January 31, 2011
How was your 2010? John Paulson's wasn't too bad. The hedge fund manager pulled in a personal payday of $5 billion. This comes after his 2009 pay of $2.3 billion, $2 billion in 2008, and $3.7 billion in 2007.
Average it out, and the guy has made about $100 per second over the past four years. Every second. Of every day. Of every year.
Here's how Paulson's 2010 pay compares to other professions:
Average Salary (2009)
Time It Took Paulson to Earn This Much in 2010
|Computer hardware engineers
|Elementary school teachers
|Family and general practitioners
|Police and sheriff's patrol officers
|Emergency medical technicians and paramedics
|Average Goldman Sachs employee
|Total GDP of the bottom 10 nations in the world
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Reuters, CIA World Factbook, author's calculations.
As is well known, Paulson made his money first by shorting the housing market in 2007, then switching that bet around with huge bets on Citigroup (NYSE: C ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) in 2009. He's also long and strong gold, with big stakes in Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC ) and AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE: AU ) .
I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with Paulson's pay. If he isn't smarter than most people, he's obviously bolder. He's figured out capitalism, and good for him.
Still, I think this comment from Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) vice-chairman Charlie Munger sums the situation up nicely:
A big percentage of Cal-Tech grads are going into finance. I regard this as a regretfully bad outcome. They'll make a lot of money by clobbering customers who aren't as smart as them. It's a mistake. I look at this in terms of losses from the diversion of our best talent going into some money-grubbing exercise.
Paulson deserves whatever money he can make, but there's something tragic about our best and brightest -- the people who should be engineering airplanes and curing cancer -- choosing instead to trade derivatives and short financial bubbles.
What do you think?Disclosure: The COO of Paulson & Co. is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and B of A preferred. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Berkshire Hathaway. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.