How much land does a man need?

The cost of taking money out of your retirement account before retirement age is much higher than anyone likes to consider.  There is the 10% penalty right off the bat — and people usually have 10% withheld and think they are “covered.”  This is just the beginning.  I have seen people end up paying 50% of their distribution in taxes and penalties.  If you’re not retirement age and thinking of taking an early distribution, I’m happy to go over the implications with you.  CMR Accounting PSC — after all, that’s what we accountants do.

Now, I do understand that sometimes an early retirement distribution is just what you have to do — life is that way.  But recently a client contacted me about withdrawing his retirement to buy another piece of land — a piece of land adjoining his farm.  Leo Tolstoy’s very long short story, “How Much Land does a Man Need?” came to mind.  It has been a favorite of mine for years, and I’ve retold it countless times.  For those of you who haven’t worked through the Russian names to get to the story, it goes like this:

Early in the story, a peasant named Pakhom makes the comment that his only trouble is that he doesn’t have land enough.  He works hard and obtains some land.  He is content for a while, then he realizes that he needs more.  The pattern repeats again and again.  He hears of a place where a man can have all the land he wants.  After selling everything that he owns, he travels with his one thousand rubles to this distant land.  The Chief explains that they sell the land by the day — “As much as you can go round on your feet in a day is yours, and the price is one thousand rubles a day… But there is one condition: If you don’t return on the same day to the spot when you started, your money is lost.”  He began at dawn and walked the first boundary of a beautiful piece of land, but before turning back to the beginning spot he sees a lush meadow.  Just past the lush meadow was a clear lake, and so the day continued with him seeing more and more land that he needs.  As the sun begins to set, he realizes that he can’t make it back in time and begins running — his heart pounding.  He makes it back just as the sun sets, and falls to the ground — dead.  “His servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for Pakhom to lie in, and buried him in it.  Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.”

How much do we need?

Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 10:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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