A Big Pile of Money & The Meaning of Life

In Kelly Egan’s column on the weekend, he mentions the four Ottawa people who won the $40 million Lotto 6/49 draw last week. Each of them are now $10 million richer. Is this too way much money to win?

Why do some people only buy lottery tickets when the jackpot is into the tens of millions? That always seems strange to me. Are people not interested in winning a paltry $2 million or what?

We’ve all heard about how big lottery winners’ lives tend to spiral into the toilet. Suddenly having a lot of money seems to make people go crazy, end up destitute and/or alone, tied up in lawsuits or all of the above.

When you buy a lottery ticket you buy a little bit of fantasy –what it would be like if you won the jackpot.

But what it would really be like to win a big jackpot? Anything under a couple of million is reasonable, I think – it wouldn’t completely alter your life. You’d pay off debts, maybe buy a new house or renovate the house you have now; get a new car; put something away for your kids’ educations; plan some nice holidays and pretty much carry on with your life.

Ten million dollars, on the other hand, changes everything. One of last week’s winners has a child who is a schoolmate of my daughter.  My daughter came home all bedazzled last week and said it felt really weird to talk to this girl now – “like talking to a famous person,” was how she put it. The girl disappeared from Facebook over the weekend and is no longer reachable by text or talk on her cell phone.

And that’s kind of the crux of what a huge and sudden influx of money will do. Isolation is the first order of business, because winners get inundated with media, financial planners, charities, seekers of handouts…

No matter what good intentions winners might have, they can’t continue working, going to school, carrying on with their normal routines, because their lives tend to become dominated by the money. They have to deal with the money 24/7 and what the money does to people in their lives. They face resentment, envy, even danger. New multi-millionaires learn quickly to be suspicious of everyone. Families are torn apart.

The thing that would really get me, though, is that a big pile of money would take away my life’s impetus. There are things I hope for, dream of, work towards, strive for – my Bucket List.  Every achievement is an important moment in my life. With a big pile of money I could buy pretty much everything on my list. And then what?

Ya, I can create a new list of wonderful things I can do with all my money, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Still… I think this is one problem I might just be willing to take on…maybe…

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20 responses to “A Big Pile of Money & The Meaning of Life

  1. I only buy lottery tickets occaisionally, and it’s not predicated on the amount of the advertised jackpot. I think it would be cool to have 40 draws for $1 million, or 20 draws for $2 million instead of a $40 million prize. Spread the wealth.

    Call me unimaginative, but I think I’d like to win enough to pay off my mortage, do some renos, give some money to family and friends, and put some away so I could take some time off work when the spawn hit the teenage years. I *so* wouldn’t want a mansion, or sports cars, or crap like that. I like my life, and think it needs only a little financial fine tuning, rather than a $40 million overhaul. That much money would be scary.

    I remember a character in a book saying once that he considered himself well off when he could buy a hardback book when it first came out or could go out to dinner at a nice restaurant without having to stop and think what it would do to his budget. I think I could like that kind of well-off too.

  2. It’s definitely a problem I’d be willing to take on. I would love to pay off the mortgage, help Bill’s boys get a house and/or finish getting their education and be smart with the rest. I would love for my husband to be able to retire because he’s worked hard his whole life and has put everyone else first. It would be nice to have the resources to volunteer and donate to worthy causes.

    And, let’s be honest, I’d buy some bitchin’ boots and a pair of Jimmy Choos!

  3. Well, our state is finally going to have a lottery! So now, I’ll be able to buy a ticket once in a while.

    The most important thing to do if you win is to get with a good financial adviser and figure out how to protect your winnings and, then, safely invest a good percentage of it. Give yourself a goodly sum for mad money, donate to worthy causes, but do those things after you’ve invested in your future financial security.

  4. Luckily I have given this problem much deep thought. Like all eventualities that might occur in my life. If I won 10 mil the financial situation is easy. I’d put it all in my chequeing account. That way I earn no interest. Since I plan to live to be 100 I have to budget for 40 years so I would have to spend no more than $250,000 per year. It shouldn’t be too hard to keep inside that budget.
    Now comes the good part. Since I have no income each April I can fill out the tax forms and get rebates for sales taxes, Gst etc. I can then use that money as a bonus and go on a holiday or something.

  5. I wonder about that, too. We occasionally buy, but really it’s Encore I most want to win. $1 million seems like enough to enjoy, but not so much that it totally messes up your life. When I think of the really big prizes, I do wonder how having that sort of money would impact the kids.

    I like to think we would be smart about how we’d use the money…we already have a good financial adviser, and we would give a fair bit to friends, family and charity. But I’m sure there would be complications and awkwardness along with whatever good comes out of winning.

  6. Wow, how sad and happy for your daughter’s friend/classmate.

    I would be overwhelmed, but so excited to tie up loose financial ends for our parents and ourselves….but then what would I worry about? (Or so my husband would say!)

    I would have plenty to worry about, as you have pointed out.

    If I had an influx of money, I would like to travel and take classes upon classes. I would have like 8 liberal arts Master’s degrees (I have 1 now) and then when people asked “What do you do with those?”, I will say, “Embrace the knowledge and feel fulfilled” and then they will not roll their eyes at me in the same way they do now because I will not need a job! Maybe.

  7. Alison – That’s an excellent idea — smaller jackpots – more money for more people.

    Mo – Yes, and a special room to display all the new shoes.

    Mike – you’ll probably win the jackpot with your first ticket. Let me know how your plan works eh?

    Bandobras – Now that you’ve gone public, the government will make sure you NEVER win a lottery. Getting back big chunks of lottery winnings is what’s keeping this country functioning to the high degree that it is.

    Mary Lynn – Ah yes, the kids. For those of us who are old, have done the school, spouse, kids, career thing we might just go a little nuts with too much money– but kids? Imagine starting life with nothing really to strive for and having to be suspicious of everyone who wants to befriend and romance you.

    Missy – People would still roll their eyes at you because they’ll just resentfully see you as some filthy rich chickie who’s dabbling in school to stave off boredom while they have to work their asses off so they’ll get a half decent job while borrowing wads money to pay tuition which they’ll spend the best part of their lives paying back

  8. I agree that the prizes get too big, and should be split, with a top value of two million.

    I hope that if I win, it’s as part of the ten-person pool that I’m a part of at work. Share the joy, share the sorrows.

  9. Hey, I work with http://www.mochaclub.org, a non-profit that works in Africa. I saw that you were on the NaBloPoMo list, and we’d love for you to blog about our new campaign on Nov. 24th. The campaign is centered around this idea – at Mocha Club, we have always cared about building an accurate perception of both the challenges that Africans face, and the BEAUTY of Africa. We need bloggers to help get the word out. Please email me if you would be interested in hearing the details!

  10. I am always saying, “I need to win the lottery!” while, seemingly, forgetting I can never seem to get around to buying a ticket. I clearly must not ever expect I’d actually win.

    I think it would be helpful to be able to win a huge sum and not have it be broadcast publicly. That way you don’t have to become suddenly paranoid about countless freaks coming out the woodwork to hit you up. If I could be secretly wealthy I think it might somehow allow me to adjust more slowly to what it is I REALLY wanted to do with all of it. No one watching. No outside influences or expectations.

    Because I, personally, would take all the monstrous, gigantic fortune I could get my hands on. CHA-CHING.

  11. If I won 10 million I would be fine for several reasons:
    1-when I do remember to buy a ticket I always opt for the twenty year payout – that would be a manageable sum.
    2-Although it was on a smaller scale, I have already experienced having a windfall and therefore have already separated the wheat from the chafe as far as friends and family go.
    3-I know which charities I support and have no problems turning down the other ones
    4-I do not have a bucket list as I have done nearly everything I want to do and as a matter of fact one thing I would like to do would require a pretty large sum of money, so that would be good.
    Thanks for this post because I rarely remember to buy a ticket on Wednesdays, so I will at least remember to buy one this Wednesday.

  12. Bob – Aw, you’re a nice guy. Can I come work for you?

    Becky – I think both are a little spooky, what with all that creepy staff wandering around, plotting against you, stealing from you, manipulating your family and turning them against you, running drugs out of your 5-car garage, murdering each other and blaming it on the butler. Best just stick with a tiny bungalow.

    Barrett – Thanks for the promo. I don’t know enough about the issue to blog about it, but you might hear from some readers. Good luck with the campaign.

    Lesley – It’s impossible to keep it secret. People have tried. They’ve held on to their ticket for a year while they worked out how to handle it — it didn’t work. But, if anyone can do it, you can. Best wishes and remember who your best friends were after you become disgustingly rich, eh?

    Geewits – I absolutely believe you. You sound like you’ve got your head on straighter than most. And if you win on this ticket I prompted you to buy….. aw, never mind.

  13. I wouldn’t mind winning oodles of money, but I keep forgetting to buy the damn tickets. I guess that means I’m winning a couple of bucks a week.

  14. I think this idea others have talked about here of capping the lottery winnings and making more prizes is brilliant. I’ve never heard it suggested before — we should start a campaign!

    I never buy lottery tickets because I really don’t know what I’d do with the money. $100 000 would really come in handy — we’d pay a few bills, take a family vacation, give some to charity, and then it’d be all over. Something like $10 million would be too much — too much change, and not in a good way. If they did the capping thing though — I’d be more interested.

  15. Jazz- Yup, you’re way ahead in the game already.

    Lynn – I think they used to have nice small jackpots and then they discovered that “people want to win more money more often”, so they doubled the price of the tickets and frequency of draws and got more people buying tickets which increased the jackpots to unwieldy heights. (at the same time, of course they also started chucking casinos around and VLT machines like they were going out of style) They’ll never scale it back because the governments make most of their money from lotteries and gambling in general these days. They can’t function anymore without more and bigger lotteries and gambling venues. Who cares if 20% of the population has a gambling problem? Oh, sorry– that’s another topic…

  16. when my husband and i were young and in love, we thought it would be cute to pick numbers based on significant dates in our life (first day we met, our birthdays, difference in our ages) i know, i know, don’t you just want to puke? but now we are committed to those numbers every damn week, because if they showed up, and we didn’t play them, how upsetting would that be? i for one would love to win the lottery, would indulge myself, but would also be one hell of a philanthropist.

  17. I totally agree with you. I think that if someone wins the lottery, no matter how much, their lifestyle does change to a certain degree. It’s a little easier to buy a house, do some renovations, buy a car, it takes the ‘money’ out of the equation and allows you to have a little fun choosing what you want.
    This year, I was lucky enough to win a little something and I do feel indeed that my lifestyle did change a little. For example, we are going to Cuba this boxing day (because we had put some money aside for it), we let all our friends knew in advance (so that they have some time to save up) and none of them were able to and now not able to join us. I’m actually pretty bumped about that, I wish they could join us.