You must have seen by now the list that Forbes magazine released on its annual roundup of the richest people in America and leaping lizards, I missed the list again…by the proverbial mile.

Bill Gates has the most money, checking in with $46 billion. That's with a "B" as in more than I know what to do with.

Our friend Warren Buffett is a shade back in second with only $36 billion while Microsoft's co-founder, Paul Allen, runs a distant third at $22 billion. Incidentally, in case you are staying up nights worrying about this, the wealth of the top 400 actually increased by a full 10% this year.

I do not know who Bill Gates retains as his financial planner but I wonder whether he even needs one. I am making this judgment solely on my own outlook. For example, I just took out a lottery ticket for a Mega Millions here in New York. It cost me a buck and I have a snowman's chance in hell to win $105 million. But, suppose….?

As I lie in bed staring at the ceiling, I am contemplating what I can do with the lottery winnings. First of all, I don't need a financial planner to tell me to take the money in bulk and run. At my age, I won't be around for those 20- or 30-year payoffs. So, immediately that $105 million has been sliced in half. Now I am only talking about $50 million (give or take a few mil). Uncle Sam is standing over there in the corner of my bedroom holding a huge trash can. He'll take half of what I have and I am therefore reduced to a mere $25 million. But thankfully, that's net.

Now, what do I do? You know something, other than buying a pro team somewhere, I couldn’t spend the $25 million unless I was putting it in bricks and mortar at my two colleges. So, I am struggling to find out how to spend this sum of money when Rosie, the distaff side of me, aggressively pokes my ribs. "Let's not worry about that," she says. "You give me the $25 million and I'll know what to do with it."

But, we're only talking bupkus here. Look at Gates. 46 billion. You know what a billion is? Here in the U.S., it is represented by a one followed by nine zeros. Actually, according to my alma mater, through the Oxford English Dictionary, a billion was purposely formed in the 16th century to denote the second power of a million. Trillion and quadrillion was similarly formed to denote its 3rd and 4th powers. "The name appears not to have been adopted in England before the end of the 17th century. Subsequently, the application of the word was changed by French arithmeticians, figures being divided in numeration into groups of threes, instead of sixes, so that F. billion, trillion now denote not the second and third powers of a million, but a thousand millions and a thousand thousand millions."

Sure, it's the French causing all these problems for you and me. One thousand million equals a billion and Gates has 46 billion. Staggering, isn't it?

But Gates is in deep trouble as are all those other people with tons and tons of money. Why? Because the government doesn't make anything more than a 100 dollar bill. In fact, the $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 denominations have not been printed since 1946. So, the most you can get at your local bank is a $100 note and as of May 31, 2003, of the $659,160,111,810 in total currency in worldwide circulation, $469,345,519,400 is in the $100 denomination. Can you imagine stacking those bills up to equal 46 billion? No wonder Gates has a mansion.

Incidentally, I thought I should mention that on the front of the $100 note is Ben Franklin and on the back is Independence Hall in my native Philadelphia. If you ever wander across this bill, take a gander at the three people depicted in the engraving on the back. Two (a man and a woman) are in front of the Hall close to the building; the third person is a man pictured looking toward the building. There is no record that the man and woman are embracing.

As to that third person, he looks suspiciously familiar. Could it be??????

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