July 2006 - Per Inquiry

What’s in a Number?

By Rick Petry

In the recently released book, The Number, author Lee Eisenberg’s title refers to the sum you may perceive you’ll need to retire comfortably. Once you’ve compiled what you think your pile should be, assuming you want to preserve the nest egg, you can figure a draw down rate of 4 percent per year. So, if you want to retire at 65, plan to live another 25 years, and expect to have an annual income of $100,000 so you can indulge in regular visits to Starbucks and Dr. Bosley, you’ll need a mere $2.5 million. Naturally, this exercise can’t be approached without asking, “What kind of life do you want to live?” because $100,000 may seem excessive or a pittance-depending upon how you weigh the balance in your life with the one in your bank account.

Thinking about that number is not so different from pondering another number-the dues you pay (or don’t pay) annually to be a member of ERA because at its core it is about money and choices. With basic membership starting at $3,400, the amount ERA asks for may be a fraction of what is required to retire in style, yet it is not insignificant-especially for a sole proprietor. Whenever I am asked whether it is worth it, I always point out that one substantive piece of business derived from networking within ERA could easily make the cost worthwhile. After all, a single business development trip to the likes of Columbus, Ga., (fly into Atlanta and go 20 Waffle Houses south), can cost far more than the inevitable indigestion.

Others muss, “I can do all the networking I want without being a member or registering for anything.” These folks, whose ranks include a handful of industry veterans and who may have once been members but now orbit the fringes of ERA’s shows, are absolutely right. Yet when they allow others to do all the economic lifting to fund government affairs efforts or research findings that directly support their businesses, are they still right? That happy cat Ebenezer Scrooge thought he was shrewd, too.

If it sounds to you like I have a penchant for difficult causes, then you might be right again. When you agree to chair membership of any organization, you better be an eternal optimist. But when I experience the energy of the volunteers who comprise our group-many of whom are younger-I am inspired. Along with them, I am here to state emphatically that the door is open, and if you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, we have a favor to ask of you: join for one year. This request comes with a sole caveat: just as you would think about what kind of experience you wish to have in your golden years, consider how-through service and involvement-you can spin gold of both the financial and psychic sort from your membership.

If, at the end of that year, you’ve discovered that, as they say down in Columbus, “the juice ain’t worth the squeeze,” I’ll be happy to buy you the first drink in the bar, where you’ll undoubtedly be holding most of your meetings. I’m betting it won’t be sour milk. I have too much faith in you.

Rick Petry is chief marketing officer of Downstream. He can be reached at (503) 226-1944, or via e-mail at [email protected]. Or, visit www.downstream.com.


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