Top 10 ways to spend a Goldman Sachs bonus

Goldman Sachs' bonus pool was announced Thursday, with an average payout of $500,000. After taxes, what could that buy?

Shaun Curry/AFP/Newscom
People leave the Goldman Sachs building in central London on Thursday. Goldman Sachs blasted past forecasts with impressive fourth-quarter and full-year 2009 profits as the banking giant moved to deflect criticism about its compensation levels. How could one spend a Goldman Sachs bonus?

Besides chest-thumping fourth-quarter earnings, Goldman Sachs also announced its bonus pool on Thursday. At $16.2 billion, the total is 20 percent lower than the firm's 2007 level but still amounts to an average of just under $500,000 per employee.

If you're picky, it's only $498,000. Since it's an average, a few people will rake in a lot, lot more and most Goldman employees will make less than half a million. Federal taxes will whittle that down to about $324,000. So what does that get you these days?

Here are our Top 10 things to buy with an average Goldman's bonus:

10. 3,240 homes in Detroit

Homes are being auctioned off by the local section of Housing and Urban Development for as low as $50, but call it an even $100 per house. You'd buy some goodwill as well as a few real fixer-uppers through this purchase. Coupled with a potential tax incentive for refurbishing homes with green appliances and other energy-saving improvements, you could make a tidy profit – and be well on your way to your own private housing bubble.

9. Four years at Harvard Business School

You already know how business really works. Now spend a few years learning how it's supposed to work. Harvard currently pegs the total cost of attendance at $76,600 per year, you and a friend could each take a trip through with $18,000 left over for an awesome spring break adventure. [Editor's note: This section was adjusted to reflect the length of the MBA curriculum.]

8. Five trips around the world

An around-the-world plane ticket to 29 destinations would cost a high-end estimate of $10,000, according to Setting aside $50,000 or so to make sure you're not having to crash in youth hostels, you could outdo Magellan.

7. 40 cars

Forget Bentleys, Beamers and Benzs. It's the Tata Nano that's hot. The Indian company says it will introduce the car in the US and the European Union in the near future at around $8,000. Your bonus could have you driving a different one every day of the month, with a few spares in case you prefer driving to dinner in a brand-new car.

6. 16,200 stars

At only $20 a pop from StarNamer, you could name your own chunk of space. If all of Goldman's nearly 20,000 employees, pitched in, they could control 0.3 percent of the Milky Way. And that's before negotiating a group discount.

5. ... and one trip to visit

Virgin Galactic charges $200,000 for a trip to space. With a lifetime of VIP treatment from Sir Richard Branson to boot, this might be the easiest sell on the list.

4. Various Bernie Madoff memorabilia

While you couldn't bring home all the auctioned belongings of the Lord of the Pyramid Scheme (which went for $900,000 in total), you could pick up more than a few famous Madoff items like his Mets jacket or his wife's diamond earrings.

3. Three "kill bank reform" TV ads

With Thursday's Supreme Court decision obliterating limits on what corporations can spend on advocacy campaigns, you might consider buying ads to beat back the Obama administration's attempt to dismantle big banks (like yours). Your bonus won't buy you Super Bowl time (estimated at $3 million per 30 seconds last year), but it could get you roughly three advertisements during CBS' 60 Minutes, four ads during ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos, or, sadly, only one during Desperate Housewives.

2. One (Your Name Here) Bowl

Competitor Citigroup does have the naming rights to the Rose Bowl. Capital One has a bowl, too. But you, Goldman employee, could probably get the St. Petersburg Bowl all by your lonesome. The group auctioning the rights to name the upstart bowl game for a year hopes to bring in between $350,000 and $500,000, which is a touch out of your range. Try striking a joint deal with this year's sponsor, Beef O'Bradys.

1. 1,931 shares of Goldman stock

Invest in the company that made you a half-millionaire. You could buy 1,900 – no, scratch that. After President Obama's announcement on banking limitations pushed down bank stocks, you could buy 2,000 shares of Goldman, letting your money do the talking about your faith in American capitalism.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.