Kaun Banega Crorepati? Or “Why you need $87,000,000 to be rich”

The name of this post — “Kaun Banega Crorepati?” — is the title of the Hindi version of “Who wants to be a millionaire?” A crorepati is someone with 10 million rupees, or about $250,000 US. One crore is 10 million of anything, preferably rupees. It’s also 100 lakhs. (So, one lakh is 100,000.) This system of lakh and crore is still very widely used in India for describing large numbers, and commas separate crores, lakhs, and everything else. For example, the U.S. debt today is $895010,53,12874.54. Of course, for a number that big you need to start talking about even larger denominations: the arawb and kharawb which are 100 crore and 100 arawb respectively.

Anyway, that’s a roundabout way of introducing an article published in today’s New York Times: In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich. As with the previous article in the series Age of Riches, this article is about the new-money class.

Lisa didn’t have much sympathy for Hal Steger, the 51 year-old marketing executive who’s worth $3.5 million and said, “A few million doesn’t go as far as it used to.”

But I totally understand. A few years ago, a friend and I figured out how much you need to have in the bank to be rich. Not just “rich.” That’s easy. We meant “filthy, never-work-a-day-in-your-life-again rich.” My friends, to be rich you need $87 million.

I can’t remember all the details, but think about it. First there’s housing. You’ll need a decent house in Weston or Lincoln, Mass., the kind that’s so large your neighbors want to get it rezoned because you have fundraisers there so often. That’s easily $10 million (or about $650K per year for the mortgage) plus annual taxes of about $300K. And cars. Add in the cost of buying/leasing a new car a year and you’re easily past a million in necessities. And don’t forget food.

Then there’s the question of what you’re going to do if you don’t do “real work.” As far as we could tell you only have three options: travel, buy stuff, and give away money.

Travel: You need enough to buy two or three first class tickets and deluxe accomodations everyday. There’s $5K/day, or $1.8 million/year.

Buy stuff: I don’t shop a lot, though I could easily get into art collecting. Art prices are going up, up, up. Let’s say $1 million/year. Plus another $1K/day for sundries. That’s about $1.4 million.

Charity: Because we’re generous people, we figured we’d give as much aways as we spent on ourselves. So that’s $4.2 million plus food. . . .Carry the one . . . $4.3 million for charity.

Since we’re not working, we need to live on interest. In the worst years, people with money can get a 7% rate of return. Let’s see “X x 0.07 = $8.5 million,” so X = $121 million.

Oops! Inflation. Hal Steger was right: A single person needs $121 million (or 485,71,00000 Rupees) before they’re rich.

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