Imagining Retirement For Mad Men's Don Draper

Apr 10 2014, 3:26pm CDT | by

By Greg Daugherty, Next Avenue Contributor

When the seventh and final season of ‘Mad Men’ begins on Sunday night, longtime viewers will be watching for clues to how the series will end. In particular, what will become of whiskey-guzzling, chain-smoking, philandering antihero ad man Don Draper?

That Draper may be headed for a bad end has been foreshadowed for years, starting with the show’s animated title sequence, which shows him tumbling from a skyscraper. Will his guilty conscience cause him to jump? Will an angry husband give him a shove? Whatever happens, he seems unlikely just to die in bed — his own, anyhow.

If ‘Mad MenWriters Let Don Live

We’ll have to wait until 2015 to know for sure, since the “final” season will be split over two years. But suppose that instead of bumping him off like Walter White in ‘Breaking Bad’ or ending ambiguously like ‘The Sopranos,’ the writers do something totally unexpected and let him live to the present day? What would Draper’s 21 st  century retirement be like?

(MORERoger Sterling & Me)

In 2015, when the series ends, Draper would be pushing 90 (by no means impossible if he gave up a vice or two) and would’ve likely retired in the ‘80s. Here are some educated speculations on what retired Draper has been up to since then, based on the experience of other retirees of his vintage.

Don Draper’s Retirement: The Early Years

Draper’s retirement planning would have been a little more complicated than most people’s — except for those of us who also have two identities.

If you haven’t followed the ‘Mad Men’ storyline, “Don Draper” is an assumed identity (his real name: Dick Whitman), borrowed from a fellow soldier killed in the Korean War. A further complication is that the dead Draper was born roughly nine years before the imposter. So in 1982, the Don Draper we know is 65 on paper but only 56 in the flesh.

This is something of a mixed bag from a financial standpoint.

Though he’d be able to collect his Sterling Cooper & Partners pension and full Social Security benefits way ahead of schedule, he’d have had fewer years to put money away as “Don.”

(MORETake the TV Deep Dive)

He might, of course, have decided to keep working and postpone claiming Social Security in exchange for a bigger benefit later on. (In those days, you could wait until age 72 to start receiving benefits; today it’s 70.) That would get him to 1989 and a real age of 63, by which time he might have been ready to retire anyway. His actress wife, Megan, if she stuck with him that long, would then be 48.

The 1980s, you may recall, was still the quaint era of the three-legged stool in retirement planning — those legs being a company pension, personal investments and Social Security.

Draper’s pension might have started out reasonably rich, but it’s unlikely to have been indexed for inflation, meaning its value would have declined considerably over time. In 1982, a monthly check of, say, $2,000 would have bought a lot of sirloin. Today, that $2,000 check would be worth roughly the equivalent of $805.

As to his investments, if Draper followed the conventional wisdom of the day, he probably held a diversified portfolio of bonds and blue-chip stocks such as IBM, Philip Morris, Xerox and Chrysler. His stocks would have taken a drubbing through much of the ‘70s, then come roaring back in the ‘80s, only to crash in October 1987 when the market lost more than 22% on one day./>/>

But if Draper kept his cool and stayed invested (seems probable given his demeanor), he’d have made it all back in about two years.

Meanwhile, he would have had to put at least three kids through college, without the benefit of tax-sheltered 529 plans, which didn’t come along until the ‘90s. Still, college costs in Draper’s day look like a bargain now. If his eldest child, Sally, had wanted to go to a four-year private college in 1972, her tuition, room and board would have cost him roughly $3,000 a year, on average.

Flash Forward to 2015

In 2015, Draper will be 89 and Megan, assuming she’s still with him, will be 74.

They probably sold their Upper East Side apartment years ago — either making a small fortune or losing one, depending on the year. They might then have moved to one of the hot retirement destinations of the day, such as Scottsdale, Ariz., or Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Megan’s acting career would most likely be behind her, but she might still work part-time, selling real estate, for example. That way, she’d earn some extra money, get out of the house and wouldn’t have to hear Draper go on about the Glo-Coat floor wax campaign for the umpteenth time.

And Draper? He’d likely be puttering around the house or hanging out at the country club, sitting under the wide-brimmed hat his dermatologist insisted on, all but oblivious to the women strolling past in their swimsuits and tennis whites.

A man finally at peace with himself, he’d no longer be tormented by his lusts, lies and betrayals. If he did have any regrets, it might be not buying gold at $35 an ounce.

As to the show’s familiar image of Draper silhouetted in freefall, that could be an omen or might mean nothing at all. He probably wouldn’t have to worry about skyscrapers in his retirement home. But he might want to invest in some good grab bars for the shower to maintain his balance.

Greg Daugherty is a personal finance writer specializing in retirement who has written frequently for Next Avenue. He was formerly editor-in-chief at Reader’s Digest New Choices and senior editor at Money.

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
Our sister site I4U News is giving away a brand new iPad Air or if you can wait an iPad Air 2. This is an $499 value.
 
 
Your Parent Or Kid Moved In: Are You Covered?
A record 57 million Americans now live in multigenerational family households — double the number in 1980, according to a new Pew Research Center study. And I bet many of them have the wrong homeowner’s or renters...
 
 
Pandora Looks to Challenge Terrestrial Radio's Dominance in Cars
Pandora Media is one of the largest Internet radio providers in the U.S. with more than 75 million active users. While the company’s active user count has increased at a robust pace historically, it is likely to slow...
 
 
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
It’s January 2026. New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gets out of his driverless car and triumphantly marches before the gathered press to introduce his prized new free agent. It’s a record-breaking contract—over...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

1,074 new dengue cases in Chinese province
Beijing, Oct 18 (IANS) China's Guangdong province has reported 1,047 new cases of dengue fever, health authorities said Saturday. Six people have already died in Guangdong -- five in Guangzhou and one in adjacent...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Blake Lively 'always' wanted to be mum
Blake Lively has ''always'' wanted to be a mother. The 27-year-old actress is expecting her first child with husband Ryan Reynolds and she admits she's been dreaming of this moment since she was a youngster. Speaking...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Kris Jenner 'torn apart' by Bruce's new relationship
Kris Jenner feels ''torn apart and angry'' that Bruce Jenner is dating her former assistant. The 58-year-old matriarch split from the 64-year-old Olympic gold medalist last October following 22-years of marriage but is...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini won't move to France
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini doesn't want to move to her husband's home country of France. The 'X Factor' judge, 31, who comes from Newcastle, is adamant she won't be relocating any time soon to suit her new spouse Jean-...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Lance Bass sets wedding date
Lance Bass has set a date for his wedding. The former *NSYNC singer and his partner Michael Turchin, who have been dating for two-and-a-half years, are to tie the knot on December 20, 2014, a representative for the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Nepal avalanche toll reaches 39
Kathmandu, Oct 18 (IANS) At least 39 climbers died while hiking on a key Nepali route after it was hit by a major snowstorm and avalanches earlier this week, BBC reported Saturday citing officials. Over 350 stranded...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Jake Gyllenhaal says society is complicit in 'nightcrawling'
Jake Gyllenhaal says almost everybody in society ought to relate to his new movie 'Nightcrawlers'. The eagerly-awaited film concerns those people who monitor police scanners and then race to crime scenes to film eye-...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
India eves look for first win in AFC U-16 qualifiers
Dhaka, Oct 18 (IANS) India will hope to register their first win of the 2015 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-16 Women's Championship qualifiers when they take on hosts Bangladesh in a crucial encounter at the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Moyes mulling return to management
London, Oct 18 (IANS) Former Manchester United manager David Moyes said that he is ready to revive his managerial career six months after being sacked by the 'Red Devils'. "I am ready to return. I have enjoyed the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Ebola fears loom over Ghana hosting AFCON
Accra (Ghana), Oct 18 (IANS) The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) cautioned the government Saturday against hosting the 2015 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), despite a request by the Confederation of African Football (...
Read more on Sport Balla