Seek the Oracle at Delphi's Predictions

Physician's Money Digest, September 2006, Volume 13, Issue 9

Our clueless doctor, we'llcall him Dr. Cleu forconvenience, becamedisillusioned with theconflicting advice hewas receiving from his financial advisorsand decided to consult the Oracleat Delphi—the ancient shrine in Greecewhere people used to go to have theirfortunes told. He had heard they werehaving a grand reopening under newmanagement. As he got off the elevatoron the 40th floor of the Delphi Towers,he confronted a pimply-faced teenagerin a t-shirt and jeans. Her name tagsaid, "Intake Priestess." She was staringinto a computer terminal.

Surprised, Dr. Cleu blurted out, "Ithought Delphi Priestesses wore oldrobes, inhaled hallucinogenic fumes,and screeched like rock singers." Thefollowing exchange ensued:

Priestess:

That's all changed. Wenow consult our IPO, venture capitalsupercomputer. Your life is like a chessgame. Every move has a probability.Our computer figures it all out and tellsyou what will happen—no guessing.

Dr. Cleu:

Well, I'm in. Give me thequestionnaire, and I'll tell you aboutmyself so you can start your programs.

Priestess:

There is no need. We getall the information we need off theInternet—there's no privacy anymore.We continually access the hotel andairline computers. We knew you werecoming and have already populatedyour database with all the necessaryinformation. I see your official futurecoming up right now. Wait, thereseems to be a glitch in the data stream.

Dr. Cleu:

What does that mean?

Priestess:

It appears that later today,you will make a major decision thatactually changes your entire future.This is pretty rare. Dr. Cleu, there arethree possible official futures for you.

Dr. Cleu:

Well, give me the best onefirst. I could use some good news.

Priestess:

It's very good indeed. Youdecide to save 15% of your incomeevery year and accumulate enoughmoney that you only need to withdraw4% a year to live comfortably in retirement.The money lasts well into your90s. You have a beachfront house,travel often, and experience fine dining.You're happy, well tanned, and ingreat shape. The computer has generateda graphic of what you will looklike in the future, and you look great!

Dr. Cleu:

Thanks. I guess you cansay that I'm pretty smart.

Priestess:

Don't get too cocky yet,this is only the first of three possiblefutures. In the second possibility, youdecide to leave here and go on a round-the-world cruise. In order to pay it off,you don't fund your retirement plan for3 years. By that time, you're so farbehind you aren't able to catch up. Youretire with less money, but you still dodecently by getting a part-time job afterretirement. You remain in your currenthome and sell your vacation place.You're not unhappy, though; you'vealways enjoyed staying home while othersare off rushing around you. And herecomes the graphic. You're not in quite asgood shape, a little pudgy in fact. Theold homestead is showing signs of wearand tear, but it's still pretty nice.

Dr. Cleu:

Not exactly what I wanted,but it looks like a good fall-backplan. If worse comes to worse, I'll stayin the house, and won't go overboardwith spending. I can live with that.

Priestess:

Not so fast, your thirdfuture is not so good. You leave hereand decide to save money by cancelingyour gym membership. Unfortunately,you use your free time to hang out at adonut shop, and you have a heart attackin 3 years. You are unable to work, andyour retirement plan falls apart. Youdon't have enough money left to stay inyour home, so you must downsize to asmall apartment. It's not a bad apartment,except for the folks upstairs wholike to party until 3 AM. You watch TVfor entertainment, and go out once aweek for the early bird special atDenny's. You miss your old ways, butyou have to admit that you meet somenice people at Denny's, and they're notthe always-working-or-playing peoplefrom your old neighborhood. Here's thegraphic of you arguing about the billwith the check-out lady. You have towatch every penny.

Dr. Cleu:

You've certainly given mea lot to think about. Now, could wenegotiate your fee??

Priestess:

Some things are not negotiable.And our fee has already beendeducted from your bank account. Itold you, no privacy.

Louis L. Constan, a family practice physicianin Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of theSaginaw County Medical Society Bulletinand Michigan Family Practice. He welcomesquestions or comments at 3350 ShattuckRoad, Saginaw, MI 48603, 989-792-1899, or louisconstan@hotmail.com.