Arbor Wealth: Resolutions, Ripken, and the power of dailyness

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

“’Cause I’ll be workin’ … long as these two hands are fit to use.” — from “Working Man Blues” as performed by Merle Haggard

Many of us resolve to become millionaires, or at the very least, to gain better control of our finances. Having worked with high net worth clients for over two decades, one thing I have learned is that the vast majority of millionaires do not accumulate their wealth in a singular, dramatic stroke. More frequently, a person becomes a millionaire over time, by making small decisions and through countless personal sacrifices.

They make steady contributions to investment accounts, separate “needs” from “wants,” shop for items on sale, and disregard what the Jones’s just bought. And they avoid imprudent debt.

My husband and I recently stumbled onto a documentary about Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak. While not a baseball aficionado, I admired the longevity and the “dailyness” of Ripken’s effort. It began on May 30, 1982, and ended on Sept. 19, 1998. There was something quintessentially American about the celebration in Baltimore the night Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record, as if a steadfast steelworker finally received his coveted gold watch.

Ripken toppled Gehrig’s mark, then played in over 500 more consecutive games, for a total of 2,632 straight games played. That’s 16 years without missing a day’s work. And Ripken’s was a demanding, physical profession. Imagine going from first grade through your college commencement without missing a class, much less a day of school.

Ronald Reagan’s presidency was in its second year when the streak began. McCartney’s song “Ebony and Ivory” would be heard for the first time. “Poltergeist” dominated the big screen. Argentina invaded the Falklands. Inflation was at 6.2 percent. Median household income was about $18,500. The median price of a new house was $69,300. The Dow finished the year at 1,046.

When Ripken finally took a day’s rest, President Clinton was midway through his second term. Actors Tom Hanks and Matt Damon inspired us in “Saving Private Ryan.” Several large Russian banks collapsed as the Russian ruble lost some 70 percent of its value to the dollar. Inflation dived to 1.55 percent. Median income rose to $37,200. The median price of a new home was $155,000. The Dow closed the year at 9,181.

Imagine if we applied that kind of commitment and perseverance to our finances. Let’s say we invested $100,000 in 1982 (the year Ripken’s streak began) and it grew by 5 percent per year. By the time his streak ended in 1998, our investment would total over $218,000. If it grew annually by 6 percent, we’d be sitting at $254,000. And if it grew each year by 7 percent, our nest egg 16 years later would be approaching $300,000. And, if we invested $100,000 when the streak began (1982) and it grew annually by 8 percent through last year, we would be … a millionaire.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.