Wondering Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? You Might Be Surpised Who Already Is

Posted on June 16, 2012 by

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(from Kozzi.com)

I may not be in the majority here, but I think teaching is a great job.

My sister, my two daughters, and I all taught English at some point or other in our careers.

Now, English may not be the best choice of subjects, given the obvious problem that the students should really write papers which you really should grade, but we all loved it, and my two daughters still store in their respective crawl spaces bins filled with criticism on A Tale of Two Cities, book lists, writing manuals, and enough writing prompts and rubrics to keep a country the size of Greece better occupied and managed than it currently is.

But little did I know until I came across it in my beloved Barrons (and then 2051 other times on the web), that teachers and educators make up 14% of this country’s millionaires–second only to managers (21%).

And it gets better.

Doctors, lawyers and other professionals combined make up 11%.

[Just to satisfy your curiosity, teachers fail to win in the $5 million-plus crowd, where senior corporate executives (17%) and entrepreneurs/owners (12%) take the lead].

I mean, honestly–who knew?

According to a first-quarter report by market researcher Spectrem Group of Chicago, the number of millionaires grew by 200,00 in 2011 in the U.S, which is a growth rate of 2% (actually slower than that iin 2009 and 2010). And there were teachers, keeping apace with the best of them.

So  there are currently 8.6 million millionaires in the U.S.

Now, I wasn’t a math teacher, but the way I figure it (where’s my calculator?) that’s something like 1,204,000 teacher-millionaires. And, according to the Spectrem Group definition, a ‘millionaire’ is really much more than a millionaire–it’s someone with a net worth of $1-5 million, without counting a primary residence.

The way the headlines made this look, the fastest way to 7 figures was a degree in education, a questionably-effective student-teaching experience, and then 105,000 papers. Faster and cheaper than medical school–without having to memorize the 206 bones and who knows how many sinews, too, plus a whole bunch of formulas for inorganic and (more fun yet) organic compounds.

The coverage got pretty snarky. One headline was “Those poor, deprived teachers now make up 12% of US millionaires” and another was “Good Grief. 12% of US Millionaires Are Educators,” which led with “Those poor, deprived teachers now make up 12% of US millionaires.” I sense a bit of sarcasm.

But it actually isn’t as simple as all that–as things never are.

If you read further, you find that the report really isn’t talking about elementary school teachers, as so many of the articles portrayed it.

It includes college professors  salaaryies as well as publishing, consulting and summer work they do–and, of course, investments.

A piece entitlted 10 of the Wealthiest Academics in the World just gives you a taste of how ‘educators’ can live the high life–and I assure you they don’t mean middle school social studies teachers.

For example, in this ‘educator’ category is none other than Stephen Hawking, who was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for 30 years, retiring in 2009.  Estimated to be worth a cool $20 million, most of  his wealth comes from his books, including–what else?–A Brief History of Time.

And there’s one David Silvers, Professor of Dermatology at Columbia University. A researcher, teacher, pioneer in treatments for skin cancer, and head of the school’s dermatology lab, Silvers makes about $5 million–a year.  Apparently he owns two million-dollar homes and earns five times what the president of Columbia University makes. It’s like being a high school gym teacher–only different.

And just to throw in another familiar name, Deborah Tannen, linguistics professor at Georgetown University, has authored 22 books.

Like a fair number of wealth academics, she’s writen for a general audience, specifically on the topic of interpersonal communication. I really don’t know Tannen’s net worth, but after You Just Don’t Understand: Women and men in Conversation, published in 1990, remained on the New York Times bestseller list for almost 4 years and was translated into 30 other languages, I’ve got a guess that she’s no pauper.

Economics professor Milton Friedman wrote a companion volume to his 10-part documentary miniseries ” Free to Choose: The Importance of Free Markets to Personal and Political Freedom,” which, published in 1980, made him a millionaire in that day and age.

Perhaps you get the idea that the term ‘educator’ is surprisingly inclusive.

Well, the explanations continue. Educators, like the majority of the millionaires, are more often than not part of a two-income household, which, writes my Barrons, “could explain their wealth.” Indeed it could.

As a point of fact, I taught with a number of teachers whose husbands [when I taught you were female; good luck trying to meet your mate] were extremely well-off. Being married to a millionaire makes you a millionaire, even if you’re earning $26,000, which is what starting school teachers in low-income or rural school districts get paid. The study failed to account for marrying well.

It also didn’t account for the number of people who make their millions in banking, say, and then leave for a ‘more meaningful’ career in teaching.

But even better, as the article “What factors do wealthy people use to choose investments” makes clear, there’s another factor in the determination of these educators’ financial status that might not have to do with good contract negations. The piece points out that:

  • ‘Educators were the only group that had “Inheritance” in the top 5 factors for obtaining wealth,’ and
  • 46% of the educators that are millionaires attributed their wealth primarily to “inheritance”.’

Aha. The plot thickens.

A writer on the blog “Iterative Path” (a wordpress blog, no less), on Marketing Strategy and Pricing, figures (and the calculations are quite complex, with a lot of formulas that look like this: P(M | T) = P(T | M)  X P(M) / P(T)–so I’m just taking him at his word), figures that if you factor out the wealthy by inheritance, those who were millionaires before they went into teaching, and those married to the very wealthy, really it’s about 4-8% of teachers who become millionaires because of teaching.

Now, that still sounds like a pretty high number to me (even though throwing in those college professors makes it a whole different game).

But really, when I think of it, it’s probably what happens if you pay a life-long English teacher about 13 cents for every paper she grades.