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Trying to scrape by with only $7.5M in investable assets

Posted: March 29, 2011 - 9:46pm

“Despite the stock market’s positive performance over the past couple of years, the Fidelity survey found that 42 percent of millionaires still do not feel wealthy, compared to 46 percent who said they didn’t feel wealthy in 2009. In fact, among those who classified themselves as not being wealthy, the investable asset level needed to begin to feel wealthy is $7.5 million. Of the 58 percent of millionaires who say they feel wealthy — up slightly from 54 percent in 2009 — they began to feel so at $1.75 million in investable assets. ...” —Fidelity Millionaire Outlook March 14, 2001

Oh, please. Less than $7.5 million, you might as well carry a lunch bucket. Those people who say they begin to feel wealthy at $1.75 mil, I don’t know what they’re thinking.

Left-handed relief pitchers make that much. Basketball coaches who get their teams in the NCAA tournament for about 20 minutes get more than that to move to Arkansas. You’ve got junior vice presidents watching their pennies who can accumulate $1.75 million in investable assets. You think they think they’re rich?

First thing is, we’re talking investable assets. Fidelity didn’t count houses among investable assets, but since when is a house an asset?

You’ve got a simple $2 million house, nothing fancy, and you’re carrying a mortgage at 6 percent on 80 percent of it, right away you’re out 10 grand a month. So you need to subtract 120K a year just for the house.

And then there’s the condo at the lake, there’s another 5 grand a month. Add insurance, the neighborhood associations, the lawn guy, the pool guy, plumbers when the sink gets stopped up, electricians to replace the bulbs, the maids, all of whom are making outrageous dough and you’re talking another 50K a year, so you’re up to like a quarter of a mil a year just in housing costs, which Fidelity ought to keep in mind.

And taxes? Don’t talk to me about taxes. I need to know whether I’ve got my $7.5 mil before taxes or after, because believe you me, with that Kenyan socialist in the White House, it makes a big difference. No wonder I don’t feel rich.

Let’s say I’m the average age of the millionaires in the Fidelity survey, which is 56. I’m looking retirement square in the face. How am I going to maintain my lifestyle? Plus, the smokin’ hot second wife is only 25 and she wants kids.

Which reminds me — is that $7.5 million before or after alimony? Because if it’s before, I might have to apply for food stamps.

You wouldn’t understand this, but being a millionaire carries certain expectations. Not just the big house and the second home at the lake (gonna need a bigger boat) but country club dues. Private school tuition. Clothes. Jewelry. Vacations.

For example, last year in Los Angeles, a woman named Jacqueline Getty sued Gordon Peter Getty Jr. for divorce. Getty’s grandfather was J. Paul Getty, the oil tycoon. The family is fairly well fixed. Comfortable, you might say.

Jacqueline Getty submitted to the court a list of $314,000 in “minimum monthly expenses” that included $33,697 for clothing, $10,717 for jewelry, $7,495 for a couple of leased cars, $956 for cell and home phone service and $252 for “parking fines and bridge tolls.” She said her soon-to-be-ex-husband could afford it because he often went on vacation without luggage, preferring to buy a new wardrobe when he arrived.

Sadly, the judge awarded her only $83,000 in monthly expenses. That’s only a million a year, which I think we’ve already established is not rich.

I don’t have to be not-bother-to-pack rich to feel rich. I don’t have to be as rich as Stan Kroenke, the strip-mall tycoon and Wal-Mart in-law who owns the St. Louis Rams and other sports teams, to say nothing of the Screaming Eagle Vineyard in Napa Valley, Calif. When Kroenke and his partner bought the vineyard in 2006, they reportedly poured 550 cases of $500-a-bottle cabernet sauvignon down the drain because it wasn’t up to standards.

I don’t have to be pour-$500-wine-down-the-drain rich to feel rich, either. The baseline for rich is when you discover that you owe $287,000 in back personal property taxes, interest and fees on your airplane, and like Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., you whip out your checkbook and cover it. Right now, I would have to scrape a little bit.

According to a survey done last year by The Hill newspaper, McCaskill and her husband, Joe Shepard, are worth $15.7 million. From now on, when the people at the Fidelity Millionaire Outlook ask, I will tell them that $15.7 million is where rich begins.

Also, if I had this much money, I would hire an accountant to keep track of my taxes.

• Horrigan is a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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