Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mack Daddy retirements

Barron's has an article on how much you need to join the elite in retirement. The answer is $25 million.

After selling an Arizona business that he'd built up over 30 years, he retreated to a 30-acre spread on the coast of Oregon and handed a $10 million investment portfolio to a big, New York-based private-banking outfit. The bank, however, seemed less than impressed. Over three years, he says, he received nary a phone call from the reps in the local office. "There was no 'How are you doing?' or 'Maybe you should buy this' or 'How about some concert tickets in Portland?' There was nothing at all." The retiree eventually reached an inescapable conclusion: "I was considered insignificant."

Yes, it takes more than $10 million to be seen as rich these days. It takes more like $25 million. Not only is that the minimum for the red-carpet treatment at a growing number of banks, it is also, in the view of many experts, the sum needed for a truly cushy retirement, one free of financial worry.

"With $25 million, you can fund college and grad school for the kids, take care of your own parents, travel, start a backyard vineyard and, well, "do whatever you want," says Maria Elena Lagomasino, of GenSpring, which helps some 600 wealthy families manage their money. After all, if you simply stashed the $25 million in municipal bonds, you'd have tax-free income of well over $1 million a year.
This isn't the mass affluent level, it's well beyond that. This article brings to mind the Chris Rock rich vs. wealth joke. Also, the retiree mentioned needs to get a new banker, immediately.
While $1 million was once a sign that you had arrived, plenty of people with up to $10 million nowadays don't think of themselves as rich. Many actually consider themselves "middle class," according to survey work by the authors of a new book, The Middle-Class Millionaire. That's increasingly true as the $10 million crowd finds a new intruder in its gated communities: the weakening economy. The delinquency rate for "jumbo" home mortgages -- a category that includes loans for basic McMansions -- more than doubled last year, to 0.74%, according to Fitch Ratings.

True, only a tiny portion of all Americans meet our definition of rich: Just 0.20% of households have net worths of $25 million or more. But in absolute numbers, the group is considerable. If one representative from each of the 175,400 households filed into an NFL stadium at the same time, they wouldn't all find seats. In fact, they would have to go in two shifts -- and even then, some 15,000 would be left in the parking lots, tailgating in their Bentleys.
I'm planning for my own retirement to be much less costly. You don't need that much to sit on an island beach somewhere, nor do you need much for a little sailboat. Plus, I'll have a doughnut shop that will keep me busy in the mornings.