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Dreaming about untold wealth

When I was growing up in my hometown of Summit Hill, I would get a modest allowance for which I was expected to do chores around the house and our family grocery store.

It was so long ago, it’s hard to remember exactly how much I received, but I believe it originally was 50 cents, then, as I got older, a dollar and, eventually, five dollars. I remember getting $10 a week spending money for my first year at college.

On those rare occasions when I could gather enough courage to ask my parents for a little more money for a special purchase, my mother would famously remind me that “money doesn’t grow on trees.”

It tickled me to no end in 1956 when Patience and Prudence recorded a song called “Money Tree.” Part of its lyrics went like this:

“Oh, the money tree, the money tree,

It’s a beautiful sight to see.

Why couldn’t it happen to you and me?”

When I bought the 45 RPM recording, I played it for my mom.

“See, mom,” I said triumphantly, “money really does grow on trees.” She was not amused.

Like a vast majority of the hardworking residents of the Panther Valley back in the ’50s, it was living mostly paycheck to paycheck, not unlike what many families still experience today.

My friends and I would sometimes fantasize about what it would be like to be rich and own mansions, multiple vacation retreats, visit exotic destinations with strange-sounding names on our luxury yachts, drive fancy cars that would make the townspeople green with envy and eat at upscale restaurants with hard-to-pronounce menu items.

When I babbled on about wanting to be rich some day, my mother constantly reminded me that money could be the root of all evil. She also warned me never to spend my money before I earned it, which is probably why my parents relied so little on credit. My wife’s grandmother’s favorite saying was, “Money makes the blind see.” I have to smile when someone once said to my friend, “Well, you know, money can’t buy you love.” My friend replied, “Wanna bet?”

None of my high school buddies nor I ever achieved superrich status. We are all comfortable in our own way in retirement, and each of us has had satisfying professional careers - one as a doctor in California, one as a senior vice president of a major bank now living in Delaware and the other as the former owner of a successful car dealership in Luzerne County. I concluded a 39-year media career as a newspaper publisher.

You can’t fully appreciate how much wealth the superrich have until you compare it to something tangible.

For example, there are about 27,500 households in Carbon County, with an average income of $60,000, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau figures. If you do the math, it means the total average household wealth of our local county of about 64,000 people is $1.65 billion.

If the county were a person, this would put it in 1,930th place among the world’s billionaires in the newest annual list published by Forbes magazine just last Friday. Stated another way, it means that there are 1,929 individuals around the world who are wealthier than ALL of the residents of Carbon County put together.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest for the fourth year in a row at $177 billion, while Tesla’s Elon Musk zoomed into the number two spot with $151 billion.

All of the world’s billionaires are worth a staggering $13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion a year ago. That’s right, their combined wealth increased nearly 63% in just a year during a worldwide pandemic. The United States still has the most billionaires with 724, followed by China with 698.

There are two local people who have made the world’s richest list. Jared Isaacman of Easton, founder of Shift4 Payments headquartered in Allentown, placed 1,362nd with $2.3 billion, while brewing magnate Dick Yuengling of Pottsville checks in on the heady list at 2,141st place with $1.4 billion.

You may remember Isaacman as commander of the recent and wildly successful private Inspiration4 space mission. In addition to being his company’s CEO, Isaacman also has an impressive aeronautics background.

So this means that Isaacman’s wealth all by itself tops the total wealth of all Carbon County households combined.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.