Monday, January 3, 2011

The Price of Life: $10k to be born and $7k when you die.

I began the first Monday of the new year as I do most "working" days. I trawl, tweet and retweet news.

So, what's new in 2011? There was an earthquake in Chile; Zsa Zsa Gabor is in hospital and her lower leg needs to be amputated; British actor Pete Postlethwaite died; and organic beef contaminated with E Coli was recalled in California.

So, what's new?

Technically, this is "work" for me, although I don't go to work. I'm working on my thesis in grad school and I write freelance. But as a new breed of independent multi-media journalist, I'm on Twitter all the time being part of the new, news breaking crowd, in the hope that one day some old media organization would notice me for tweet-breaking news and hire me.

The one news article that did catch my attention beyond 140 characters was the WSJ piece comparing consumer purchases made in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

These are the price tags of living. The prices of a pair of jeans ($54.50) and a McDonald's Big Mac ($3.20) cost the same last year and the year before. Yay...not that I eat Big Macs.

But what about the price of life? Not cheap...and it costs more to be born than to be sent off when one dies. The average hospital cost for a newborn and his/her mother was $10,679 last year. The national average cost for a funeral (excluding cemetery cost) was $7,710.

And if one should be sick? The average cost of a day's stay in a semi-private room in a hospital, excluding fees for a private physician, was $7,507 -- almost as much as a funeral.

I don't really want to be morbid and talk about death at the dawn of a new year. But these numbers really made me think about life. I really don't want to be sick. I want to live well and live healthy. Between one day in hospital and a funeral, I think I would pay for the funeral and be done with it.

Knock on wood, I want to live healthy and when it's time to go, go quickly and be done. I don't want my children to have to fork out $7,507 a day.

Speaking of children, a college education at Penn State cost $23,620 a year in 2010. That is two-and-a-half times the cost of having a baby in the hospital. A Toyota Camry would cost less than a year in college. Car? Degree? Car? Degree? Tough call.

Gas has gone up by 40cents to $2.81 from the year before to last. It actually costs alot more than that around here. It would probably be a good idea in the interest of all life to drive less in 2011.

So should we make babies? Or just go out to the movies? The cost of a movie ticket was $7.85 (about 0.1 % of a funeral). Taking into account all the other costs of the nine months before the birth and the 18 years after before this baby makes it to college, it would be safe to assume that the price of making a life is pretty hefty. I can't put a number there.

It's probably least costly to just hang out in the blogosphere..write and read great writing. But even that will get pricier. The average cost of broadband cable and internet service went up by $2.00 from the year before to $44.95 last year. And we can be pretty sure it'll go up again this year. It's probably hidden in the fine print somewhere.

All these numbers are giving me a headache worthy of a hangover. Tagging the price of life and cost of living is too sobering an activity for post New Year bash recovery. Maybe I should just stick with resolutions.

I have only one resolution for 2011. Last year, I learned that happiness comes from deep within me, and isn't determined by who or what is around me. So my single, focused resolution for the new year is: if I'm not happy, it's not worth it.

That's new outlook on life. Simple. Now I'm happy. Remind me not to go look at those numbers again. As for the price of life, I guess the simplest and happiest answer is really: priceless.  

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