If you've never figured your lifetime earnings, here's an easy way to get a pretty darned good estimate:
First, get a figure in your mind for your current annual household income. Let's say it's $50,000. Now multiply that by four, which equals $200,000.
Now, add a zero. In my example, $200,000 with one more zero becomes $2,000,000. Still with me? Good, because we're not done.
Next, multiply that first figure by five, like this: Fifty thousand dollars times five equals $250,000.
Finally add the two results together, like this: Two million dollars plus $250,000 equals $2,250,000.
The $2,000,000 represents $50,000 a year for 40 years. The $250,000 is the amount for an additional five years. Add them together and you have a rough estimate of your household income over 45 years of wage earning.
So, how much money will flow through your life during your lifetime? It's not chump change!
Sure, you haven't earned $50,000 every year since you began working or formed a household, but you won't stay at $50,000 in the future either. So this is a quick and easy way to come up with a reasonable estimate.
Did you have any idea you are a millionaire? You may not feel like one, since you are getting your fortune one paycheck at a time. You are on the installment plan. Sadly, it's possible that your money is just slipping through your fingers — disappearing about as fast as you get it.
The challenge for all of us it to find new and unique ways to hang on to at least some of that money and put it away in a safe place for the future — when those paychecks go away. We need to protect and preserve as much as possible so it is safe from our impulsive urges and mindless spending.
I believe I've found a very effective way to nail our money, a method that keeps money safe and available but nearly impossible to spend.
Picture this: five $100 bills nailed to a board by means of a pneumatic "staple" driven through a pin and right through the currency so solidly there appears to be no way to free that money without a good deal of effort.
This is my Christmas gift from my husband. He's a smart guy. Don't you think? It's January, and I have made a list of at least a dozen things I'd like to buy with my gift. But for some unknown reason, I just cannot bring myself to find a crowbar to release the dough.
The wood block as well as the "pin" are mahogany, a very hard wood. That is a 1-inch staple that's been driven through the pin, through the cash and into the 2-inch-thick block of wood at the bottom. Trust me — those bills are not going to release themselves anytime soon.
And so, my gift sits on my desk, where I look at it every day. I am free to spend it anytime I want. And for some strange reason, I can't bring myself to do it.
I think we're on to something here.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.