The Universal Plan “B”

With the recent giant jackpots for the LotoMax lottery, I’ve been hearing a lot of people speculating on what they would do with $30 million or $50 million. The odds of winning the top jackpot are 1: 28,633,528 but I guess people think those odds are good enough to waste five dollars on.

The real fun of a lottery, to me, is it gives you a teensy-tiny glimmer of hope of the possibility of something amazing happening — maybe. So that while you’re dropping off to sleep at night, you can think about what you would do with all that money, as you fade away into a lovely dreamland slumber.

When you think about what you’d do with that kind of money, do you ever try to think of all the people you know who could really use a little extra money and how much you would give them and how you would give it to them and what it would mean to their lives? This is where I get really bogged down. And then I can’t sleep from trying to figure it all out. Because pretty much everyone I know and/or am acquainted with could use extra money.  So how does one decide who to give money to or even if to give money away at all?

Are you going to start making up some sort of Venn diagram of levels-of-need compared with where the money would be best put to use? Because you wouldn’t like to think of the money being wasted, right? So then you have to get into some tricky moralizing.

For instance, do you give all your siblings/family members an equal amount of money or just give the ones who really need it some money or give them all money according to what you think they need? Or do you let them tell you what they need? What if you know one of them would just blow it on stupid stuff and then be just as destitute in a year as they are now?

How about friends or coworkers? Do you give them all money? Would they still be your friends if you didn’t give them any money? If a good friend of yours or a family member won $50 million, would you expect them to give you some? How much?

And what would you do about all the sad sacks that will inevitably come crawling out of the woodwork with gut wrenching stories? Will you give money to strangers? Charities? Dole it out randomly to panhandlers and homeless people?

Whenever you read about people winning millions and going broke a few years later it’s because they couldn’t say “no” to all the people in their lives who “really needed” stuff. Because people get really odd when it comes to piles of money. They expect you to share your good fortune. They insist on it even. One guy’s brother even hired a hit man to kill him so he could inherit his brother’s lottery winnings. Having a pile of money land in your lap changes everything about you and your life, no matter how grounded and well-adjusted you think you are. You have to be really smart if you want that money to enhance your life instead of just messing it up.

As Susan Bradley, author of “Sudden Money: Managing a Financial Windfall,” says, winning plays a game with your head – “ too many people fail to address the emotional connection to the windfall.”

What about your kids, for instance? How would you handle the fact that they now have to find a motivation beyond survival to keep going to school, getting good grades, developing a career? I’ve known a couple of intelligent people whose parents died when they were fairly young and who ended up with a substantial inheritance. They both always seemed very rudderless and aimless – bounding from one flight of fancy to another. Sometimes it’s good to have something to work toward – a goal to achieve.

And how would you avoid always feeling afraid? Afraid of unscrupulous people taking advantage of you or your kids or attempting more nefarious ways of getting their hands on your money?

Anyhow, these are the questions that plague me in the wee hours of the night even though I have no chance in hell of ever actually having to worry about this.

But, even with all these questions and dangers and pitfalls, I’m still willing to take the chance of being saddled with millions of dollars. I think I’d hire a team of financial advisers right off the bat, though.

What about you? Do you think you could handle having 50 million dollars? Have you itemized exactly what you would do with it?


35 responses to “The Universal Plan “B”

  1. Not having youth left anymore, I think I could handle it but not sure about my children. I’d want to buy them all houses and I’d give a lot to charity-especially ones for children. I’d do a lot more traveling too. Other than that, I pretty much like my life now. There’s always financial things to worry about of course.

  2. It’s easy to sit back and dream about what I’d do with the money, but I wonder how my perspective would change after it became a reality. I would be concerned about being in the spotlight. I mean, no matter how private a person is, how do you keep that quiet these days?

    Would buy one helluva wardrobe and give some to charity.

    Before settling, I’d travel a lot — always wanted to drive across the country — plus I’d have to keep moving until my freak-out settled. Would settle off the beaten track somewhere in a comfy log cabin. Then I’d figure out the next steps. If I won 50 mil though… I don’t know if I’d want THAT much money. Isn’t that silly?

  3. I have thought about this — it makes for pleasant “what if” thoughts as I’m laying there waiting for sleep.

    The two main things that need to be dealt with is protection of the money so that it lasts and protection of identity to minimize the possibility of being someone’s target.

    First thing I’d do is call Nathan, our finance guy, to see when he would be available to make a trip with us to the state lottery headquarters. Yes, we have a finance guy — that’s where my retirement savings account moved, when I retired.

    Next, before we let anyone else know about winning, we do an interim move, probably to a part of the state where my last name is relatively common.

    Then, we go, with Nathan, to lottery HQ. No media, no pictures, no video for the local news. The lottery officials will do a news release, but all they’ll have to release from us in it is my name and the area we live in.

    We’d take the lump sum, not the annual annuity payout. It’d get wireless transferred to the account set up by Nathan, who would handle the investments based on a strategy we will have determined in advance.

    All 5 of my siblings and all 9 of my wife’s would get a set amount, to help them with their debts or whatever they want to do with it.

    Our kids are grown and married with their own stable financial situations. They would benefit from this, of course, but in a way that I hope would let them continue with their own independent lives, with the option of retiring at an early age.

  4. I’ve had a plan for about a year now. I’m going to start a charity. I even have a name for it. My charity would be free home repair for Meals-on-Wheels recipients here in Tarrant County: Plumbing, electrical, heating, AC, whatever they need done. I would also pay for college for all of my nieces and nephews and buy my brother a truck. I wouldn’t need financial managers because I always check the box (on the Texas Lotto) for 25 annual payments. That way the bulk of the money is kept neatly stored for me. If I have enough besides doing those things, I will buy a cottage on Topsail Island and renovate some stuff in my house. I really think I could win the lottery. I should probably buy a ticket. I haven’t bought one since May and you can’t win if you don’t play. Of course, ours aren’t 50 million. The Texas Lotto is currently at 12 million – a much more manageable amount when broken up into 25 annual payments.

  5. The first thing I’d do is lock most of it into some kind of money-market investment fun for 6-12 months, where I can’t touch it.

    This will allow the hub-bub to die down, and hopefully people will stop begging and asking me for cash.

    It would also prevent me from doing anything compulsive and stupid, and give me time make the right long-term plans for managing the money.

    Of course, that’s not to say I won’t take out enough in the mean time to have a lot of fun with!

    Funny, though, how ALL the stories you hear about lotteries are negative ones. So-and-so lost all their money after two years…blah blah blah.

    I think that’s because they deliberately don’t mention the happy winners.

    I think that’s because we humans are jealous creatures, and we like to hear stories of misery and failure, more than about success and happiness.

    I mean…which story would sell more books?

    A lottery winner who quit their job, had a fulfilled life, and watched their savings grow?

    Or someone who blew it all in a year, lost everything, and ended up committing suicide?

  6. Good question about the deservingand undeserving family members. I have had this nightmare for years. Would I treat them all equally? Not likely!

    I have to say in terms of sharing with the siblings- those on the A-list would get a significant amount, those on the B-list – not a penny!

    My own two now that is a problem. I’ll have to sleep on it !

    I seldom buy lotto tickets and Lotto Max – NOPE! $5 will buy me something real. For $5 I want more than a dream.

  7. Brent and I have discussed our lottery winnings plan (he plays I don’t) and we’ve agreed that we would pay off all debts for our family members (mortgages, cars, loans etc) and then give a college fund to all their kids.

    For those who don’t have things like their own home, we would provide a modest one to suit their needs.

    After that we would buy/build our dream home in our dream neighbourhood. Each work part time in a field of passion and use the interest off the rest as our income.

    I don’t think having money would inhibit teaching our kid(s) to value school and work. I have met wealthy people who were motivated and those who are not and I think that comes down to what you teach your child, not how much money you have.

  8. I’m a vindictive prick so I doubt that I’d give anything to family.
    I would however offer to purchase the family business lock stock and barrel (pardon the pun) just for the privilege of firing the lickspittles and “yes people” that work there. (Bonus to this is that I would get half of it back!)
    Then I would get myself a bunch of girlfriends.
    So yes I would be like the punchline of the old joke:
    “I spent it on booze, drugs, whores and fast living. The rest I wasted.”

  9. Linda –Actually the stories about the winners who blow their millions in a year or so are all older people. They can’t resist giving money to and buying stuff for their friends and family. I think that would be harder than one might expect. Because you’d feel guilt for having all this money you did nothing to earn and there’s your friend driving a crappy old car, and your brother struggling to make mortgage payments because he’s been out of work for a while, etc., etc. You’ll find a million people more worthy of some of that money than you feel you are of all of it.

    Davina – Not silly at all. I think most of us can imagine enough money to buy a nice house and travel a bit, but that wouldn’t even begin to touch 50 million. Fifty million is difficult to comprehend. That’s why I’d get professionals on board who know what to do with that much money. Before I touched any of it.

    Cedar – How so?

    Mike – I misread a bit of that and though you said “all 5 of my siblings and all 9 of my wives” You certainly have this all figured out, I don’t know that we have some of the options you have. I think if you win big money you have to agree to let them use your picture for promotional purposes. Also I don’t think we have an annual annuity option, but we also don’t have to pay income tax on the winnings – just on the interest in subsequent years. Anyway, since you seem very sensible about this, I hope you win something.

    Geewits – Ya, you pretty much have to buy a ticket to win. The online advisors say that it’s a big mistake to take the annual payments- that you should always take the lump sum. Anyway, I’ve had an idea for a charitable organization too, but it involves single parents. Good luck! Now go buy a ticket.

    Dr. Monkey – It’s fun worrying about how to spend 50 million bucks, though.

    Friar – I did a lot of googling around on this topic and it’s really only a very few who totally screw up their lives because of a big win. Most people are much happier when they suddenly have a lot of money. But then there really aren’t a lot of multi-million dollar winners. And most of them are smart about it and get expert help right away. They don’t do anything huge and rash with their money. They invest. They pay off debts. They give small amounts to family. And some quit their jobs, some (surprisingly) don’t.

    Jay – Isn’t it stupid to fret about this stuff that will probably never happen? Ah well, it’s fun to dream. And yes, $5 is an expensive dream. They suck you in with those 55 additional chances of winning one million and people think that means the odds are significantly better of winning something. But it’s an illusion – like all gambling.

    Tiana – The motivation thing I think makes a difference if you were born into money or if you suddenly just had a big pile. And it makes a difference if you’re older or if you’re a teenager or child. What about your friends? Do they get anything? Do you foresee any resentment from family members who are living in their “modest” homes while you’re living in a dream home? What if you bought a sibling a modest home and they sold it and used the money for other stuff?

    Sean – Wise man.

    Lebanowski – Good! Between the revenge and the “bunch of girlfriends” you should run through that money pretty quickly and be back where you started from within a year or so. But as long as you have fun on the way, right?

  10. Especially if it was a huge win like 50 million I’d just put it in my chequeing account with no interest.
    The each year in april I’d do my income taxes and declare zero income.
    Because I have no income I would of course be due for sale tax rebates, Ontario tax rebates, etc etc. and the government could give me money every spring.
    Of course I’d have to limit my spending to no more than a million a year if I want it to last into my 100’s which I certainly do.

  11. Well, seeing as I very rarely buy lottery tickets, I don’t much think about it. It doesn’t keep me awake at night, that’s for sure.

    I imagine you’d have to get used to the idea of losing lots of “friends”. Or at least I would because seriously, I don’t see why I should subsidize everyone and their brother. I’d take care of my family for sure.

    How do you give a friend a gift like, say, a house without looking somehow condescending, you know? “Happy Birthday Janey, I bought you a house!”

    Of course, the chances of winning being what they are it isn’t really an issue is it.

  12. If I won the lottery, first I would also seek out an accountant to provide me with the best investment options. Secondly, I would donate a percentage to environmental and animal charities as they are the ones who really need it at the moment. Thirdly, we would travel and buy a house, fourthly, I would give a bit to family and friends who are struggling. (But only those who have been good friends with me for awhile now. If you just suddenly popped out of the woodwork begging for money. Tough beans!)
    Lastly-I would retire early.

    Yeah, I also think about this stuff sometimes! 😉

  13. Yes. And yes.

    Instead of a charity, I would set up a trust. People could then apply for money but they’d have to give me a really good reason. It would be like writing an application for a grant. Have you ever applied for a grant? It’s worse than applying for some government jobs. My BCA charity applies for grants sometimes. Yeesh.

  14. I would immediately move my family to a completely new place (I have it all picked out, and no, I’m not telling you but those who know me, know), to avoid the “people coming out of the woodwork asking for money” thing.

    Movers would be hired to pack up our belongings from our house and ship them.

    My workplace would receive a single telephone call requesting that my personal belongings be sent to me, and any documentation I must sign to terminate my employment could be done remotely. I would never set foot on the property again.

    My extended family and close friends would receive phone calls, of course.

    After that, we would live our lives. The children would go to school. I would probably open an internet cafe, and live a pretty low key life without drawing a lot of attention.

    Perhaps the only clue that there is money would be that I could come and go as I please from the cafe, and regardless of how successful or not the business looked, it would never go out of business.

  15. The only time I ever buy a lottery ticket is when someone organizes a group buying at work for a big jackpot. How could I not? I could end up being the only person left working at the office, and that would just leave me kicking myself for the rest of my life. This happens so infrequently that I haven’t really planned out what I would do with the money, but it would probably be split so many ways that there would not be too much to worry about.

    Now make sure to let me know if there is a group blogger lottery ticket buying event please!

  16. I’ve read so many times that no matter how much money people have they always think they need more. I wouldn’t want the responsibility of that much money.

    I’d hire a financial planner to help us figure out how to work inheritances and money for kids school/walkabouts etc. As well as a maintenance amount for us, and retirement.

    I’d renovate our house properly and quickly (energy retrofits to get us offgrid mostly) buy the property behind us, buy the house for sale next door and invite my ex and his new family to live there if they wanted (if not, I’d add it to the housing below. I’d buy other properties in the area that are available and invite friends unhappily still in Ottawa to come live there.

    I’d set up a fund for friends trying to start a local Camphill community.

    Then I’d set up a trust with an elected board and a mandate to donate money to causes that spiralled out from the local community to the international. I’d set it up so the amount of funds available to each area reflected global wealth patterns (more available to the poorest of the poor) part of their mandate would be to educate about the percentages and how they reflect the world so people could see their relative wealth.

    I’d still shop at thrift shops and flea markets…and maybe a few more antique shops…but I’d use my increased buying power to support businesses that really truly supported my values…like the Solar Oven Society.

  17. Dave1949 – Yes, I’m sure that’s exactly what a financial advisor would suggest, too. Right after he skimmed off his fee.

    Jazz – Really, if you wanted to buy me a house you could be as condescending as you wanted. I’d suck it up. Really I would. I might even keep hanging around with you afterwards in case you wanted to buy me furniture and maybe a car, too.

    Pauline – It’s pretty interesting how many people have very clear-cut plans for money they’ll never have. Obviously I’m not the only one whose mind meanders in that direction occasionally.

    Julia – Why yes, I HAVE written a grant application or two in my time. Problem is, in a situation like that, the very people who need the money the most would be incapable of developing an impressive grant application. You’d just have to sit on a big throne with a bag of money next to you and let people come to you in person and tell their story. You could have a team of researchers onsite doing an instant background check on the supplicants and if they pass muster you just hand them a wad of cash and send them on their way. Or you could just do what Oprah does and, on the strength of your enormous wealth and powers of public persuasion, you get all sorts of companies to donate stuff which you then give away, making you look incredibly generous.

    Brett – Why would you take all your old crap along with you on your new life? Why not just give it away and buy fresh new crap? Save the cost of movers. Also, movers wreck everything anyway.

    Finola – I always see a lot of old people buying lottery tickets. Why is that? I wonder what they plan to do with all that money. Also they don’t look like they can afford to throw 20 bucks away every week – because they never just buy one ticket. They always have a whole fist full and they spend half an hour in line ahead of you getting the cashier to check them all out.

    Mudmama – Okay, if I were giving away lottery money, I’d vote for you to get it. You’ve got some noble and worthy causes there – except maybe having the ex live next door. Well, I don’t know what your relationship is with him, but I assume this would be for the kids’ sake… who will all eventually move a way anyhow leaving you with the ex as a neighbour/tenant. Wouldn’t you miss your trips to Ottawa?

  18. I don’t think I would hand out money to my friends. When would it end?

    By modest home, I’m specifically referring to my mother who wants nothing more than a small cottage to herself on the river. How much space could she possibly want/need?
    There might be resentment from my one person on husband’s side of the family for things like that, but this person would be upset no matter what was decided. My dream home isn’t some palatial extravagance anyway.

  19. @XUP,

    It’s not up to me, that’s why!

    I can literally put everything that means anything to me, personally, in one backpack and one carry on suitcase.

    I made my “30 second list” about two years ago and I make sure I know where that stuff is at all times, in case I have to go quickly for some reason (e.g. a fire).

    I kid you not. So pretty much that’s my computers (two laptops, two backup hard drives – and in fact, I could make do with just the hard drives in a pinch, and buy new laptops later) and a few mementos (which are mostly the preemie clothing from our oldest son’s twin sister, who was born too early to survive, and died in my arms).

    The rest of it means nothing to me and can be replaced, since it is all “wear items”.

    However, the other five in the family may or may not have an attachment to their stuff, so I can’t decide for them!

    In any case, with $50M in the bank, moving & packing charges would hardly be a drop in the bucket.

  20. I would probably give away a big chunk of it to groups that are effectively promoting good climate policies and technologies, another to groups like the Red Cross, and use the rest to buy an annuity big enough to live on indefinitely.

  21. 50 million would be tricky. Does the government skim half off for tax to save half the trouble?

    A financial advisor, yes, a trust for some charity. I’d keep a couple million or ten as nest egg and investment. The money would go fast. Would I bail out a few family and friends continually in debt, or be emotionally obliged to bail?

    Little money or a lot, money makes things get all skewed. People like to be on equal ground with friends and family for lunch and vacation or whatever. A modest secret windfall but you have to sign off to do publicity to accept the cash. What a devil’s bargain.

  22. Ooh, I know, indue bookstore bailouts, like This Ain’t teh Rosedale Library second wind? Even $100,000 would be a drop in the bucket. Give a hunk to CBC. Cash infusions for writers grants…microloans, basic human disease prevention, organic farming boosts to make competition for pesticide-based agriculture. Would oil spill cleanup suck it all up and make no difference?

  23. I’ve given this lots of thought over the years. I’d want to give away half of it. With half of that half (ie one-quarter of the total) I’d set up a personal foundation through the Ottawa Community Foundation. I would establish a small committee (including myself and my son, and a couple of other people) to set the funding criteria, evaluate applications, and choose which candidates receive funding each year.

    The other half of that half (ie another one-quarter of the total) would be distributed among friends and family. I struggle with the specific breakdown and the criteria for determining it. For example, I am reluctant to bestow oodles of money on my son all at once, for fear of what it might do to him. On the other hand I don’t want to put either him or myself in the position where he has to obtain my approval for his decisions. Nor do I want to impose my own judgment or morality on anybody else on my list. So I continue to lie in bed sorting these details out.

    As for the money we’re keeping, GC and I want to retire, live somewhere we love, have a library in a turret, and travel the world taking courses and workshops. We will hire a personal chef who prepares delicious healthy meals and snacks, and someone else who loves to clean and organize. We will probably also need a chauffeur and a chief of staff, so we can focus all our efforts on having fun.

  24. Tiana – You never said what you’d do if the recipients of your gift sold it for cash to spend??

    Brett – Ya, I think I’d have one bag of stuff I’d want to keep, too.

    Milan – Would you keep working? Or how would you spend your time?

    Pearl – The Canadian government doesn’t tax winnings – just the interest in subsequent years. It’s all yours. But ya, I do think you have to submit to some PR stuff.

    Zoom – At last someone who really understands how difficult the bestowing of money can be and how many ramifications are involved in giving money away. It really isn’t as easy as just saying “oh, I’ll give some to my siblings and parents”, is it?

  25. I only buy office tickets just in case…I would hate to be the smuck that gets left behind. Wait a minute maybe that would mean that I would get a promotion and then I would be a winner too. LOL When ever you talk of winning the lottery dreaming always takes over no matter how you look at it and let’s face it the odds are really against you. I usually forget about it after I give my five bucks anyway.

  26. All I know is that if I feel like scrapping I just bring up the lottery subject with my husband. We each say how we would divide the money…who would get it etc. and we fight. He wants to keep more and give less…I want to give away a larger % and it drives him nuts. I’ll bring your post up tonight at dinner…that oughta be good for a laugh.

  27. @mindfulmerchant,

    That sounds like my wife and I, in some respects – we’ve had “the lottery chat” and one thing we agreed upon was that we’d split the winnings 50:50 – that way, if she wanted to give a million to each sister, to her parents, etc., she could do that.

  28. You’re right I forgot! I don’t think I’d care as long as they don’t come crawling back to me for another house later on.

  29. Maurice – No, I’m pretty sure if everyone in your section won the lottery, they’d just close the section and you’d have to go find another job…wait a minute…

    MM – I guess you’re feeling scrappy today then, if you’re going to start something with hubby about this post. I can’t believe people fight over how to spend imaginary money.

    Brett – Again, I can’t believe couples argue over how to spend imaginary money. Don’t you have some real stuff to argue about? I guess if you don’t, that’s a good thing, eh?

    Tiana – Maybe you should just give them the cash right off the bat and let them do whatever they want with it. Damn ungrateful siblings anyway…lol

  30. @XUP,

    Some folks argue over imaginary people (religious deities, for instance) all the time. Sometimes they go to war over it, too.

    At least we’re arguing over something we could potentially enjoy whilst we’re still living!

    And besides, there’s no argument anymore – I said my piece, and that was that 😉

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