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When I told the deputy business editor a few months ago that I wanted to end my weekly “Wealth Matters” column we agreed on this weekend. I said it would be No. 608. He joked that might qualify me for the Hall of Fame.
My initial goal for the column was to use lessons from the very wealthy to help people of more modest means. Over time, it often veered into an anthropological look at how the wealthy lived just so differently than everyone else.
I was never good at baseball, but I’ve always loved talking to people, and like a serious baseball fan, I am good at keeping stats. I’ve kept a record of all the columns and articles I’ve written for The Times — I’m weird like that.
On average, I spoke to eight individuals per column, which puts me at about 4,864 people. Add in the other 152 articles I’ve written for The Times during the past 13 years and the total is over 6,000 people, according to my estimate.
Frankly, I’m astounded by how many people took my calls.
These conversations produced columns on investing in everything imaginable, including marijuana and Birkin bags, and paying as little as legally possible in taxes. I heard plenty about managing family discord and dealing with bureaucracies like condo boards.
The most fun stories were about the ways wealthy people spent their millions and billions. I wrote about thoroughbred horses, wine collecting, racecar clubs, yachting, personal perfume-making, and four-star dog hotels.
I’ve talked a lot, too, with deeply philanthropic people like Mike Bloomberg, shortly after he finished being New York’s mayor. There was one man who overcame a rough childhood and accumulated millions in the timber business. He franchised his philanthropy so more children could be helped by mentors. We met over a drink at The 21 Club in Manhattan.
What kept the column going — and allowed me to write books and other articles — wasn’t the louche locations so much as my own rigid schedule.
Monday and Tuesday were interview days. Wednesday, I wrote. Thursday, I took the train into Manhattan and talked to people all day long. Friday, I began preparing for the week ahead. Having no topic lined up was the surest way to ruin my weekend.
Like many people in America, Covid-19 changed work for me. At the start, I felt a great bonhomie with my colleagues as we worked hard to explain the financial consequences of the pandemic. But by year’s end, I had begun to chafe at the forced merger of work and parenting. My kids weren’t driving me crazy; they needed me, but so did my editor each week.
See, during the past 13 years, I’ve had another secret full-time job. No, it wasn’t the columns about golf that I write for The Times or Golf Magazine.
My secret other job is that I’m the lead parent — and don’t call me Mr. Mom. In my house of three daughters, three dogs, three cats and three fish, I’m in charge, sort of.
Since we met, my wife, who runs her own asset management recruiting firm, has always had less work freedom than I. Even before kids, I was doing laundry.
I’ve been fortunate that as the Wealth Matters columnist I’ve had a tremendous amount of freedom — as long as a daughter didn’t get sick on Wednesday, my deadline day. Otherwise, I could move calls and write at night to take my girls to doctors’ appointments, play dates, and after-school activities. Or just to sit and talk to them.
There have been comic moments, for sure. Sitting in my car outside a ballet class, I hung up on a former Clinton administration official. Our pediatrician was calling!
When I called her back, I didn’t feel I could say that my daughter’s test results were more important than our interview.
In ending my column, I’m resetting the count. I’m going to start a platform that will bring together lead dads who are the lead parents, whether they’re full-time, stay-at-home parents or the ones who maneuver their work around the needs of their children, spouse and everything else in their house. I’ve often felt alone balancing these two amazing jobs — Times columnist and lead dad — and I plan to create a community for a growing but still nontraditional group of fathers.
But before I go, I need to apologize to the Clinton administration official, Laura Tyson, the former head of the Council of Economic Advisers. I’m sorry I hung up on you in 2015, but I was worried about my daughter.