August 22, 2010

The billionaire and I

Yesterday I asked rhetorically that, if one were to live in a trailer park, and all your friends and everybody you knew lived in a trailer park, wouldn't you be relatively satisfied with that?

Which is one of the ways the "Smart Money" knows how to live well and happily--that is: below their means.

I've often said I might one day decide to retire in one of those neat, trim little trailer parks where the old ladies step out in the morning, still donning a nightcap and robe, to tend their plastic and real flowers. Hey--I believe mediocrity is something to aspire to. I am not joking. There is worse...

I have always relied on my single-girl, one-income household. But I've led a successful career in capital markets trading, socked away some dollars and watched my accounts' values rise and fall much like the well as get sucked away by those rip-tides, too.

So by now, I pretty much know I won't have millions to spend in retirement, but I also know that I don't want to be the underdog. I don't aspire to roll it up in one of Forbes' top retirement communities like Palm Beach Gardens, Scottsdale, La Jolla, or Pebble Beach (although I have enjoyed vacations to each of those locales). I could live in one of those places for a time, but I'd rather not have to compete with the folks there who will be much wealthier than I. I'd be scrimping and probably have to relocate to the other side of the tracks at some point.

Yet truth is, I am not unlike Jim Clark. You know, the billionaire Internet entrepreneur, founder of Silicon Graphics, Netscape, Healtheon (WebMD) and myCFO, and 66-year old husband to 30-year old Sports Illustrated cover model who was "first attracted to Clark because of his brain."

Yes, I am much like the high school dropout who did swing a Ph.D. and stint as Stanford professor. The one who said, when asked if his billions were enough, or whether he wouldn't like to have more money than Bill Gates, said something like, Even for just a moment, I want to have more money than anyone else.

So the thing is, I may be satisfied in my neat little happy trailer park--but--just as long as I get to stand out in my little circle. I will want a newer model trailer, certainly double-wide, and of course, located on the nicest, widest corner lot.

I call it the dandelion syndrome. Dandelions range in height from two inches to nearly a foot and a half. They need to stick their heads just a little bit higher than the flora around them. In trim grass, the dandelion has no need to grow higher than a few inches. As the growth around it rises, so does the dandelion, just enough to top the rest.

See? Most of us need to feel extra special by 1) having just a teensy bit more stuff than the folks around us and /or,  2) a 36-years-junior supermodel wife; whatever. Jim and I do have the former in common. Along with, well, the rest of humanity.


  1. Have you ever lived in or raised kids in a trailer park?

  2. Why do you ask, Steve? (My auntie, one sibling, several cousins and various friends have; not I.)