The Santa Index 2012: St. Nick's efforts worth about $135,000 this year

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From tracking who's naughty and who's nice to running the world's largest toy workshop and delivery service, Santa wears many stocking caps.

He's manufacturing executive, sleigh driver, letter reader, list double-checker, reindeer tender, distributor and more.

All told he should be earning $134,944 this year, according to our analysis of wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's up 1.5 percent from last year's Santa Index of $132,950.

Determining how much it would cost to replace someone's income -- or the unpaid work a person does for a family -- is an important step in deciding how much life insurance to buy.

Of course no one could replace Santa -- nor will the world ever need to. Nonetheless here are some of the tasks we considered when compiling this year's Santa Index.

  • Industrial engineer. Making toys might sound like fun and games, but it's not child's play. As an industrial engineer running the North Pole workshop, Santa supervises the design, development and testing of every gadget and trinket the elves produce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job includes quality and inventory control, cost analysis, logistics, and management of human -- er, elf, -- work factors. Annual earnings for eight hours a day every day: $111,792.
  • Labor relations specialist. Elves are a merry bunch, but that doesn't mean disputes don't erupt. Coordinating grievance procedures, handling complaints and resolving disagreements are all part of Santa's job. We figure he spends at least half an hour a day dealing with elf labor issues. Annual earnings: $5,167.
  • Correspondence clerk. The millions of letters from children can't go unread. Fortunately Santa is a speed-reader. An hour a day as a correspondence clerk for 100 days a year would earn him $1,656.
  • Professional shopper. Think of the nightmare on Christmas morning if Santa didn't carefully select who should get which toy. Susie would get the pair of skates, and Johnny would get the sled. Poor Nelly would get a storybook she's already read. Eight hours a day 15 days a year spent selecting presents would yield $2,303.
  • Rancher. Reindeer don't just take care of themselves. Santa feeds and cleans up after the herd, supervises reindeer games and steps in when name-calling gets out of hand. Annual earnings for one hour a day every day: $4,234.
  • Private investigator. Seeing you sleeping, knowing when you're awake, tracking the naughty and nice: normally that would be a 24/7 operation. If he squeezes in an hour a day for sleuthing in the month leading up to Christmas, the annual earnings would be $701.
  • Accounting clerk. Making lists and checking them twice an hour a day one month before Christmas would bring in $401.
  • Shipping and receiving clerk. The miracle of singlehandedly distributing toys to every boy and girl overnight earns Santa a grand total of $146.50. Beat that Federal Express.
  • Pilot. Guided only by the red glow of a reindeer nose, Santa drives his sleigh through the foggy night air and performs millions of rooftop takeoffs and landings. Average earnings for an airline pilot for 10 hours: $568.

Although carefully calculated, our Santa Index has one limitation. Nowhere in the federal labor data is a wage statistic for holiday magic making. That, dear readers, is priceless.

The Santa Index 2012: Earnings details

Santa's job BLS occupation used Hours per day Days per year Mean hourly
wage
Annual earnings
Manufacturing executive (workshop) Industrial Engineers 8 364 $38.39 $111,792
Professional shopper Sales and Related Workers 8 15 $19.19 $2,303
Wrapper Packers and Packagers, Hand 12 14 $10.81 $1,816
Labor negotiator (with elves) Labor Relations Specialists 0.5 365 $28.31 $5,167
Letter reader Correspondence Clerks 1 100 $17.04 $1,656
Company representative in mall Customer Service Representatives 8 21 $15.92 $2,675
Investigator (knows if you've been good or bad) Private Detectives and Investigators 1 30 $23.37 $701
List checker (checking it twice)  Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks 1 30 $13.38 $401
Taking care of reindeer
Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural Animals
1 365 $11.60 $4,234
Snow plow driver Highway Maintenance Workers 0.5 360 $17.47 $3,145
Pilot Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineer 10 1 $56.76 $568
Going down chimneys (chimney sweep) Building Cleaning Workers 10 1 $13.89 $139
Cookie & milk taster Agricultural Inspectors 10 1 $20.25 $203
Deliveries via sleigh (distributor) Shipping, Receiving, and Traffic Clerks 10 1 $14.65 $147
Announcer ("Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!") Public Address System and Other Announcers 0.01 1 $19.17 19 cents

Total: $134,944

Wage source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Santa's life insurance rates are out of this world

If Santa went shopping for life insurance , the rates might make him cry and pout.

Sorry, Virginia, but Santa is one risky customer.

We did a little checking for St. Nick and found he needs nothing short of a holiday miracle to get decent life insurance rates -- or to qualify at all. Good thing our favorite jolly old elf will live forever and doesn't need coverage.

Here's what's working against him.

Age

The older you get, the more expensive life insurance becomes. When Santa's age is disclosed for life insurance, all he gets is a lump of coal.

So we decided to be a little bit bad -- but with good intentions -- and fudge the numbers. (Don't try this at home when you're actually applying for insurance.)

With a beard white as snow, we figured Santa probably wouldn't pass for under 60, but his lively and quick ability to bound down chimneys and the twinkle in his eye should put him on the right side of 70. Our estimate for this exercise: 65.

Weight

A lithe, barbell-toting, tofu-eating Santa in red spandex and running shoes isn't our idea of jolly. Still, all that candy-cane taste-testing at the toy factory, along with those countless plates of milk and cookies on Christmas Eve, aren't doing Santa any favors.

Beloved as his plump figure is, Santa's chubbiness is going to cost him. We ran online life insurance quotes for a 20-year, $250,000 level-premium term life policy for a 5-foot-5, 65-year-old man living in Alaska. (There was no option for the North Pole.) With a healthy weight of 140 pounds, the cheapest rate was $2,573 a year. But anonymous, well-placed elf sources tell us Santa tips the scales at 215; that factor alone boosts the lowest rate to $3,700 a year.

Pipe smoking

It pains us to say this, but when it comes to insurance Santa's penchant for pipe smoking puts even him on the slightly naughty list. Yes, the way the smoke encircles his head like a wreath is charming. And he does indeed look dandy with that stump of pipe held tight in his teeth. But pipe smokers are at greater risk for lung cancer and all sorts of other very unmerry things.

Here's how cigar smokers see the best life insurance rates drift away .

The lowest five life insurance quotes for that 20-year, $250,000 level-premium term life policy range from $3,700 to $4,838 if we say the 215-pound Santa has never smoked. Once we enter the information about his pipe puffing, the lowest five rates range from $3,700 to $9,210.

Risky occupation

We can't say for sure how much Santa's job would drive up his life insurance premiums, but we imagine piloting a sleigh in the dark of night in all kinds of weather is bound to raise some red flags at the life insurance company offices.

If you fly airplanes, some insurers, before issuing a policy, will want to know how many hours you fly each year and the type of aircraft you use. Santa's annual all-nighter driving a toy-laden sleigh is probably not going to put risk-averse minds at ease. Nor are the eight tiny reindeer, who, according to eyewitness accounts, must be called by name and constantly cajoled to dash away, whether it's to the top of the porch or to the top of the wall.

Of course there is the shiny red-nose guidance system, a safety precaution in foggy weather. But consistent reports of pawing and prancing on snowy and icy rooftops remain troubling.

Here are more risky adventures that'll freak out your life insurance company .

High blood pressure and high cholesterol

Santa's bowl-full-of-jelly belly has us worried. Doctors say people who carry extra weight around the middle are more at risk for serious health problems, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol, than people who carry extra weight in the hips and thighs. Both types of unhealthy readings put people in high-risk categories for life insurance.

"Belly fat is nothing to joke about," the Mayo Clinic warns ominously on its website. Oh, poor Santa, chuckling away, so blissfully unaware.

Stress is another risk factor for high blood pressure. Sure Santa seems to take it all in stride, always quick with a "Merry Christmas" and a ho, ho, ho. But all that double-checking of lists, monitoring of everyone's sleep habits and the sheer deadline pressure -- surely it would take a toll.

Thank goodness Santa will never have to fill out a life insurance application or undergo a life insurance medical exam -- we wouldn't want to hear the results.  



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Personal Finance , Insurance

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