What is a millionaire? No, we aren’t that dense. We know that it takes a million dollars to be a millionaire. On dictionary.com the definition is:
- a person whose wealth amounts to a million or more in some unit of currency, as in dollars.
- any very rich person.
It has French origins; did you know that? I had never thought about that and of course, throw ‘aire’ on the end of a word and its French, right? Makes me think of legionnaire and gad – there are 139 French words which end with ‘aire’. I digress.
Our son and his thoughts on money
So, a million dollars. Easy enough, right? A few weeks ago, I was driving a couple of states away for a college tour with one of our sons. We got to talking about how he was saving his summer earnings and he had recently decided to take several thousand dollars that he earned this year and invest in an index fund. (Note: We did not suggest to him in any way that he does this. He decided on his own and even landed on Vanguard index funds without even a whisper from us, so clearly he is level-headed). Anyway, he got to asking questions about how we saved for retirement over the years. He asked about 401(k) limits and whether the money your company puts in reduced the amount you can put in, etc. He’s been reading quite a bit on different career paths and associated benefits including retirement and pensions which I think is amazing that an 18-year-old would take into consideration. It was a good talk.
He then asked exactly how much we had saved so far for our retirement since we joke all the time at home about quitting our day jobs and retiring early. It’s been a pretty good year for both the markets and the Need2Save family so we are inching our way very close to the million-dollar mark in retirement savings and I shared this with him. He said he thought it was impressive and then asked, “will you call yourself a millionaire when you reach that number?” I laughed out loud. I hadn’t thought about it, but my response was “No, there are two of us.” To which he replied (you can probably guess), “well if you had two million then?” I giggled again. I’m not sure why. I guess technically we would be millionaires, but it’s not something I’d go around telling people. I mean “Hi, how are you? Nice to meet you. Did you know we are millionaires?” Just doesn’t seem very couth, ya know?
It’s Just a Number
What is the obsession with a million dollars anyway?
Game shows like ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ and ‘Survivor’ have a top prize of $1,000,000. The Barenaked Ladies have a song titled ‘If I Had a Million Dollars’. Do you remember the following lines in ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’
Dr. Evil: “Here’s the plan. We get the warhead and we hold the world ransom for… ONE MILLION DOLLARS!”
Number Two: “Don’t you think we should ask for *more* than a million dollars? A million dollars isn’t exactly a lot of money these days.
A million dollars today is not the same as it was ten, twenty or fifty years ago. Could we both live comfortably on a million dollars? Heck yeah, we could and if we wanted to adopt the associated lifestyle, we’d be done with work right now! But we have farther reaching goals with a lot of gratuitous travel plans and we are just putting our kids through college right now. So we aren’t ready quite yet and don’t have quite enough in our retirement accounts to fund our personalized version of early retirement.
It really is a very arbitrary number, right? It wasn’t long ago that ING ran those “What’s your number” commercials. Remember them? It’s hard to believe that was 8 years ago. And ING isn’t even ING any longer. Now they are orange squirrels named Vern and Val from VOYA and have celebrity co-actors. “Use money not acorns.” Maybe your magic number is $985,000 so then sorry, you will not be a member of the millionaire club. Maybe your magic number is $1,432,000. Reach this and they give you extra millionaire stripes or something? What matters is whether your savings can support your intended lifestyle and the big events like a sudden loss or major illness. It may be over a million, it may be under.
Boy, A Million Bucks Ain’t What It Used to Be!
I guess being a millionaire isn’t that impressive any longer, at least not to us. We aren’t trying to impress other people anyway. If I met you and somehow found out that you had a million bucks, I guess I would assume you were a careful saver. (No, I would not assume you won the lottery or got an inheritance because I know it can be done with careful planning and working hard). But it wouldn’t change how I speak to you or how I treat you, or God, how handsome I thought you are. It would just be an extra piece of information about you that may or may not stick in my brain. I’m likely to forget it as soon as I forget what color your eyes are or which professional team you root for.
So when my son said he thought our savings was “impressive”, I explained that it wasn’t quite enough for our retirement plans. It does sound like a lot of money and it is. It’s equally important for us to continue to work to fund their college educations, pay off our mortgage, and continue to fill up our investment buckets. We want to live comfortably in retirement, pay for necessities such as health insurance, and have plenty of fun along the way.
I asked Mr. Need2save if he would feel any difference when we crest the million-dollar mark. He truthfully said “No. We could lose several thousand or even tens of thousands the next day.”
How about you? Is being a millionaire important to you? Do you have a magical net worth that you feel that you need to reach?