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

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...
 
 
Volkswagen AG New Coverage: Trefis Price Estimate at $51
Volkswagen AG is the second largest automaker in the world behind Toyota and slightly ahead of GM, selling 9.72 million vehicles globally in 2013. Established in 1937, Volkswagen AG, along with its 340 subsidiary...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Only 3,200 tigers left in the wild
Geneva, July 30 (IANS/EFE) Of the 100,000 tigers that once roamed in the wild a century ago, only 3,200 are left behind, the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature has revealed in a report. WWF has also offered to assist...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
US sees 'steady' progress in Iran n-talks
Washington, July 30 (IANS) The chief US negotiator in Iran nuclear talks Tuesday cited "significant and steady" progress over the past six months, but would not say whether the negotiations would be further extended...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Bradley Cooper learning to flip burgers
London, July 30 (IANS) Actor Bradley Cooper, who will be seen as a chef in his next film, tried to learn how to flip burgers at a fast food chain in preparation for the role. The "Hangover" star decided to practice...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
US announces new sanctions on Russia over Ukraine
Washington, July 30 (IANS) Washington has imposed new sanctions on Russia's energy, arms and financial sectors over the Ukraine crisis, US President Barack Obama said Tuesday. Building on measures unveiled two weeks...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Jamie Foxx to play Mike Tyson in biopic
Los Angeles, July 30 (IANS) Actor Jamie Foxx will reportedly be transformed into Mike Tyson for a new biopic. Foxx, 46, would be transformed by the CGI technology that changed Brad Pitt from an old man to a baby in "...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
'Israeli overnight strikes kill 13 in Gaza'
Gaza, July 30 (IANS) Israeli strikes carried out overnight Tuesday killed 13 more Palestinians following the artillery shelling on Jabalia town in northern Gaza Strip, medics said. The Palestinians, including a...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Obama writes to Putin over missile treaty violation
Washington, July 30 (IANS) US President Barack Obama has written to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over Moscow's breach of a 1987 missile treaty, the White House said Tuesday. The treaty bans ground-launched...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Katy Perry parties with Diplo
Katy Perry partied with Diplo in Las Vegas on Monday night (07.28.14). The 'Dark Horse' hitmaker, who reportedly rekindled her romance with the DJ, real name Thomas Pentz, last month, was spotted enjoying a cosy dinner...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Adrienne Bailon regrets appearing on 'KUWTK'
Adrienne Bailon claims dating Rob Kardashian hurt her career. The 30-year-old singer, who split from the reality TV star in 2009 after two years of dating and later underwent laser treatment to get a tattoo of his name...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Chloe Grace Moretz doesn't want a boyfriend
Chloë Grace Moretz thinks she's too young to have a serious boyfriend. The 'Equalizer' star admits she usually takes her mother, Teri, or brother Trevor to red carpet events, as she doesn't want to ''waste away'' her...
Read more on Celebrity Balla