Tuesday, August 15, 2006

$1 million: What's the infatuation?

So you want to be a millionaire. Guess what, America? There is a big business in feeding and catering to that dream.

A recent USA Today article takes a look at this latest incarnation of the American Dream and concludes, "Millionaire madness fills our popular culture, literature and business lore."

In an article entitled, "$1 million: What's our infatuation with this number?", Edward Iwata examines the trend behind America's burning desire to be rich. Books, seminars, and gambling casinos thrive off of our collective get-rich-quick mentality, but what can a million dollars do for you?

Most of us have heard the saying, "easy come, easy go", and can relate offhand one or more stories of money easily made and easily lost. The USA Today article does seem to focus on the fact that small fortunes are more likely to be kept and enjoyed by self-driven entrepreneurs.

It also hones in on the fact that $1 million doesn't represent as much as it used to. From the section entitled, "Not peanuts, but...":

The big irony? Today, the millionaire club isn't as exclusive as in years past. It's almost pocket change for some Wall Street bankers, Hollywood stars and Fortune 500 executives.

Nor does it go nearly as far as it used to for middle- and upper-middle-class wage slaves, given inflation, the roller-coaster economy and the higher costs of living and retirement. For house hunters in pricey markets from San Francisco to Manhattan, it'll barely get you a two-bedroom home.

"Way back in Rockefeller's era, a million dollars was serious money," says Jacob Needleman, a philosophy professor at San Francisco State University and author of Money and the Meaning of Life. "It was a symbol of a new nation's optimism and capitalism."

What kind of lifestyle does a million dollars represent now? For a historical look at the purchasing power of $1 million dollars and the number of millionaire estates, please see the post, "Tallying up the Millionaires". Be sure to see the comments section for the Oregon State research on Summary of US Millionaire Data.