Observations on life

Who is a millionaire? Maybe you?

Back in 1961 I wrote in my high school class yearbook that I would be a millionaire by age 45; I didn’t make it. In fact, to meet my goal as of 2016 that million would be equal to about $7.5 million; I didn’t make that either.

Today being a millionaire is not a big deal if you use the traditional definition of millionaire which is net assets, not counting your home, of one million dollars. One out of every 15 U.S. households has at least $1 million in assets.

Now if you say being a millionaire is earning one million dollars a year or more, only one in every 400 U.S. households makes more than $1 million a year (which includes multiple earners in the household).

What’s the obsession with millionaires? Only because the political left throws the term around these days as if it were a four letter word. Millionaires and billionaires are the cause of all our problems we are told. If a student today wrote in their yearbook what I did back in 1961 they probably would get suspendedπŸ™„

Striving to achieve financial success and security is not a bad thing and neither is achieving that to a greater extent than average. Millionaires and billionaires are not keeping your income low or your success from you.


Categories: Observations on life, Politics

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  1. You state: “… Today being a millionaire is not a big deal if you use the traditional definition of millionaire which is net assets, not counting your home, of one million dollars. One out of every 15 U.S. households has at least $1 million in assets. … ” So, that is 6% of all households, right – essentially, one of the next 16 people you pass on the street or the highway, right?

    The Bernies’ of the world argue that there is only so much wealth out there, and that it is a zero sum game, that what millionaires have accumulated, that they manipulated the system to take it from people like me. So, the reason this resonates is because probably more than 50% of all US households have no clear path hope of ever becoming a millionaire. No one has ever showed them the way, so, many believe it is not achievable for them, and so, accumulating some wealth is not a goal for many Americans.

    Yet, people do. No one in my family history (and I mean not ever, ever!) was a millionaire – yet, at least three of us five siblings are in households with a new worth clearly in excess of a million (excluding home equity). And, if you go back to when I was born, 1952, I think you will find that of all American households, less than 1 in 100 were millionaires (back when a million really meant something, remember the show, Millionaire?)

    What I find interesting, however, is your comment that in 1961, you would be a millionaire. I wrote something similar, but from a much. much different perspective in a memory book at my 10 year high school reunion – “remember when $10,000 a year was a great income”.

    Anyway, what made you think of that in 1961? I didn’t think in terms of the potential for becoming a millionaire until I was 24 or so, in one of my first economics classes, when I was introduced to the Rule of 72, and Ben Franklin (and the bequest of his will – a great “tale of two cities”). We certainly didn’t learn about wealth from my parents. It was that teacher who showed me the way, a path forward. Who showed you?

    So, I wonder. I wonder if what the Bernie followers lack is the dream, and someone who can deliver that goal, objective, as more than just a fairy tale. Maybe wealth was never even a dream for most Americans. Or, maybe it was a dream, but never even a remote possibility. Or, maybe they had the dream, or recognized the possibility, but stopped once a path, any path, did not easily materialize – perhaps all they lacked was that no one ever showed them the way. or, maybe, someone showed them a way focused on ever greater dependence on government.

    To finish. Want to mention my favorite benefits presentation. “Will you be a 401(k) millionaire?” I used to deliver this one hour presentation on the first day of employment to new hires. I spoke to these new hires, most of them under age 35, in very confident terms – confirming the dream. I asked them if anyone here was a millionaire, and confirmed that I doubted it, that if they had a million, they probably wouldn’t have signed on. I asked them if they wanted to be a millionaire today. They said yes – I responded go buy a lottery ticket. But, keep in mind, I have the winning ticket in MY pocket. So, now that we all agree that you won’t be a millionaire today, do you want to be a millionaire, someday? All nodded yes. So, I then confirmed to them that I stood before them, confident that I would be a millionaire, not today, but someday. I spoke of the rule of 72, compound interest, what Einstein once purported to have said was the “greatest force in the universe”. I showed them examples of different accumulation strategies, typically confirming that it was possible through diligent saving over a 36 year period, and I would not let them leave without enrolling – or putting in writing that they did not want to enroll and did not have the dream of becoming a millionaire. Our materials were themed “Drive to your Dreams!” The prior materials were based on the Game of Life, with a goal of “Millionaire Acres”.

    But, the best part of the presentation came with confirming that 36 years ago, there were very few millionaires (I would note maybe 1% or 2% of American households in the early 1960’s). Then, I would ask them to guess what percentage of Americans would be millionaires 36 years from now, in the 2030’s, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%? And, I would conclude, “well, I don’t know either, but, if I live that long, I know which group I want to be a part of.”

    The dream lives – of a life for future generations better than the one we have today. Pass it on.


    • Interesting question. I don’t know why I thought of being a millionaire when I was 17, but it may be that I thought it a measure of success. My father was an auto salesman, my mother a housewife, we lived in a one bedroom apartment with five people. My parents never did never did anything for fun, we were very, very average. My grandfather graduated 8th grade. I never heard the word college growing up, just get a job.

      To this day I hate being average or part of a group, I won’t wait in a line or be part of a crowd. So I have spent my entire life trying to be different, above average in any way I can. Back in 1963 I had a picture taken of me in a Mercedes 230 SL that my father was selling on the lot where he worked. I wrote in the back, “I will own one.” That picture is now in the console of my E350 that I bought last year. It took me nearly fifty years, but I made it.

      I guess this is why I get so frustrated will all the complaining about no opportunity available today.


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