into a responsible, conscientious Number. This is about as quick and dirty as planners can imagine, and who's to argue?

Undaunted, I then went to the man who, I assumed, would be least likely of all to have any patience whatsoever for a quick and dirty solution to the Number: George Kinder, the life-planning shaman. Kinder believes that to find meaning you need to probe deeply into the soul and/or retain an empathetic adviser to help you explore your psyche before you can aspire to a custom-made financial plan. This kind of spiritual mining can be dirty, but it's certainly not quick. Kinder, however, being generous of spirit, nonetheless proffered some helpful thoughts if you're determined to bypass a lot of soul cleansing to get at a quick and dirty Number. Here's how….

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