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Latarski: Poor Rich Folks
View from the Ledge
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Let me get this clear in my mind: a recent survey noted there are people who think you need at least $7.5 million to be considered rich.


Anything less than that, say a "poor" rich person who is only worth $4.3 million, worries about having enough money to make ends meet.

Their fear, as the report went, was they may not have enough to muddle comfortably through retirement. Naturally this is dependent upon how you live and there is simply no way a $4.3 millionaire can live in the lifestyle of a $7.5 millionaire.

The interesting thing to note about this is the fact these folks do not consider themselves rich. They might want to try and get by like the guy making $30,000 a year with a wife and kid.

But I do not wish to be overly critical so I decided the only fair thing to do would be to examine my financial situation and that of some friends to see how we would stack up in the making ends meet at retirement with what we have.

My friend Earl is not a millionaire under any definition. Given the fact he supports two ex-wives, three kids and five bartenders I don't think he is even a hundredair. Right now his retirement plan involves a large caliber weapon.

Mike is a look-to-the-future kind of guy and planned well for his golden years. He has plenty of insurance and socked away a nice nest egg in a retirement account.
Unfortunately his plan did take a hit when both of his children moved back in with him after graduation from college and his wife insisted upon renovating the house. Instead of looking at retirement Mike now asks his boss for overtime.

Then there is Jeff. His attitude about money is a simple one: if you have some, spend it. He considers his approach good for the economy and he has set aside enough money for a solid retirement as long as he decides to live in a box under the overpass. The question is whether or not he has saved enough to make it a split-level box.

I look at retirement like Dorothy looked down the Yellow Brick Road for the Emerald City: it's down there somewhere but it may not be what one expects. And given the fact the economy is much like the man behind the curtain the surprise will likely not be a pleasant one.

This same study noted that 55 percent of the assets of the country are controlled by five percent of the population. This should not be a shock and I suspect the imbalance to grow greater.

The most interesting thing about the survey is how the "poor" rich do not consider themselves rich. If someone is worth $5 million and worries about how they will make it, one cannot help but wonder how far above their means are they living.

And, as the Bard said, there's the rub. Spending, or wanting to spend, just a little bit more than we can afford is a way of life. It is our natural tendency, just ask the federal guvmint.

It is not so much the debt but how we incur it. Most people incur massive debt when they buy a house. They do so to provide stability and improve the quality of life, but even then the house should be one they can afford. If you can't make it work on paper, it will not work with real money and we have seen the results of that for them and the rest of us. It should give us pause.

And Jeff just told me he didn't think he could afford a split-level box.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at