Monday, October 8, 2007

I don't like October

Some people don't like Mondays, but I don't like October. It has nothing to do with the start of another Supreme Court session. Or with the start of baseball post-season -- as a Red Sox fan, things are looking good this year. (But as a lifelong Mets fan, well, sigh, that's another story.)

I don't like October because for the past 26 years, Forbes magazine has published its list of the 400 richest Americans.

And, just like the past 26 years, I didn't make the list.

This year, it took $1.3 billion to make the list, up $300 million from the previous year.

I'm not good at math, but by my calculations, I was just $1.4 billion away from the list. If only I had insisted in getting paid in Canadian dollars...I would've been just $1.3 billion short.

I know I shouldn't feel so bad. There are 82 billionaires who didn't have enough to make the list this year along with 57 slackers who had appeared on last year's list but didn't make it this year.

I wonder if they throw you out of the billionaires' country club if you don't make the list. Or perhaps the others on the list make a show of signing for your bar bill since you've hit tough times.

Then there are the billionaires who lost a ton of money. One guy lost $1.5 billion last year -- which provides some context to the Mets' season.

Interestingly, while consistently I have not made the list, there are 32 billionaires who have made the list every year since 1982. Some are worth approximately the same amount back then as now. I feel badly for them, too. Sure $2 billion was a lot of money in 1982, but it's worth a lot less in 2007.

Kirk Kirkorian can be an inspiration for us. At 79, he earned $9 billion last year -- on top of his other billions, but still. Perhaps when I get to his age, I can have a $9 billion year. Of course, by then, given inflation, the $9 billion might be just enough to pay for private college tuition for a year.

A lot of the Forbes 400 made their money through inheritance. I don't blame my parents. I blame my grandparents. (All I got from one grandfather was my first name.) When I called my parents this week to complain about their parents, I actually got a lot of support.

Others made it on the list through inventing. I can kick myself because I came up with a concept years ahead of its time. I vividly remember watching on TV the splashdown landing of one of the Apollo rockets. My parents weren't around but I thought they'd be interested in the news, so I decided to tape it for them. I brought over my parents' portable wheel-to-wheel machine and held up the microphone to the set's tiny speaker in order to capture the news report. (By the way, I believe my parents still own that wheel-to-wheel recorder.)

In those days, each rocket launch was followed very closely by television news. And those days, we only had three network channels, plus two independent stations and PBS. I remember developing a vision for the future of television, and thinking one day there would be 11 channels on a kind of information highway -- I remember distinctly the number 11 since I think that was how high I could count at the time.

If only I had pursued my vision for a video recorder and expanded choice of programming....I could have made it onto the Forbes 400.

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