Net worth

I don't think I've been on these forums for over 6 years. So hello, everyone!

So, I've been back on a Buk kick after a while away from his stuff, and was thinking about the times he reacted to people who criticized him for not writing about low-lives and poverty after he'd become relatively prosperous. Basically saying he always wrote what he knew, and that prosperity was what he knew at the time. Maybe it was in the Sounes book where he talks about Buk's accountant suggesting he buy a car, so he goes to get a BMW and the salesman looks at him like "yeah right". Then Buk bowls said salesman over by paying for the car in "cash". Don't know if he literally forked over a stack of bills or if that means he simply paid without needing a loan, but no matter.

So, this isn't my principal concern about Bukowski, but I was wondering what his net worth was at the time of his death. The "Celebrity net Worth" website says 4 million. No idea if this is probable or not. Was also curious if there is an estimated value on his estate now.

Like I said, not my principal concern but idle curiosity. I kind of hesitated to post because it feels a bit crass. Also, yes, I did a search of the forums and either it hasn't been addressed or my search skills are crap!

Once again, hello again after so many years. There are so many thoughtful and informed threads on these forums. Great reading.
 

mjp

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There's some financial information available in the timeline. I don't know how the "Celebrity net Worth" website comes up with its estimates, but if you look at what we know, a several million dollar estimate - in today's dollars (all of the numbers below are adjusted for inflation to 2019 dollars) - might not be unreasonable.

In 1969 he claimed to have savings of $600,000.
In 1975 The Los Angeles Times said he was making $100,000 a year.
In 1982 he was earning almost $250,000 a year in foreign (non-U.S.) royalties alone.
A couple years before he died he was making $150,000 a year in U.S. royalties.

I think it's safe to say that his writing became more popular - or more mainstream, anyway - after his death, so you would have to assume that those numbers held steady. For some time, at least. Before most people stopped buying books.

He was known to be...frugal (cheap). Even when he could afford to buy new things he continued to buy used typewriters and cars. All you have to do is look at a picture of him to see that he didn't spend a lot of money on clothes. He eventually bought the house and a couple of new cars, and the house is nice, but it's not a "mansion" (as some have described it) by any stretch of the imagination. He never lived extravagantly, is the point, so it wouldn't surprise me to learn that he amassed quite a pile of dough by the end of his life.

His fortunes really took a turn around 1970, and not because of the famous $675 a month from Black Sparrow. It was because his work finally started to catch on. He started getting bigger advances from publishers like Essex House and City Lights, and the biggest change was the considerable amount of money he started earning from translations.
 
Cheers for that. It didn't occur to me to re-look at the timeline. I know that his poverty at some points was greatly exaggerated, but hadn't cottoned to the claim of having the equivalent of 600k in the bank in 1969. That's actually some serious money for those days. It wouldn't be such a bad nest egg even today. 4 million seemed a bit high at first, but given the amount of his books I've seen on peoples' shelves over the years, one never knows...

Somehow I think of that photo with his parents where he's in a sharp suit taken in the middle of the "10-year drunk."

Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful response.
 

Otto jr

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The equivalent of $600k in '69 is surprising. He must have sold his father's house and sat on that money for years. Was he getting advances in '69?
 

mjp

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Remember, the $90,000 (or $610,000) number comes from a poem, so take it for what it's worth.

But even half of that would have been a boatload of dough. Forget half, even if you chop a zero off the 90k amount, it's still $9,000 ($61,000). No small potatoes. The truth of what he had saved, considering the house sale and a decade on the job at the post office is probably closer to somewhere between half or a tenth of the claimed 90k. Maybe $25,000 ($170,000) or $30,000 ($200,000)? Who knows.

Any way you look at it or figure it, I think it's safe to say that Bukowski always knew he wasn't going to work at the post office forever, he was known to be thrifty, and it's not inconceivable that he never touched the money from the sale of his father's house (since he had started the clerk job at the post office by then). All of which suggests that he was not in any immediate danger of homelessness when he decided to try to write for a living.

He didn't have fuck you money, but he had enough to keep him going for many years. I believe him when he writes about being terrified to leave the post office. He wasn't going to get another job like that if the writing failed. But again, he wasn't going to have that job for long anyway, so the whole thing was kind of a moot point.

What he did that took courage was to decide to make a go of writing, rather than finding another job to pay the bills. That was a big gamble at the time (and would be a short bus ride to homelessness today).

As for advances, he wasn't making any stackable money from writing, with the exception of $460 ($3,400) from Black Sparrow for Terror Sreet, and $1,000 ($7,000) from Essex House for Notes. Penguin Modern Poets must have also paid, but we don't know how much.
 

Johannes

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He also writes about saving up to "buy a shack" somewhere in Beerspit Night and Cursing to Sheri Martinelli, and that was early 60's.

It's probably save to say he had substantial savings. The 600k blew my mind too, I don't believe it could have been that high. On the other hand he claimed in another poem to have gambled and drank away the money from his fathers inheritance. Remember reading this, but not the poem. Does anybody know? I thought it was "The Twins", but no.

Also not sure if he had enough to sustain himself for several years since he expressed multiple times how much he hated the post office and somewhere in the letters too how much one year free from work would add to his life (think it was when Blazek urged him to apply for a grant or something, might misremember).

But then, who knows? He sure lived frugal and aside from betting on horses had no costly pastimes. At the end of the 60's it probably all came together, the P.O. being pissed because of his absenteeism (and probably Notes) and planning to fire him anyway, John Martins famous $100 a month plus an unknown amount of savings.

He probably knew he could hustle it out for a period of time, and so he quit.
 

zobraks

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he claimed in another poem to have gambled and drank away the money from his fathers inheritance. Remember reading this, but not the poem. Does anybody know?
That's from Father, Who Art in Heaven (in Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame):

my father died while trying to drink a
glass of water. I buried him.
...
I sold his house after about a month.
I sold his car and his furniture
...
I gambled and drank away the money.
Once again I'm amazed by how well you can remember his stuff, word for word.
 

mjp

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"I gambled and drank away the money."

(The equivalent of) $62,000? Sure he did.

But what better way to express his contempt for Bukowski Sr. than to give the impression that he pissed the old man's money away. That he hated him so much that he wouldn't even take his money after he was dead.

I would bet $62,000 that every penny of that house money went into the bank. He'd never had a windfall like that before, and had no reason to expect he'd see anything like it any time soon.
 

mjp

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He also writes about saving up to "buy a shack" somewhere
hell wallet fulla stuffins not of money but of TIME to breathe n by a paint brush n new typewriter ribbon n house, am gona buy a little shack Sheri n I may quit everything and huddle in the corner and dream spain and Spam and dogs with wowfree muzzles on deathsass... (1960)

I am writing poems and drinking beer and trying to buy a shack, and seem to be getting nothing done. (1961)

I must get my shack, and when I do you must come see me. I will send you the money. (1961)

Still working on small shack deal. (1961)
 

Johannes

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Wow, more than I expected!

First quote is funny, typical writing style for Beerspit ... with Bukowski trying to outwrite Ezra to impress Martinelli or something, like we discussed in the other thread 😎

If we take Bukowskis poems as sources for his net worth we should also take into account that he told us he was glad he had money in the Savings and Loan, and judging by this poem, he was really glad about it.

i was glad

I was glad I had money in the Savings and Loan
Friday afternoon hungover
I didn't have a job

I was glad I had money in the Savings and Loan
I didn't know how to play a guitar
Friday afternoon hungover

[...]

I was glad I had money in the Savings and Loan
split with my girlfriend and blue and demented
I was glad to have my passbook and stand in line

[...]

I didn't know how to play the piano
or even hustle a damnfool job in a carwash
I was glad I had money in the Savings and Loan

[...]

Friday afternoon hungover
split with my girlfriend and blue and demented
I was glad I had money in the Savings and Loan
Also from Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame.
 
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roni

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it sure IS strange (and always intrigued me).

Here we have this this guy getting WRECKED by his job (at least claiming so over and over), a guy who used to be careful (or let's say: not totally careless) with money at least in his later years (and I bet this started not later than with the birth of Marina), a guy who's living in a poor neighbourhood with only little money needed for his living -- and THEN this guy is supposed to have such an amount of money in his back!??

Waiting for some 100 bucks a month to get out of his behated threadmill that's killing him on a daily basis . . . while he would have been able to EASILY (back in those days) live just on the interest (*) of his money (given his non-luxury livestyle)???

There's something not matching here.
I don't know what it is, maybe I just don't get it, but I don't buy it.


[(*) 6% off 600,000 makes 36,000 a year]
 
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mjp

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Waiting for some 100 bucks a month to get out of his behated threadmill that's killing him
Was he waiting for that, or was he about to be fired anyway?

People who grew up in America during the "great depression" had a lot of (understandably) weird ideas - and fears - about money and possessions. I always try to remember that when the subject of Bukowski's relationship with money comes up.

But Bukowski talking about trying to buy a small house in 1961 is a pretty clear indication that he still had his father's house (and car and furniture) sale money. He could not have saved $80k over the next 8 or 9 years while working a $6,000-$7,500 a year job, that's for sure. So if he did have $90,000, a big chunk of it had to come from somewhere we don't know about (he had a few prosperous relatives - who knows if someone left him some money when they died).

Anyway, again, even if it was only $9k (which he certainly could have saved from his job) and not $90k, that's still $61,000. That's enough to feel pretty good about. Not invincible, but safe.
 

roni

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Was he waiting for that, or was he about to be fired anyway?
That's one of my points:
We know, he was presumably about to get fired anyway, so WHY the hell did he wait till he got this offer from JM? [the question is still as valid if he didn't wait for but asked for the money-offer]
We know, he was suffering in the job for years, getting destroyed by it - so: if he had this kind of money, why hadn't he quit (by himself) long before?
What kept him in the job till some 100 a month came by? And what about this supposed calculation he always talked about, which said this would have been exactly the amount of money he needed for a living?

The puzzle as a whole just doesn't fit with me.
 
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mjp

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WHY the hell did he wait till he got this offer from JM?
What I'm saying is maybe he didn't wait. Maybe it was coincidence.
why hadn't he quit (by himself) long before?
"People who grew up in America during the "great depression"..." etc. In other words: maybe fear kept him on the job. What may seem like "enough money" to quit - to us - may not have seemed like enough to him.
what about this supposed calculation he always talked about, which said this would have been exactly the amount of money he needed for a living?
Was it Bukowski always talking about the $100 a month, or was it Martin?

It's obvious that it is a story, the expenses part. But which one of them cooked it up? Bukowski couldn't have lived on $100 a month, even if he had moved in to John Martin's garage. That his monthly expenses were $100 is a fabrication.

Martin did pay it though. For a while. In a December 15, 1970 letter to Martin Bukowski says, "now that we’re off the free $100 per month..." So the $100 was not paid "for life," but for a year or so. Is that because his Black Sparrow royalties were more than $100 a month by then? Could be. Post Office was out there selling, and The Days Run Away. (But also worth noting that Bukowski was hedging his bets, since he still sent all the new poems he wrote to the Webbs for first refusal.)

In any event, in 1992 Bukowski wrote to Martin, "I don’t have to tell you it isn’t the money, never was."
 

Johannes

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6% off 600,000 makes 36,000 a year]
Did you get 6% interest in the US during the 60's? Serious question, I don't know. If yes, holy fuck.

We have conflicting accounts from Bukowski himself. He claims to have $90k, he claims to have gambled and drank away the money from his fathers inheritance, he claims to have money in Savings and Loan and he wrote about saving up to buy a shack, all in the period 1960 to early 70's.

I too find it very hard to believe that he had over half a mill in the bank in todays money. I also find it hard to believe that he wouldn't have quit the post office, a job he obviously hated with a passion, had he had enough savings to sustain himself for a couple of years. On the other hand it's true, then after this couple of years, now what? The money would have been gone and he'd have to hustle for another job. In the early to mid 60's there was likely no perspective for him to realistically make it as a writer. Probably in 1969 that still wasn't the case but now there was Martin with the financial support, the p.o. wanted to kick him out anyway and he had an unknown amount of money in the bank. So it all came together.

How much he had saved until 1970 we'll likely never know.

He applied for a grant in the 60's and got one in the early 70's if I remember correctly? Was it even possible to apply for a government grant in the 60's and 70's if you had over half a million $ in savings? Did you have to disclose your net worth or something when you applied for these grants? Do we know this?
 

mjp

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Did you get 6% interest in the US during the 60's? Serious question, I don't know. If yes, holy fuck.
5% on savings in the 60s and even the 70s. Now, I don't know, but closer to 1% or 0%.
 

roni

Over 5000 posts
after this couple of years, now what? The money would have been gone
That's my point:
With the kind of money we're talking about, he'd easily been able to live off the interest alone, so that the money itself would not have to be touched.
In fact, with his modest livestyle he'd even been able to let his savings grow further. Free from work for a livetime, how does that sound to you? Would he go on working a job he was constantly complaining about, not earlier quitting than when he was about to be fired anyway (or was promised a small amount of money)?

The interest that was to get from those (supposed) savings each month would be ten times the 100 from JM.
I don't claim, I have a knowledge, what was really going on, I just say: the present picture doesn't work for me.

(edit: I dunno about the US, but in the 70s and 80s in Germany, one was able to even get 8% if he was willing to dump the money for a longer time.)
 
I have no ideas about the numbers, but I think he was probably always with the idea of ending broke. He lived with bearly nothing during his bumming time (eating a candy bar a day), so maybe he wanted to save money after that. And once you are used to live thrifty you don't change even if you are earning a lot (or maybe you go crazy and spend it all).

On the Barbet Schroeder's tapes, Schroeder asks Bukowski : "too little money is problem, but too much money is also, right ? "
And Buk answer something like "there is never too much, give me more money; I know what poverty is and I don't want to go back to that place."
 

Otto jr

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Buk wasn’t too far away from his pension in 1970. That could have been what he was holding out for. He says 12 years on that job I believe, so even if his previous 4 years didn’t count towards pension, he was close enough to want to see it through.
 

roni

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wasn’t too far away from his pension in 1970
Somewhere I've read, that he was entitled to receive his pension only as late as August 1990.
I can't recall, where I've read that. It was long ago. Couldbe Sounes.
 

mjp

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He would have been eligible in March of 1979 (you had to be over age 50 with 20 years full time).

Considering they were trying to get rid of him, and that the job was causing him all kinds of physical pain, it doesn't seem like there's any way he could have made it almost 10 more years.
 
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