Sunday, January 10, 2016

If I Had a Billion Dollars ...

The Power Ball prize is estimated to be about One Billion Dollars on Wednesday night's drawing.

I'll be honest. Last Wednesday, when the pot was at $500,000,000, I bought my first, ever, Powerball ticket. No one won. On Saturday, the pot jumped to $800,000,000. I bought another ticket, and Deus Ex Machina paid for five more numbers.

Then, we came home, and while dinner was cooking, I read some articles about things like "What to do if you win." Some of that stuff was a little scary. One article said that if the winner can remain anonymous, that would be best, because, in the past, lottery winners have not only been robbed, but occasionally, they've been killed.

I can, easily, imagine someone wanting that money badly enough to not care about the health or well-being of the winner.

One billion dollars.

It's an amount of money that is simply inconceivable, and the only way a person could spend that much money in an average lifetime would be to make some very poor and costly investments.

We thought a lot about the kinds of things we would do.

There are a lot of things that I would love to be able to accomplish. I would like to eliminate homelessness here in Maine by offering free/low cost housing, but not rentals. My dream would be to purchase houses or apartment buildings, and then, after a minimum rental period to allow the person to get some stability in his/her life, the tenant would be offered a life-time lease (the equivalent of owning the house or apartment) for a dollar. Money for future taxes on the property would be put into an escrow account.

How much of that billion dollars would a project, like that, take up? Probably not too much, especially if the escrow account were interest bearing. Even the most conservative interest bearing account of 1% annually would earn $10,000 with an initial deposit of $1,000,000. That $10K would, probably, be enough to cover the taxes on the building. So, an initial investment of $1.3 million to pay for a building and any upgrading/maintenance and put future tax money into escrow would barely make a dent in the billion dollar cash prize.

We talked about giving money away, but then, realized that, for some people, giving them money might make things worse. Does the IRS tax monetary gifts? If so, the recipient of our million dollar gift, might find himself/herself in some financial dire straits because of our generosity. So, we thought, a better option, might be to invest in those people by paying off their debts to give them a fresh, financial start, and then, making their dream career a reality. A restaurant for a child who's always wanted to own one. Tuition assistance for a college student with a reasonable cost-of-living stipend (enough to support him without so much he would have a burdensome income tax). Publish a book for a new author. If a friend or family member of mine won the cash prize, and they wanted to give my family a gift, that's what I would want - to be debt-free with start-up cash to be able to pursue my passion and make my own living.

Money isn't always a gift. Sometimes it's a burden. Which is how I started to think of this lottery winning. At first the fantasy was all about the good we could do, but there was no imagining of our lives changing. We all like to pretend that being given that amount of money wouldn't change us, but it would. It would, because it would have to.

After reading that article about lottery winners becoming victims of violent crimes, I realized I'd have to move and maybe change my name. If I'm a target, so are my children, and so they'd have to give up their lives, too.

Is the money worth losing my entire lifestyle and community?

It would be cool to have that kind of cash, and I can imagine how incredible it would be to finally make someone else's dreams come true, but I can also imagine it being an incredible burden.

Things are easier, less complicated, when one isn't in pursuit of a dollar, but in pursuit of a life.

Are you planning to purchase a Powerball ticket knowing that the pot is a billion dollars? What would you do if you won?


  1. Yes, so much this. I'd probably buy a farm and pay for one half of each of my kids' college educations should they choose that route. Why only half? Because one of the first and easiest real world problems for a newly minted adult to tackle is paying for college. The rest I'd probably give away to researched charities. I've worked with people who have had money they didn't earn (including some lottery winners) and they were miserable people. I don't want that.

  2. I have never been tempted to buy a lottery ticket. The meaningful things in life don't come easy. You don't need money to be helpful and bring joy to other peoples lives. You already do that through the thoughtful charity work and by volunteering your precious time. However if you win giving someone a fresh start, free from their debts is a really lovely idea. Just like in the film "It could happen to you" with Nicholas Cage and Bridget Fonda, where they used the money to bring a bit of happiness to others.

  3. With that much money I would probably give most of it away, and leave the country for a while. The fame would be hard to escape. Sadly there are a lot of nuts out there who would juts see $$$ signs and take advantage of you. I'd live mostly off grid, simply and also stay in touch with the world and be part of a larger community. I've always wanted to live in the mountains where it's green...