Niagara Gazette

April 5, 2014

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Cashing out is no easy task for some

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Penny-Pinchers — Every year about this time, as we calculate our fair share of what our Mainland government is worth and then send them 10 times as much, one of those magazines that starts with “F” (Fortune? Forbes?) publishes one of those lists of what it perceives as the world’s richest people, at least in terms of money.

This year it’s Bill Gates, who invented some sort of electronic gadgetry which has brought him the sum of $76 billion. Warren Buffett, who is at least partially responsible for the shortage of daily newspapers around here, counts out fourth at $58.2 billion. Terry Pegula struggled into the top 500 with $3.3 billion, including the 50 bucks his hockey team is worth.

These figures are almost beyond comprehension, rather like the number of chores Polly has planned out for Doug once he finishes this column or the number of times he will go back to correct it. (Poor baby.)

So let us make it easy for you, based on something familiar, such as how quickly one can retrieve money from an ATM.

We’ve clocked it a couple of times at the reasonably responsive terminal at First Niagara (except for the time it ate a $6 cash deposit because the bills were too crinkly). Once the card goes in, you’ve picked a language and remembered your password, you can get $100 in three seconds.

That’s $33.33 per second, $2,000 a minute, $120,000 an hour, and so forth, on up to a little more than a billion a year — $1,051,776,000, actually, figuring in an extra quarter-day for Leap Year.

Therefore, it would take Bill Gates 72 years and three months to withdraw all his money from an ATM. (With our luck, we’d be behind him in line.) That’s if it were drawing no interest. If he were earning as much as 2 percent, the account would be accruing interest faster than it could spit it out.

Warren Buffett, 55 years, four months, but we’d still rather have the Courier back.

Terry Pegula, three years, six weeks, and the Sabres would still be in last place.

Well, we’d love to calculate more, but we’ve got bottles to return. Come visit. Or go figure.

Email Polly and Doug at pollyndoug@hotmail.com

Polly and Doug E-mail pollyndoug@hotmail.com