The long and short of height stagnation

by winemama

Make America Tall Again? Height Stagnation in the 20th Century

It’s good to be tall. Tall people live longer, are considered more attractive, and make more money – an extra inch of height is correlated with an additional $800 in income….

Countries with tall people are wealthier, have longer average life spans, and are less likely to have experienced conflict. There’s no better sign of a country’s health and wealth than height….

Rather than genetics, diet and well-being during infancy and adolescence are the primary determinants of a country’s average height. During these growth periods, the body has the greatest need for nutrients. Sickness and malnourishment in childhood can mean a loss ofthree to four inches in height….

The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. The average man is nearly 6 feet tall, compared to 5’ 9” ½ in the United States, and the average woman is 5’ 6” ½ compared to 5 4” ½ in the U.S….

The United States was once among the tallest countries in the world.

According to the data, Americans born in 1896 were the 3rd tallest in the world, and as recently as 1951, Americans were 10th. But the second half of the 20th Century was a period of sharp relative decline for American height. Today, the United States ranks 40th, and the height of the average American (5’ 7”) is no greater today than it was for those born in 1950….

The most likely answer is that with equally distributed economic growth, average height across the world could grow several more inches, but not much more. Anthropometric researchers and anthropologists tend to agree that the Dutch have reached close to the limits of human height.

Discuss

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171 thoughts on “The long and short of height stagnation

  1. I think it’s because of continued immigration to the USA from Asia & Latin America where people are shorter. They make up a relatively larger proportion of society now, lowering our overall average height. Whereas perhaps such immigration to the Netherlands is not happening. Conjecture, sure.

  2. If your parents are 5’6″ (mother) and 5’9″ (father), even if the girl child is well nourished and healthy during all the critical years, how much more would she be in height according to this premise than the 5’6″ female? I definitely see the link between being undernourshed or sickly and stunted growth. My DD#2 had some health issues as an infant/toddler and was short and chunky (muscular) for her age. When she no longer needed steriods daily, she thinned out and sprouted. Now, at 5’8″, she hasn’t finished growing.

    In our family – DD#1 has stopped growing at 5’6.5″, I’m just under 5’7″, their dad is 6′ and we’re not sure where DD#2 will end. My parents were 5’7″ and 6′ respectively and his parents were 5’10” and 6′ respectively. So, I guess I technically shrunk – reducing the statistics?

  3. Interesting! Austinmom, is your dad athletic at all? I am wondering to what extent being physically very active promotes height increase.

  4. “It’s good to be tall. Tall people live longer…”

    that’s not what I’ve always heard.

    Last week, a team of researchers led by Geoffrey Kabat of Albert Einstein College of Medicine published a study showing that each additional 4 inches of height increases the risk of all types of cancer by 13 percent among post-menopausal women.

    Most of the benefits of height come down to our inability to separate correlation from causation. Height doesn’t make people smart; the two traits are simply outgrowths of the same underlying cause. Parents who can afford to feed and raise their children well have kids that are both taller and smarter.

    The fact that tall people die younger appears to be an immutable physical reality. A short person is like a Honda Civic: compact and efficient. Tall people are Cadillac Escalades. With all that extra weight and machinery, something’s just bound to go wrong.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/07/height_and_longevity_the_research_is_clear_being_tall_is_hazardous_to_your.html

  5. This is such a hot button topic for me. The expectation is that even when the parents are not particularly tall, the kids will end up taller presumably because of better nutrition (or a miracle). Some branches of DHs family ended up on the taller side. They in turn married taller women which pushed up the expected height for the kids. I am short so, the odds my kids will end up tall are low, inspite of good nutrition.

  6. Milo,

    On the other hand:

    “In the U.S. population, about 14.5 percent of all men are six feet or over.”
    “Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58 percent.”
    “Even more strikingly, in the general American population, 3.9 percent of adult men are 6’2″ or taller. Among my CEO sample, 30 percent were 6’2″ or taller.”

    Getting ahead in the world is a lot easier if you’re tall.

  7. Rhett – I totally agree with that aspect. Someone on here once pointed out that by those standards, short men should qualify for some sort of affirmative action or preferential hiring.

    I just disputed the “live longer” claim.

  8. I’m 5’8 and DH is 5’10. I like our heights because it means we’re close to the average height that many things are designed for (e.g. cars, movie theater seats). In the past I would have also said airline seats but I’m not sure who they are designed for. When I fly, I’m always grateful I’m not any taller than I am – I don’t know how someone who is 6 feet or taller manages (other than first or business class).

    DD is my height (5’8); she’s 16 and I’m guessing she’s reached her full height. When I plug DS’ stats into the height predictors, he’s predicted to grow to 6 feet.

  9. I’m 5’7 and DH is 6’1

    DS is tall, he is 95th percentile I think

    I feel like baby strollers and washers/dryers (even on pedestal) are designed for shorter people than myself

    I thought you guys would like this topic because we had discussed before height/attractiveness and pay

  10. What is the take on human growth hormone ? One of my colleagues is short, she married a tall guy around 6′ 1. Her DS is trending on the shorter side, so they are closely monitoring his height and there was talk of giving him growth hormones if necessary.
    There is the foggy area of waiting to see what happens in puberty. But isn’t there a limited time window for impacting height ?

  11. What is the take on human growth hormone ?

    It looks like it’s approved for any child who would have an adult height at or below the 3rd percentile. For a guy that would be an adult height of 5’4″ and below. Given how much of a burden being a 5’4″ guy would be I’d be 110% in favor. Now, if the kid was 6’2″ and he wanted to be 6’6″ to be better at basketball – that would probably be a mistake.

  12. I totally disagree that genetics are not important. My DD is tiny, not because she isn’t well nourished, but because she comes from southwest China where people tend to be shorter even then northern Chinese people. She is pretty much the same height as all the kids who were adopted as babies from that orphanage at that time (there are 10 of them, all the same age). Yet I have to constantly battle pediatricans and school nurses who are concerned that she is 3rd percentile on the American growth charts. I keep telling them to plot her size on the charts for Asian kids (yes, that does exist)

  13. ” Now, if the kid was 6’2″ and he wanted to be 6’6″ to be better at basketball – that would probably be a mistake.”

    Why? What are the risks or tradeoffs? Genuine question.

  14. “I totally disagree that genetics are not important.”

    Completely agree with Mooshi. The idea that genetics are not important is ludicrous. Imagine a chihuahua getting optimal nutrition from conception until it reaches the end of the its growth cycle. In no fashion will it reach the size of a Great Dane.

    Genetics matter. What kind of science education is going on that there is any question about this.

  15. I’m the average of my parents’ heights… but my mom is shrinking, so I’m closer to my dad’s height. I’m also the same height as my aunt, so I think if my mom didn’t have her medical problems, she would be my height as well.

    In my dad’s family, I’m the tallest female by about 2 inches. That’s changing though – my cousin’s daughter will be taller than me by college.

    I think Fred had the right answer – immigration may be affecting the averages. I haven’t read the article, but wonder if anyone has controlled for immigration status (i.e. number of generations since immigration) and if that has changed the averages.

    Mathematically, wouldn’t median be the better number to use for this discussion?

  16. Rhett, unless your child has a growth hormone deficiency, which can be tested for, insurance won’t pay for the growth hormone. We went through this a couple of years ago with DS2, who is very short. In his case, he is short due to medical treatment. Some of the survivors have had success with growth hormone, but they were all kids who had head radiation and were showing deficiencies as a result. My DS2 did not have that risk factor. We went through the testing anyway, but he did not show deficiencies. Because of that, and because the late effects doctor at that time was against growth hormone (research was still out as to whether it could be a risk factor for relapse), we did not pursue it. Now, a couple of years later, the late effects guy has changed his mind. I wish we had done it, because a couple of survivors now who did not have the risk factors have seen success with it. Although on the other hand, we met a survivor this summer, who at age 14 is only 4’5″ – she had tried growth hormone with no effect.

  17. I am short. DH is average. It is likely that both of our boys will be on the short side of average (hopefully). We never considered HGH.

  18. “What kind of science education is going on that there is any question about this.”

    Cordelia – you’ve hit the nail on the head. Can of worms, but we don’t have good science education in this country. People are afraid of the word “genetics” (GMOs, etc) and fear “DNA”. Seriously.

    And I do agree with you – genetics controls probably 85-90% of the equation. Life circumstances and nutrition the other 10-15%.

  19. Why? What are the risks or tradeoffs? Genuine question.

    If Mike Krzyzewski swore that the kid was the next Micheal Jordan and the only thing holding him back was 4″? I’d go for it – if the kid was on board.

    In terms of dating and career prospects, I’d need to see some data on 6″6 being much better than 6’2. I think above 6’2″ the returns tend to diminish.

  20. At 5’7″, I am taller than both of my parents, slightly taller than my sister, and 2 inches taller than my brother. Not sure what happened there. My husband is 5’11”. He is also the tallest in his family. My oldest kid is probably close to his full height now, at 5’8″. Perhaps the short genetics on both sides of the family are dragging him down?

  21. “I keep telling them to plot her size on the charts for Asian kids (yes, that does exist)”

    An ob-gyn friend had an Asian patient with an Asian husband. They were both below-average height. When they expressed concern that a sonogram indicated that their baby was smaller than “normal”, she pointed out that two tiny people should expect to have a small baby. But she was amazed that she needed to point that out.

  22. “Mathematically, wouldn’t median be the better number to use for this discussion?”

    Rhode, maybe, but I do not think so. Unlike income where a very few Gates, Ellison, Buffett etc. can skew the mean because they are so off the charts .00001%, height doesn’t work that way. There just aren’t that many men > 6’2″ (~1/25 per Rhett’s stat above). If we added a few more at the 99.99999%-tile it won’t move the needle, mostly because even the tallest person, say 8′, is only 39% taller than average (5’9.5″) guy, whereas for income the highest earner makes ~2000x (I used $100MM vs $50k) the average.

  23. I am short (barely 5’2″). My brother is tall (6’1″). My mother had two siblings, and they ran the height gamut: Her sister was short like me, she was above average (5’6″), and her brother was tall (about 6′). In both cases, the siblings grew up in the same household with the same diet; yet the height result was all over the charts. I think the only explanation is pure genetic roulette.

  24. I have a experiment brewing in my house.

    DS and new baby will receive the same level of care and nutrition from parents from conception through whenever they leave my house. DS growth restricted. New baby may be typical across the board. If new baby is typical, I will be able to see, for the most part, how far “behind” DS really is. Especially if we have another boy.

    MM – where does DS1 fall on the curves or compared with DS2 at the same age? Under the assumption that genetics are very similar and nutrition is the same, how different are they? Very curious question that you don’t have to answer… just linked to my own “experiment” above.

  25. DH and I are both a bit taller than average, but all of the boys are well over six feet. DIL is nearly six fee tall as well, and was thrilled that DS is 6′ 5″. But cars, airplane seats, and strollers are not designed for tall people, and they had to rule out some older prospective homes because doorways were too low.
    OTOH, all of the boys would have been much more likely bully magnets, due to their inherent nerdiness, if they hadn’t been taller than most of the bullies and gifted with deep, threatening voices.

  26. Rhode – we do the same thing in our house! I definitely compare my former preemie to his fullterm siblings. It is kind of fascinating to see certain things that don’t appear to be affected (even though many preemies have that issue) and things that have been affected.

  27. Rhode, DS1 is 5’8″ and may scrape to 5’9″ (he is 16 but his growth has slowed a lot in the last year). DS2 is 14 and just starting his spurt. He is predicted to make 5’4″, hopefully, though I wouldn’t be suprised if it is more like 5’2″

  28. DH and my brothers are all within an inch of six feet. Two SILs and I are a few inches above average height for women. One SIL below average. All the male offspring except the twelve year old are well above 6 feet. Two of the males do not fit in cars. Not overweight, just overtall. Only one female offspring is above average female height and hasn’t stopped growing yet.

    My mother never topped five feet, later in life, we realized that she had a chronic health condition. Genetics and environment interact, but the best an organism can do is fulfill its genetic potential.

    Humans are mammals, and genetics matter.

  29. My siblings and I, and DH and his brother, are all taller than our same-sex parent. DH and I are tallish – I am 5’8″ and he is 6′. Height was a dealbreaker for me when I was dating – I wouldn’t consider anyone my height (or really, under 5’10”). Our #2 seems to be consistently 95% for height, so he *should* end up around 6’3″. Our pediatrician tells us that you can’t tell with girls until puberty – right now both of ours are average.

    I totally notice in our new house that the counters are standard height (36″) instead of the 39″ we had them put in in our old kitchen. If we ever redo this kitchen, I will have them hike up the counters to the taller height. It makes a really big difference when chopping things and doing dishes not to have to bend so far down.

  30. Our pediatrician tells us that you can’t tell with girls until puberty – right now both of ours are average.

    I don’t know, my small daughter always had tiny teeth. My tall daughter always had huge teeth.

    When we redid the house, we had cabinets and showers sized comfortably for DH and I. Then we noticed that small DD looked ridiculous in the bathroom and couldn’t reach stuff. We redid the plans so at least part of the house was right sized for her.

  31. “Height was a dealbreaker for me when I was dating – I wouldn’t consider anyone my height (or really, under 5’10”). ”

    I didn’t have enough interest from the opposite sex to rule out a good guy based on height, but my husband is 6 inches taller than me, and the guy I dated before him was taller than me also

  32. I did prefer someone taller, or at least my height

    men, did you prefer to date women shorter than you?

  33. Genetics is but one part of equation! My extended family runs the gamut with short barely 5’2″ parents with 6’2″ child etc. Or taller parents with smaller children. No discernible difference between nutrition, in fact the taller cousin may have been eating less nutritious food and was not athletic.

  34. I am average to slightly above (5’6″) and all of the guys that I have dated are between 5’10 and 6’1″. Husband is 5’11”. I like it because I can wear heels and he is still taller, but he doesn’t make me feel little and afraid like some very big guys do.

  35. Funny — I didn’t like to date guys who were taller than about 6′. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it was a strong preference. I went out a couple of times with a guy who was 6’4″, and the height difference felt kind of ridiculous.

    DH is 5’10”. If I had to guess, I would guess that DD will be very petite like me, and DS will be an inch or two below average. I’m not too worried, because we have some short guys in my family, and they have done just fine.

  36. DD is barely shy of 5’9″ at 17, and is likely finished growing based on a recent xray, though she’s aching to be an actual 5’9.” She has a love interest who’s about 6’3″ or 6’4″ and she’s thrilled that if she dated him, she could wear her favorite heels and still not be taller – couldn’t say the same for most guys in her grade. At 5’4″ (at my tallest – I think I’m losing ground), I could wear stilts and still not worry. DH is 6’1″.

    My dad is 6 and so is my brother, and my mom was 5’9″. Somehow, my sister and I ended up only 5’4″. My brother’s the eldest — guess our folks used all the tall genes up on him and had none left for me and sis. ;)

    I had a “boyfriend” in MS who was a basketball player and wanted to be taller, so he put iodine drops in his OJ every morning. No idea where he got that idea but guessing his mother wasn’t about to ask about HGH, if we were even talking about it back then. He was already tall — just wanted to be sure to be on varsity in HS.

  37. “Funny — I didn’t like to date guys who were taller than about 6′. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it was a strong preference.”

    Agreed.

    DH & I are both slightly below average in height. I’m 5’3″ and he is 5’9″. I am not so short that I feel like it is a hindrance, especially as a woman. There are lots of women around my height – I don’t feel especially singled out as a “short one”. DH is close enough to average that I don’t think anyone would call him “short” exactly, but he is definitely not tall. DS is small for his age. It doesn’t seem to bother him, but he is one of the smallest in his class. I guess we will see how it pans out. I do feel like there is a serious disadvantage for men below around 5’6″ or so, and an advantage to being 6′ or taller. I hope he will at least be as tall as his father, but who knows. Neither of us have a lot of tall genes in our background.

  38. We are both short and none of the kids even hit the 5% curve on the Asian charts.

    Not being able to easily reach the top shelf at stores or even the close button on the SUV hatch is annoying, but I never feel cramped in coach :)

  39. Overall in our families there are enough people who grew to be taller than their parents, so the hope is that it would be great for males to reach 5′ 10 and females to reach 5′ 6. If a boy reached 6′ there would be no end to the humble brag and if a girl reached 5′ 7, it would be the height of winning the genetic lottery.

  40. I think people fail to see percentile (“people” not “tote baggers”) as the blunt tool that it is. Much like BMI, it is useful for trends, and useful for populations, but not always useful for individuals. Also, there are few cheap, non-invasive markers of good and normal organ function in children – weight and height are decent surrogates (if you have chronic kidney disease or heart failure, it can be first reflected in a drop of percentiles on the growth chart). We measure my daughter’s kidneys every year and I am super focused on the percentile change for her – but there is some history there.

    I had a Vietnamese couple in to the ER because their child wasn’t eating enough, and he had diarrhea because they kept switching their supplemental formula because he wouldn’t take enough of it. At 8 months, he was 10-15th percentile. Mom was 5’0”, Dad was 5’2”. I looked into the chart and could see >10 data points on the growth chart and all were between 10 and 15. I could see there had been numerous chats with the pediatrician who had reassured them this was normal. With aid of a translator phone, I emphasized that the child was growing perfectly. They left unsatisfied and without medication for the diarrhea. I find this is typical for my interactions with children and growth, though obviously my sample is quite skewed.

  41. I’ve got a middle child who is 10th percentile height and a youngest who is 75th. They are in a stage with matching haircuts that leads to a lot of “are they twins?”. I think my girls will be short (like me) and the boy will be tall (like DH) – which is the best of all possible outcomes for them.

    As a short woman, I find I am very bad at gauging heights. In my mind, my dad is the same height as DH as is my brother (5’8, 6’0, 5’10). Almost everyone falls in the category of “taller than me”, so it is all the same.

  42. I tried to find Asian growth charts (because I am skeptical that 3rd percentile CDC/WHO is that different than 3rd percentile Asian) – but it seems like there are none that are accepted as being based on a fair population sample. Most are convenience samples from the 60s and 70s, which I would think are not representative, especially of adopted children.

  43. Rhett – interesting. I didn’t know that powerball (or NH?) allowed you to remain anonymous. MA doesn’t. (Note – I had to research this at my first law firm for a lottery winner client – one of a few!)

  44. also off topic…if anyone took Friday’s equity market plunge too hard (S&P down 53 pts, 2.4%), not to worry…31 of those points have been gained back today.

  45. L,

    My understanding is that some state don’t require the winner to be publicly identified. If you had a Boston office pool and a co-worker lived in NH, it might make sense to have them buy the tickets at home. Then you could all remain anonymous. You’d need to take pics of the tickets and send them out of course because, being anonymous, if your NH co-worker one and you had no records you wouldn’t know they won with one of the group’s tickets.

  46. L,

    You do trusts and estates, right? I assume, based on what little information we have, that they received competent legal and financial advice i.e. they did what you would do or advise any of us to do?

  47. “Not being able to easily reach the top shelf at stores or even the close button on the SUV hatch is annoying, but I never feel cramped in coach :)”

    Same here. I always volunteer for the middle seat in the airplane when flying with DH.

  48. Funny story concerning height. DD went on a surfing trip with a school group. Kids lined up according to height so they could be given the proper sized surf board. DD was the tallest girl. All of the boys who came after her in height said that they were taller than she is and they insisted that they should stand in front of her. She just laughed at them. She thought that it was funny that teenage boys are so obsessed with how tall they are compared to others.

  49. Rhett – yes, makes total sense. You want to take the lump sum in one year, hold it in an irrevocable trust so you’re not worried about estate tax, and give the most you are comfortable giving to charity *in the same year* so you can take that deduction.

  50. L,

    I wonder if most folks here would consider keeping it a secret from their minor and/or adult children. As most seem to be apposed to supporting their adult children’s lifestyle a strong case can be made for keeping it a secret.

  51. Rhett – No way could I keep that a secret. They’d wonder why neither of us was going to work any more.

  52. Rhett – if I lived in NH, I would absolutely keep secret, BUT not because of our kids, because of privacy issues. You instantly become a target for burglary/other property crimes, charitable solicitations, scams, etc.

    Kind of like my client who is a young guy, doesn’t work, and has a 4 BR house and 3 luxury cars. Unfortunately, he is an obvious mark for ne’er-do-wells.

  53. They’d wonder why neither of us was going to work any more.

    Doesn’t your wife work from home already? How would they even know if you announced that you were working from home as well?

  54. L,

    But would you keep it a secret from the kids?

    A. they could (and likely would) blab.
    B. to keep they doing their homework.

    “Why should I do it or even go to college, it’s not like I’ll ever have to work?”

  55. I used to worry about my height and weight, and then I got older and real life started intervening. With illness and job losses and my body slowly falling apart as I age, I’m just grateful for my family’s health and happiness.

  56. “How would they even know if you announced that you were working from home as well?”

    They know when she’s working and not working. Neither of us would be doing it going forward. And it’s not like there wouldn’t be some big changes going on if we got an after-tax $250M.

  57. We recently updated our wills and considered the timing of disbursement to our kids. We agreed that the final lump sum would be at age 32. Our attorney said 30 or so is common among his clients. I wonder what L’s experience is.

    Although I am only average height, I grew up thinking I was tall because I’m the tallest female among close family members. That sense of being tall had a positive effect on my confidence.

  58. Rhett – probably not, but I would give them some carrots/sticks in the form of threatened disinheritance. These days, even an irrevocable trust can be changed with the right limited powers to amend. ;)

  59. Milo,

    there wouldn’t be some big changes going on if we got an after-tax $250M.

    Isn’t there anything you would do that couldn’t be explained by a high end totebag income say $850k?

  60. I am shorter than my parents and sibs; my husband and older two children (youngest is still about an inch shorter!); and for that matter my husband and his parents and sibs, although his mother is only about an inch taller. But I think I have an overinflated sense of my own height so it doesn’t really bother me except when my husband puts things up high and I don’t have a stool around.

  61. “Is there anything you would do that couldn’t be explained by a high end totebag income say $850k?”

    So at a 2% dividend rate, that’s $5M a year. The sheer quantity of “toys” would be insane. Start with something like this, for the Loop:

    While we’re gone, I’d be having someone build the biggest, ugliest McMansion you’ve ever seen.

  62. The sheer quantity of “toys” would be insane.

    I wonder about that. There are some totebaggers who spend a lifetime saving for retirement and as a result they have a lot of money but due to a lifetime of saving they just can’t get themselves to spend. Personally, I can’t imaging you living a lifestyle that would cost $100k a week to support or anything close to it.

    I’d be having someone build the biggest, ugliest McMansion you’ve ever seen.

    Acres of aluminum siding, vinyl even! You’d want to but you just wouldn’t’ be able to pull the trigger.

  63. ” Personally, I can’t imaging you living a lifestyle that would cost $100k a week to support or anything close to it. ”

    Perhaps not, but then again, how do I explain even the $850k lifestyle?

  64. Sample of things you can’t do with ‘regular’ totebagger income: fly all of your friends, your food, your staff, and the band you like down to the Caribbean for a week. Also fireworks for each night (probably flown in a separate plane). Reportedly this was a $1M vacation (for a week!). ;)

  65. Rhode – I think you are wrong about the same environment for both kids. The uterus/placenta environment is different in different pregnancies, and may have a lot to do with long term growth potential (among other things). I think our bodies get better at growing babies each time we do it – generally each baby is 1/2 lb heavier at birth than the last (with lots and lots of anecdotal exceptions, I’m sure). IUGR (intrauterine growth retardation) is often thought to be related to some forms of placental insufficiency – new placenta, whole new environment.

    Spring boarding back to the original discussion – first babies are more likely to have IUGR. I also think that very young mothers and very old (>35!) tend to have babies with more chronic problems, genetic and acquired. The fact that maternal age is advancing may be skewing height numbers (people think that increase in maternal age is skewing c-section data).

  66. how do I explain even the $850k lifestyle?

    You got a really great new job. I don’t know enough about what you do to make up a plausible story. If it were another totebagger… Meme could say she got hired by Apple as a $425/hr tax consultant to help them with their Ireland issue, PTM could get a job with his buddies hedge fund as a special adviser, etc.

  67. Ada – my middle (boy) is 10th percentile and youngest (girl) is 75th percentile so I get asked weekly if they are twins. DH’s brother was built the same way (10th percentile growing up) and was about 120 pounds until he was 30. He actually ended up being taller than DH in the end even though he was always the smallest kid in every class/team, etc.

    Risley – that’s interesting about the iodine supplementation. Maybe because iodine improves thyroid function if you’re deficient…

  68. I would spend more on vacations, cars, private air travel, home, second home, and assistance for stuff I hate to do in my house. This would include outsourcing meal planning and cooking, organizing, decorating, repairs, cleaning, almost everything.

    I think I could easily pass $850k since at least half would automatically disappear through taxes. Throw in some property taxes on a primary and secondary home, and I need lottery to live the way that I would really like to live in this state.

    We just had the height discussion with pediatrician at the end of August. She thinks DD will be 5’3 or 5’4. That’s my height and it’s ok.

    BTW, a few of her friends did hormones and the results are just ok. It really depends on the kid, and it isn’t like you can jump from 5 feet to 5’6. It’s a small amount, but it can give you a couple of inches.

  69. I think I could easily pass $850k since at least half would automatically disappear through taxes.

    Mitt was paying 14% on his $13.7 million dollar income. If you had a tax efficiency invested $250 million, your tax rate would be quite low.

  70. “While we’re gone, I’d be having someone build the biggest, ugliest McMansion you’ve ever seen.”

    Ha! But would you use shoddy materials?

  71. I am amused at how much time is being spent planning how best to hide (non-existent) lottery winnings.

    And I wouldn’t go with a cover story specific enough to be falsified. If you’re attributing the money to a pretend big client, just say it’s nothing illegal but your client is willing to pay extra for anonymity so you can’t say more.

  72. No. Let’s try this for the final time. Everyone who is no longer in a uterus is different from those still in a uterus. I consider the former to be those that I was referring to when I talked about “those affected.” Those in a uterus are not.

  73. Honolulu- it’s a running joke in my family that I have no sense of how petite I am. For example I told my boys that I didn’t feel short because I was normal sized through middle school and then just stopped growing after I already had my sense of identity- subsequently they found a class photo of me in 6th grade and I was the tiniest in the class! I had no idea! There are myriad examples of my delusion. I’ll say someone was about my height when it turns out they are 5 or 6 inches taller…

  74. I bet you are right that I would have the ability to shield more income from the IRS if I had more money. It is tough now when most of our earnings are reported on a W2 so we do pay a high effective tax rate.

  75. Grandma was 5’0″, Mom was 5’3″, and Sis and I are both a smidge over 5’6″. Mom used to constantly complain “I’m too short for any known purpose” as she dragged her step-stool around the kitchen so she could reach everything.

  76. “I’ll say someone was about my height when it turns out they are 5 or 6 inches taller…”

    Ha! Similar to my delusion about my age, but I’ve wised up and finally consider myself “old”. I used to say someone was about my age but they were really about 10 years younger.

  77. DH is 6’6″, so he has enjoyed the benefits and the pitfalls of his height. I think it definitely helped at work because he looked like he was in charge, but fitting into most cars and coach airplane seats is tough. He is happy with his height, so that is a good thing! We had to rule out quite a few houses when were looking because they had staircases or doorways that he could barely fit under.

    Our kids came out to be a good mix – DD is 5’7 1/2 or 5’8″ and DS is 6’4″ (I am 5’6″).

    We have friends with two grown sons. The dad is probably 6’6″ and the mom is 6 feet. Luckily they had sons, because their kids are 6’5″ and 6’9″!!

  78. I used to say someone was about my age but they were really about 10 years younger.

    I probably do that too.

  79. I have a rule of thumb that everyone thinks that people who are 5-6 years younger are about their age but 5-6 years older is definitely older.

  80. My dad was 6’1″ – his father was slightly over 5’4″ – two of his brothers were 5″10″ and 6′, another brother was barely 5’6″, their mom was about 5’8″. My brother is about 6’1″, my one sister was 5″8″, my other sister is 5″7″ and I was 5″4 1/2″. Poor nutrition can definitely stunt growth but I believe genetics play a bigger role.

  81. Forgot to mention that when my first born was two years old her pediatrician told me she would be about 5’1″ based on her growth chart, She is about 5’6″, her sister is 5″4″ and my son is 6’1″. My husband is 5’8″.

  82. “PTM could get a job with his buddies hedge fund as a special adviser, etc.”

    In my dreams, Rhett! My hedge fund buddy doesn’t really spend much money as a percentage of his income. (Or what I read or hear that his income is.) But cash outflow is not a problem.

    They live in the same house they’ve lived in forever in Greenwich. It is to die for, but modest by some of the newer houses build by other hedge funders and well paid entertainment folks. He drives an old car. All their kids have decent jobs.

    They are very generous, though. Embarrassingly so, to me who feels like he should pay his own way. I think they do their wealth the right way.

  83. “They are very generous, though. Embarrassingly so, to me who feels like he should pay his own way. I think they do their wealth the right way.”

    I think that would be one of the tough parts of having so much money. The people you really want to hang out with are the ones who, like PTM, feel they should pay their own way. The ones always willing to be the recipients of your generosity aren’t necessarily the people you want to hang out with.

    So unless you have some really wealthy friends (like PTM’s), you may end up living well below your means, especially if you are very social and enjoy spending a lot of time with people outside your immediate family.

  84. “Two of the males do not fit in cars. Not overweight, just overtall. ”

    How tall are they?

    Local legend is that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is generally considered to be tall, used to spend enough time here that he kept a specially modified car here for those times. It was a Honda Civic, and this was back when Civics really were compact cars, e.g.,

    He did modify it to accomodate his height. He removed the driver’s seat and drove from the back seat, bringing to life the proverbial back-seat driver.

  85. “I keep telling them to plot her size on the charts for Asian kids (yes, that does exist)”
    “I tried to find Asian growth charts (because I am skeptical that 3rd percentile CDC/WHO is that different than 3rd percentile Asian) – but it seems like there are none that are accepted as being based on a fair population sample.”

    Do you know any pediatricians here? My guess is that a lot of pediatricians here use the Asian growth charts a lot more than the white ones.

    “At 8 months, he was 10-15th percentile.”

    This reminds me of DS. At that age, he was in the 90+ %ile on the (racially appropriate) growth chart for height, but he was <1%ile for weight.

  86. “I totally notice in our new house that the counters are standard height (36″) instead of the 39″ we had them put in in our old kitchen. If we ever redo this kitchen, I will have them hike up the counters to the taller height. It makes a really big difference when chopping things and doing dishes not to have to bend so far down.”

    Will you also install taller toilets?

    In your kitchen, would you install the upper cabinets higher also, or would you leave them at standard height, leaving less space between the counters and the cabinets?

  87. OK, here’s a candidate for Milo’s explanation of his $850k lifestyle, keeping in mind that he’s mentioned before that his DW doesn’t really need to work for them to maintain their lifestyle:

    Tell the kids that since marriage, you’ve been living on less than your salary, and putting away and investing your DW’s salary, and she’s been well paid. Thanks to that savings, as well as the return on your investments (most notably the lottery payout, which you don’t need to mention specifically), you’ve finally reached the point where you feel comfortable giving up your jobs, and instead spending some of your time, but not as much as you spent on your jobs, managing your investments, and you are confident that with your active management, you will be able to increase your investment income to where it more than covers all of your expenses.

    Truthful, but avoids spilling the beans about the lottery winnings.

    You could also tell them that you’d been saving money to send them to private schools, but since they’re doing fine in publics, you’ve decided to spend that money on things you enjoy.

  88. “men, did you prefer to date women shorter than you?”

    No. Given the primary challenge of acceptance of my invitations, it did not make sense to limit the field in any way.

  89. “give the most you are comfortable giving to charity *in the same year* so you can take that deduction.”

    Would it make sense to set up a foundation, and give that foundation a big chunk, e.g., the next 20 years’ worth of giving, then have the foundation dole it out over those 20 years?

  90. I have been surprised to see a couple of tween/early teen boys grow so quickly since the start of middle school. They are probably already 5′ 10/11.
    I haven’t noticed that quick of a change in height for the girls.

  91. men, did you prefer to date women shorter than you?

    No, I don’t see why height matters. (I’m 5-8). I find it fascinating that so many women refuse to even consider dating a man shorter than them. One of the radio shows did a segment on this a while back because a woman who was 6-2 was complaining about how limited her dating pool is because she could only date men taller than her.

  92. I (used to) date short guys occasionally, but my main serious boyfriend was 6’1″, and my husband is 6’1″. I don’t recall having it in my list of requirements, but I suppose it’s worth looking at my behavior rather than my words.

  93. My Dad’s family comes from around the German/Dutch border and another northern German acquaintance is 6′ 6″ and says back problems are really common for tall people. Mr WCE is 5′ 9″ and doesn’t like being average height. (He feels short.) We went shoe shopping when we were dating and it was so refreshing to just buy shoes in a normal (10 or 11) size. My Dad and brothers are shoe size 14, 15 and 16 and you are at the store for-stinkin’-ever as they hunt for last year’s lost box of tangerine/aquamarine sneakers in either size 15 or 16 to see if they are POSSIBLY large enough.

    Two of three boys are ~35th percentile; one boy (one of the twins) is 65th percentile. I suspect all will wind up between 5′ 8″ and 6′.

    Average has a lot to be said for it.

  94. Finn, we didn’t have many upper cabinets in the last kitchen, but we did indeed make them higher so they had the standard clearance (18″?) between counter and cabinet. I can’t remember the toilets we picked, but the ones here are DEFINITELY lower than the ones I would have chosen.

    Also, ix-nay on your own foundation, the deductibility of those is only 30% of gross instead of 50% for public charities. BUT you can kind of do the same thing with the Fidelity gift fund (donor advised fund) – those are a public charity but they just hold the money for you until you decide to whom to give it.

  95. DH is 5’8″. My father is 6’4″ and my brother is 6′, so I think he feels short around them. DS is 5’10” and may still grow another inch or two. DD left for college at 4’11.5″, and is now almost 5’1″. My MIL was shorter than that, as was my grandmother, so it’s definitely a genetic thing. My Dad used to joke that my son would get a regressive gene for height, and while not tall by Dad’s family’s standards, he is tall relative my DH’s family. My kids are 4.5 years apart, one a red head and one brunette, and different genders, and we still got the “are they twins” question. When my sister was in Ireland and met a lot of my dad’s cousins, they told her the LastName women are all very intelligent and very tall. So clearly, we are adopted.

  96. Finn – Not that any of us could not pull off the deception, but disguising the lifestyle funded by lottery winnings as something that’s attainable relatively easily through a decade or so of savings from middle-class jobs is not particularly helpful in giving kids a realistic understanding of work trade offs.

  97. One of our neighbors had a relative pass on and they took two vacations that they otherwise wouldn’t have taken with the inheritance. They have been upfront with their kids about it. I don’t know if there is more money that has been saved or whether it was all spent.
    Now, if the Milo family were our neighbors and suddenly came into lottery winnings, my kids would be collecting neighborhood gossip as to how Mr. Milo can afford his boat, vacations, McMansion and only tinker about his property all day. My DS would think there was something illegal going on, maybe some pot growing in the woods in the back.

  98. “something that’s attainable relatively easily through a decade or so of savings from middle-class jobs”

    I didn’t say anything about it being easy. The key, upon which I didn’t expound, is that you had a certain investment (lottery ticket) perform well beyond what anyone should plan on happening.

  99. L, I’m curious about how the counter and cabinet heights at your previous house affected resale. Perhaps it was subtle enough that an average height family buying a house with that height counters and cabinets might only notice it after moving in.

  100. “DS is 5’11” 3/4 and praying for that extra quarter inch.”

    A couple of suggestions (for MM’s DS2 as well):

    -Make sure he gets plenty of sleep. My understanding is that’s when growth happens.
    -Consider some sort of inversion system, e.g., gravity boots, which could make a quarter inch difference.

    Related story: When I was a kid, there was a minimum height requirement for cops. There were stories about guys who really wanted to be cops, but were just under the height requirement, asking friends to conk them on their heads to create a welt to get them to the minimum height.

    Keep in mind, I am not suggesting your son try that.

  101. I missed a good topic. This is very near and dear to me. I’m 5’2″ and DH is 6’1″. My oldest DD has a health condition which predicted her height to be 4’6″. She started GH when she was 4 and was not even making the growth chart. Insurance covers her GH, which currently costs $3300/month and she is on a low dose. As she gets older and taller her dosage will increase. Without a medical reason (and insurance is very specific on what conditions qualify) it does not make financial sense to take GH. She takes a daily shot/injection, and will be taking one every day for 10 years. It is a lot to ask of a child. Most studies show that starting GH early will get the best results. Once her growth plates close at puberty that is it. Three years in and we have seen extremely positive results, and is now at the 5% in the growth chart. Our goal is to get to 5″, but adding 6 inches over 10 years or so it a lot to ask. One may ask why I think it is so important for her to be taller than 4’6″ and it has to do with her condition. Low self esteem along with low muscle tone are also symptoms and taking GH can have (and does) have a positive impact.

    Back to the McMansion topic, I’m currently near Leesburg, VA and I can’t believe the McMansions out here. They are completely different that what I see in the Midwest. I’m in awe.

  102. “Our goal is to get to 5″”

    I’m going to take a wild guess that you really meant 5′.

    Even if she doesn’t get there, I think there’s a huge difference between 4’6″ and, say, 4’10”. I know a lot of women in the 4’10” to 5′ range, and while they’re on the short side, they’re probably within a couple standard deviations of mean, at least here (when I was in college, it seemed like the median height for the girls there was about 5’2″).

    OTOH, my cousin had a roommate who was about 4’7″, and that was unusually short.

    At some point she might also consider living somewhere where she will be closer to average in height. If nothing else, it will be easier for her to find clothes in such a place.

  103. Good point Finn. Currently we are surrounded by giants of Scandinavian descent. I’d like to see a map of average height by state.

    My mom is 5’2″ and my dad is 5’6″, but I would guess they are now an inch or two shorter. My DH feels like a giant in their house because the cabinets are short, light switches low, and the furniture is meant for short legs. When they redid the guest bath they made the counter sink high for him. I hate it, because it is so high. But he loves it.

  104. I’m going to take a wild guess that you really meant 5′.

    I’m going to take a wild guess that you really don’t mean to come off as an obnoxious jerk when you nitpick typos.

  105. Lemon- the historic part of Leesburg is cute. You might enjoy it for lunch or dinner if you have time. A lot of Leesburg is sprawling McMansions, but there is also a lot of old money there and regular mansions/horse farms. It is an interesting place. Not sure where everyone works who lives there. It is FAR from DC (like 2 hours during rush hour).

  106. Lemon – I laughed at the Scandinavian giants comment.

    I’m 5’8 and feel that I’m average height, if not even a little short. My family is big into sports, so I spend a lot of time around basketball and volleyball players. My sisters are 5’11 and their husbands are both 6’4″+. My brother is 6’4. My dad was 5’10/5’11 and my mom was 5’7. I think our height comes from maternal great-grandfather who was 6’4.

    Husband is 6’1 and I’m guessing kids will be about 6’0 tall. They’re going to be tiny compared to their cousins.

  107. “Not sure where everyone works who lives there.”

    The following companies are headquartered in the Dulles Technology Corridor:

    Booz Allen Hamilton
    CACI
    Carahsoft Technology Corp.
    Computer Sciences Corporation
    DLT Solutions
    DynCorp
    General Dynamics
    GeoEye
    ITT Exelis
    MicroStrategy
    Mitre Corporation
    Network Solutions
    NeuStar
    Northrop Grumman
    Orbital ATK
    SAIC
    TruShield
    XO Communications
    VeriSign
    Volkswagen

    The following companies have major regional offices located in the Dulles Technology Corridor:

    Accenture
    AgustaWestland
    Amazon Web Services
    Airbus
    AOL
    Apple
    AT&T
    BAE Systems
    Boeing
    CA, Inc.
    Capgemini
    CDW
    Charter Communications
    Cisco Systems
    Cox Communications
    Dell
    Deloitte
    EMC Corporation
    Equinix
    ESRI
    ExxonMobil
    Fairchild Dornier
    Google
    Harris Corporation
    Hewlett-Packard
    Juniper Networks
    IBM
    L-3 Communications
    Lockheed Martin
    ManTech
    Microsoft
    NEC
    NetApp
    Nissan Motors
    Nortel Networks
    Oracle Corporation
    Palo Alto Networks
    Perot Systems
    Raytheon
    Rockwell Collins
    Rolls-Royce North America
    Siemens
    Sprint Nextel
    Symantec
    Tata Communications
    Terremark
    Time Warner Cable
    Unisys
    Visa Inc.
    Verizon

  108. Finn – the market was relatively hot so not at all (list to P&S in 4 weeks, and that was with going on the market in the winter).

  109. Even Leesburg to Reston would be terrible. I have only known 2 people who have houses there. One works from home. The other has another house closer in.

  110. Somehow people manage, Kate. Not everyone can afford what you have. I doubt it’s any longer, door to door, than people riding the train from Westchester.

  111. Ha! Loudoun county is pretty uniformly rich. Many could afford something closer in if they wanted. There are cheaper places between here and there. I think a lot of gov con people work from home. Or they shift their hours.

  112. And plenty of those companies are right around Dulles. And those are just the major ones; there are an infinite number of smaller and subcontractors.

    “There are cheaper places between here and there.”

    Yeah. You can have this in Reston:
    http://www.weichert.com/65783182/

  113. “you really don’t mean to come off as an obnoxious jerk when you nitpick typos.”

    As in every family, all roles must be played. Finn is our typo-nitpicker. We expect it, and would consider it quite the accomplishment to get one past him, even if we don’t always love him for it.

  114. I like that Reston house. And I like Reston. I ride my bicycle out there a lot. Seems like a pleasant place and Reston Town Center has a lot of stuff going on.

  115. Interesting. I have a friend who just started a new job in Reston and is complaining about the commute. He would never move, though. He loves his house.

  116. I like the Creighton Farms house.

    RMS – where does he live? It is often faster to go on my bicycle than to drive. Traffic is just terrible here.

  117. Kate, he lives in Alexandria. I don’t think it’s bikeable. Also, you’d have to know this guy — biking isn’t his thing. Driving his beat-up pickup truck and pretending he’s a redneck is his thing.

  118. “I like that Reston house.”

    It’s perfectly nice, I didn’t mean it wasn’t. the screened porch is a great feature. But the Ashburn one is fancier, larger, and a more updated style.

  119. “It’s like living in a high end strip mall”

    You certainly can’t accuse them of insufficient trim-work.

  120. I like Alexandria. The commute probably is rough. And that would be too far for me to ride my bike.

  121. What is that last picture? A portico for arriving guests? A fancy carport?

    I think it would make a good place to store my pop-up camper.

    I’m realizing that we must be behind the times for not having any gray paint in our house.

  122. That $2.8M house had picture frame molding in one room. I had that in a prior house and liked it. On the Property Brothers episode I watched this week, they were mocking the molding in this couples house. In the prior episode they were mocking a family’s beige paint as tacky. Beige may be boring, but it doesn’t have enough personality to be tacky. They seem to be trying a little too hard to be edgy and are just coming across as snarky. I still like the molding.

  123. It really is beautiful out here and the sprawling horse farms with views if the “mountains”. The friend nd I’m staying with works for the government. Commutes 3 days a week, roughly 90 min one way. It works for them and the lifestyle they want. It did seem strange to eat dinner at 8 though. I’m used to a 6pm family dinner.

  124. I mentioned this before, and it’s a tragic way to develop a random sample of DC commuters, but if you read the bios of the victims of the Navy Yard shooting, there was one from DC (an African-American security officer), and just about every other was from places like Calvert County, St. Mary’s County, Frederick, MD …

    All at least 90 minutes.

  125. Not to pick on RMS’s friend, but I don’t understand the decision to live in Alexandria — where you pay a premium for the proximity to DC and Arlington work locations — if your job is in Reston. Especially if you want to play redneck, which can be much more easily and cheaply accomplished 15 miles on the other side of Reston. It must be a terrific house!

  126. “I’m used to a 6pm family dinner.”

    You MUST be from the Midwest. If you live in the DC area, eating at 6 means leaving work by 4:30.

  127. L, that house has a 5-car garage and only 3 bedrooms. So, the cars each get their own bay, but the kids have to share.

  128. If you live in the DC area, eating at 6 means leaving work by 4:30.

    Since you were sending your kids to private school anyway wouldn’t it make more sense to just live in the city? Or, did the private school come later?

  129. “You MUST be from the Midwest. If you live in the DC area, eating at 6 means leaving work by 4:30.”

    By your logic, the main traffic arteries should be relatively clear at 4:45. Hmmm.

  130. Scarlett,

    The first floor owner’s retreat features the luxury of an adjacent exercise room as well as a study.

    I assume they’ve purposed some of the bedrooms so there are actually more than 3 rooms that could be used as bedrooms.

  131. We looked at the DC area and it seemed like it would not be much different from our Boston life, commute wise or home price wise.
    We took the metro and liked it but again, that would mean park, train commute and who knows how far out on the train line we would have ended up.

  132. Louise – I think DC and Boston are pretty comparable in terms of housing costs, though I think DC is a bit more expensive in the city but drops faster in the suburbs. Boston seems to hold its value more steady throughout. In terms of housing stock, Boston has many more pretty older homes.

  133. Not to pick on RMS’s friend

    Oh, no worries. He’s definitely kind of weird. And he just got this new job in Reston. He’s worked in other parts of the DC area over the years. He does IT work and has (or had) a security clearance, so he winds up working on various 2-3 year projects (including the Obamacare signup fiasco). This last job let his clearance lapse, so it took him about 6 months to get a new job instead of the 2-3 weeks he was used to. Anyway, I think the house is the thing he finds permanent, not the jobs. Plus I don’t know where his girlfriend works, and her commute matters too.

  134. You all just make it 100% clear that I would never, ever want to live anywhere near DC. We do visit frequently because we have family around there, and I’ve never loved it, but living there sounds extremely unappealing.

    I don’t remember ever dating a guy who was actually shorter than me, but there aren’t too many guys who are under 5’3″. I definitely dated guys who were close to my height. It wasn’t a major consideration, but maybe it would have been if I was tall. I’ll never know.

    I also think it is very amusing all this talk about how to “hide” you lottery winnings from your minor children. As if anyone who would go to all that trouble to keep their kids from on the straight & narrow calculus track and to stay uncorrupted by the winnings would buy a lottery ticket in the first place!

  135. Sorry I missed this. I am the shrimp of the family — mom 5’8″, dad 6’3″, his brothers 6’1-6’4″, my brothers 6′-6’4″ — and they are all freaking stringbeans but with broad shoulders. And I somehow ended up shy of 5’7″ with bigger bones (no, really — my mom’s wrist looks like it’s made of matchsticks next to mine). Argh. Alas, DH is about 5’11” and is the tallest in his family (his dad’s maybe 5’6″), so genetically we are bringing the average down.

    I really thought DD was going to be my mom reincarnated — she was always a total stringbean (98% on the height chart, 5% on the weight chart), and the doc at one point said 5’9″ for her. Plus she followed my mom’s path with an early growth spurt (my mom at 11 was 5’8″ and 95 lbs; DD hit 5’4″ before 12). But she just stopped with the “up” and changed to the “out” (again, not a euphemism — her shoulders and hipbones broadened dramatically and she close to doubled her body weight — never seen a kid/s frame change that much over 18 mos.). So now she looks totally like a female DH and curses him for the shoulders. Need to get her into crew. :-)

    Jury is out on DS — he has also always been big, but solid-big, not stringbean-big (he has consistently come out at perfectly average height and weight — for kids a year older than him). If he keeps going as he has been, he could end up in my dad’s range or taller, but he could also screech to a halt like DD and end up closer to his dad. I do notice less difference between him and the other kids now, but I can’t tell if the other kids are just starting some spurts or if he is slowing down.

    “When they redid the guest bath they made the counter sink high for him.” That is so sweet!!

  136. “As if anyone who would go to all that trouble to keep their kids from on the straight & narrow calculus track and to stay uncorrupted by the winnings would buy a lottery ticket in the first place!”

    I’m bored. I just bought MM *and* PB. :-) I wouldn’t try to hide it from my kids, though — more likely to just emphasize that we all just basically got struck by lightning and that no one should ever count on this happening again, so they’d damn well better go to business school to learn to manage it for themselves and their descendants. :-)

  137. @Rhett — this article seems to ask the same question you did last week — http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/business/dealbook/pervasive-sham-deals-at-wells-fargo-and-no-one-noticed.html?ref=international

    The thing that gets me about this is that if something like this happened in my field (massive noncompliance on the paperwork side, comparatively small actual harm), there is zero question in my mind that people would be going to jail — this would be DOJ’s Priority #1, there would be multiple indictments and penalties in the hundreds of millions (if not billions of dollars). And the lady who just retired with $100+MM would be Target A as the responsible corporate officer.

    90% of my enforcement defense work is for paperwork violations with no actual harm to anyone. So why do we have such a huge double-standard for the banking industry, where violations like these actually and directly injure the very MC people we purport to care about?

  138. @Rhett –

    The size and scale of the Wells Fargo scam is almost incomprehensible. It HAD to be well-known throughout at least one sector of the company that this was common practice. You don’t get >5000 low-level employees doing this across the country without mid/senior management actively encouraging this in some way. And it was so unsophisticated. It’s really mind-boggling.

  139. It sure seems that the board approved her compensation based on inflated numbers that she knew or should have known about.

  140. @Milo — yeah, sorry. My experience goes back to Bush I, and it’s been consistent across Administrations.

  141. Trump has built his empire getting special favors and working the loopholes just like all banks do! Status quo is not going to change even if he becomes the President! Wish there were better checks and balances in our political system.

  142. The thing that gets me about this is that if something like this happened in my field (massive noncompliance on the paperwork side, comparatively small actual harm), there is zero question in my mind that people would be going to jail — this would be DOJ’s Priority #1, there would be multiple indictments and penalties in the hundreds of millions (if not billions of dollars).

    Can you cite a case where that happened? Not at your firm but in general? I assume most of these would be plead down to a fine, a consent decree and no admission of wrongdoing.

  143. @Rhett – GOOD QUESTION. It’s nuts. It certainly doesn’t discourage people from encouraging massive fraud, does it?

  144. It certainly doesn’t discourage people from encouraging massive fraud, does it?

    One would almost think senior executives and the board don’t want to discourage the aggressive tactics the bank’s staff use to make their numbers.

  145. If the likely payoff outweighs the consequences if discovered, why would anyone discourage it?

    The likely payoff has black swan risks. Indeed, it’s both an agency problem and an issue with black swan events. Think of AIG Financial Products – the staff got paid hundreds of millions in bonuses for years until a black swan event occurred wiping out AIG’s shareholders. The staff of the FP unit still had all their money.

    The risk for shareholder and executives is that somewhere among 250k employees someone is doing something that will bring the company to ruin.

  146. “Can you cite a case where that happened? Not at your firm but in general? I assume most of these would be plead down to a fine, a consent decree and no admission of wrongdoing.”

    I can’t, because I am trying not to be totally out about the specific sub-geek area I work in. But I can tell you generally about one fairly recent issue (civil, not criminal) that involved an investigation of multiple locations in 3-4 states, an allegation of a total of @40-50 paperwork violations that we ultimately whittled down to maybe 10-15 “real” misses, and a similar number of what I’d call minor harm issues [e.g., something was done but late]). We negotiated that one *down* to over $500K penalty (initial demand well over $2MM, and it was that low to start only because company had already implemented significant corrective actions). And if you actually do cause significant damage, all bets are off

    If you just want to pro-rate: If you assume each fired WF employee committed one violation (obviously way low), the WF fine is around $350 per violation. My case was 50+ times that for what I’d argue involved orders-of-magnitude less actual harm.

    The problem is exactly what Milo said. In my area, the gov’t assumes that companies make all decisions based on a cost-benefit equation, and so they jack up fines specifically to increase the “cost” side of the ledger. And yet here, where there are direct and easily calculated costs to victims and benefits to the guys who did it, it’s like, meh, whatever.

  147. “One would almost think senior executives and the board don’t want to discourage the aggressive tactics the bank’s staff use to make their numbers.”

    Exactly.

  148. “that the Dutch have reached close to the limits of human height.”. The Calusahatchee were around 8′ tall. Their diet consisted largely of shellfish, so they got lot of calcium that made their bones grow. Or so they say in preservation areas and kids’ programs around here.

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