Somehow I missed the first half of season seven of Mad Men, so I'm only now catching up with Don Draper and the crew at Sterling Cooper. In this season we learn that Roger has made a deal to sell the firm to their competitors and that Joan's 5% stake in the company is worth $1.5 million.
Joan of course is delighted with the windfall and she should be! Joan has helped win strategic deals, keep valued clients, and helped each member of the Sterling Cooper executive team in more ways that one. Finally Joan will reap some monetary rewards and get out of that small two bedroom flat where she lives with her mother and young son.
These are 1969 dollars so what does that $1.5 million equate to in today's purchasing power? As I did with my blog post from 2008 on Mad Men Salaries and Buying Power, I turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator. No wonder Joan is giddy with excitement, her 5% stake in the company is worth the equivalent of $9,675,858 today. That is a life-changing sum of money.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, Joan has to pay the tax man first. According to these historic tax tables, because Joan makes over $100,000 this windfall puts her in the, gulp, 70% tax bracket. Uncle Sam takes $1,050,000 off the top. NY State will also take their share. For folks who earned more than $25,000 per year they paid the maximum rate of 15%. So there goes $225,000. Now Joan has $225,000 left to play with.
That $225,000 is still a nice chunk of change; $1,451,378 in today's dollars. We know Joan is a sensible woman, let's assume she uses some money to buy herself a nice place to live. In the 1970s, NYC real estate was running about $45/square foot. Joan could take $100,000 and get a 2000 square foot condo in a nice neighborhood.
She could then invest the remaining $125,000 in the S&P. If she left it alone and kept reinvesting the dividends she'd have a nice little nest egg. Assuming Joan is 30 in 1970 and she leaves that money alone until she is 65 (2005) she'll have $5,416,111. And if she managed to weather the financial storms and keep the money in the market through 2013 she'd have 40% more ($9,151,349). I've got my fingers crossed for Joan!