Disclaimer: I am not a financial guru, certified or otherwise. Anything you read in today's column should not be construed as advice. Heck, I'm not sure if I did the multiplication correctly. But I'm honest.
At a certain stage in your life, you find yourself thinking more and more about working less and less. The professionals call this "retirement planning." I call it the scariest thing that can happen to you other than receiving an Army induction notice from Uncle Sam during the height of the Vietnam War.
The plain facts about the savings habits of U.S. workers are bleak. If you subtract (once again, I must warn you of my limited math skills) what Americans spend from what they earn, the ink turns red. Analysts say too many Americans think when they are retirement age, there will be money to pay for housing, food and medical expenses. For a few, Social Security and Medicare will be all they have. And it isn't much.
I have given this matter considerable thought as my hair grows whiter by the day. It occurred to me this week that the post-World War II generation was the first to grow up with television, and most of us believe John Beresford Tipton is not only a real person, but is still alive and will find us when we're no longer working and the going gets tough.
John Beresford Tipton? If you were born after 1960, you probably have already moved on to the sudoku puzzle or the sports page.
For those us born between the bombing of Hiroshima and the election of JFK, John Beresford Tipton is a name that gives you the same thrill as winning a lottery jackpot.
Tipton, you see, was the millionaire on "The Millionaire." In 205 episodes from 1955 to 1960, Tipton gave away a million bucks a week when his personal representative, Michael Anthony, showed up with checks for unsuspecting recipients.
I think the tax consequences are important to note, because in 1955 the wealthiest U.S. taxpayers were socked with the highest tax rate (91 percent) in history. Today's highest tax rate is 35 percent.
So Mr. Anthony, on behalf of Mr. Tipton, always made sure to tell bewildered recipients of unexpected riches that their fortune was tax-free.
In 1955, the median income for men in the U.S. was a little more than $4,000. Now it's more than $40,000. Inflation has risen 658 percent since 1955. If any of those 205 lucky blokes who received checks from Mr. Tipton had invested their million smackers at 5 percent compounded annually, they -- or their heirs -- would be sitting on more than $12 million.
Unfortunately, the record for those who receive unexpected fortunes is not good. Look at all the entertainers who have made a quick $10 million or more only to wind up in front of a bankruptcy judge. We are not a nation of savers. We are a confederation of spenders. And if we don't have any money to spend, we hide our debt behind small monthly credit-card payments.
Most Americans do not know how bad off they are. As long as the monthly payments are manageable, they think they are financially OK.
Folks. John Beresford Tipton is dead. No one is going to knock on your door and hand you a check for $1 million. No one.
This would be a good time for some realistic thinking about your financial future. You will need a calculator. Good luck.
The Metropolitan Opera in Cape Girardeau? Yes. At Kerosotes Town Plaza Cinema. Noon. New Year's Day. Engelbert Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel." And a new opera starting each Sunday.
This is not a Hollywood movie, so don't be surprised when the ticket costs $20.
There's no Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.
Folks, that's worth 20 bucks, isn't it?
R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.