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Wanna be a millionaire? You probably already are

By Dian Vujovich


When CBS’s reality show, The Briefcase, premiered in May, I couldn’t believe what a big deal was being made about the possibility of being awarded such a small amount of money.

In that TV show, families in “financial need”, as the producers describe the program, had to decide what to do with a briefcase with $101,000 in it: keep it or share it. From where I sit, that amount of money was both puny and pretty much exploited people on the program with respect to their knowledge and value of money.

Now, I’m not going to turn my nose up at the idea of getting 100 G’s. Plopping it into well-managed retirement account and allowed to grow for decades could make a fine difference in one’s life. But that six-figure windfall isn’t really all that much money in today’s real world especially when it’s to go to a family that’s in financial need.

It’s probably not enough to buy a house for a family… maybe a trailer. And even if it were, where’s the money going to come from to cover the annual expenses home ownership demands and that don’t go away like insurance, taxes, maintenance and repairs.

Sure it’s enough to buy a new car or SUV, take a family vacation and still have money left over. But, that dollar amount comes up short in many regards.

If you’re going to give away money to a family in need, make it something that will in fact make a difference. I’m thinking $1 million dollars is a good place to start.
I like the idea of people becoming surprise millionaires. Most, however, don’t realize that they probably will have earned more than that during their working years. Do the math: A family with a modest income averaging $40,000 a year for 30 years would have earned 1.2 million dollars, on paper, over three decades.

So why not follow the give-away clue of the TV show, The Millionaire? It went on the air 60 years, in 1955, and got viewers all dreaming about becoming millionaires. Having a million dollar check being handed to you back then, when that amount of money was truly huge, would have dramatically helped a family in need….and pretty much everybody else, too.

Today, a million bucks turns out to be a good start for what’s needed to get by during retirement.

Using the same example from above but changing the circumstances, if you estimate that you’re going to spend $40,000 a year to cover all of your expenses in retirement, and expect to live 30 years in retirement, you’ll need $1.2 million to make that happen.

Make that happen and you’ll be a part of America’s millionaire club. A group that’s not as special—or limited—as you may think.

A recent CNBC story by Robert Frank addressed how various sources show different answers when counting the number of millionaires there are in the U.S.: Capgemini says that are 4.3 million millionaires in America; Boston Consulting puts the number at 6.9 million; and Credit Suisse calculates it at 14.2 million.

Then again, so what if the figures aren’t all in synch. The only millionaires that really count are the ones in your family.

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