The third and final section of The Number is about discovering your Number, the net worth or yearly income required to live independently of working. The author, Lee Eisenberg, is insistent upon there being wide variations of personal Numbers due to very different circumstances, including the desire of how time should be spent. Eisenberg and George Kinder believe that an individual, through financial planning and guidance, can reach the stage of willingness to act upon his beliefs about obtaining the kind of life he really wants. This is a holistic view to financial planning, in which one must consider more than just dollars and cents. It’s about pursuing your passion, which is important on some level to everybody.
In the book, Eisenberg writes about Kinder’s experience with a particular case, a doctor. This doctor, whose wife is also a doctor, had a spiritual epiphany and would love to leave the his unfulfilling practice behind and enter a seminary. The doctor had not yet discussed his desires with his family with the notion than any sort of change would be impossible, but Kinder urges him to speak to his loved ones regardless.
The family was very supportive:
The doctor’s wife says she’d be willing to increase her hours to bring in additional income. Two of the three daughters say they would be more than willing to transfer to a public school if it meant so much to their father.
Through financial planning, the doctor determined that while it may be unfeasible to give up his practice immediately, the family could adjust their lifestyle over the following four or five years to allow this dream to become a reality.
There are a few things the reader must remember when looking at this inspiring case. First of all, the two doctors are in a decent position to begin this change. It is likely that the family has a fair amount invested and saved based on the chosen profession of the parents. This helps provide stability when looking to move from an unfulfilling job to a dream vocation.
A family with both parents — or the sole parent — living paycheck-to-paycheck is a situation on the other extreme. It’s possible this individual has dreams, but it’s more likely she won’t be spending too much time thinking about them when food, shelter and water are the top priorities and each week there’s doubt that all three will be available. This family also isn’t spending money on financial planning, life planning, or therapy.
Also, some people may be able to follow their passion with avocation or a hobby, in addition to their current vocation. The avocation can later turn into a vocation when feasible. Unfortunately, becoming a rabbi is not something someone can do in his spare time.
The rabbi-to-be realizes that he must downshift his family’s lifestyle expectations in order for his dream to come to fruition. This can be difficult for some families. In fact, one of his daughters refused to leave private school, so there are compromises that must be made.
There are good discussion on pursuing your dreams and how that fits in with smart personal finances over at Boston Gal’s Open Wallet as well as here on Consumerism Commentary.
Side note: Rabbis can potentially earn a nice salary if their congregation is in a wealthy area.
Updated June 17, 2014 and originally published December 11, 2005.