What I'd Do With $3,000,000 a Year...

Laurie D. T. Mann

I gamble in two ways:

I've never related to number games or little jackpot games. My husband sometimes plays scratch tickets, but I think random luck is random luck. I'd rather have random luck for a big jackpot (where, granted, there are much higher odds against me) than random luck for winning...another scratch ticket.

A couple from Arizona won something like $80,000,000 a few years back. They were an older couple, and I remember Bryant Gumbel asked "Do you plan to travel? Are you going to Europe?" and the woman replied, "I have no interest in traveling outside of this country."

And I thought, "It's a sin for someone with no imagination to win that much money!."

A young woman from Utah won $87,000,000 one week. When asked what she planned to do with the money, she said, "Spend it."

Right on!

Why are we bothering to play lotteries or gamble at all if we have no idea what to do with the money?

But the lucky young woman from Utah got me thinking:

If I won $87,000,000, what would I do with it?

Lotteries are paid out over a period of time. Most rational lotteries pay out over 20 years (here in Pennsylvania it's paid out over 26 years-anyone know why?). After taxes, she's taking home about $3,000,000 a year for the next 20 years. That breaks down to about:


How often have you spent $367 in an hour? Imagine doing that every hour for 163,200 hours?


Anyway, if I had random chance to win $3,000,000 a year for 20 year (after taxes), here's what I'd do:

First, I'd get an unlisted number. As it is, I already hang up on about four telemarketers a week. I'd hate to think what would happen if I actually had lots of disposable cash.

Second, I'd develop a budget. The budget would probably be something like this:

Since charity begins at home, I'd set aside some money for my husband, child and folks first. Unlike the young lady from Utah, I'd just send them checks. If they wanted a car, they could buy a car. Personally, I'm not all that car-happy. We'd probably keep our Subaru (finally getting some body work done to it) and buy a fairly simple mini-van. Well, OK, it probably would have a cell phone, CD player and and an excellent anti-theft device. But no leather seats or onboard computer.

Our town is building a new library so I'd donate generously to that. I'd start some sort of "Tolerance" program in the local public school, because the natives are incredibly intolerant. (Note: This essay was written in 1994, before "our neighbor," Richard Baumhammers, took a gun and murdered five people in cold blood for not being WASPS. When I said that this "fine, affluent" suburb produced a mass murderer in a local newsgroup, people jumped on me, as if murderers only come from the city. *sigh*)

I'd send checks to the family planning clinics up in Brookline where people were murdered late last year.

The Clinton campaign could expect a nice check from me. I'm an ardent capitalist and I don't like big government, but the Democrats are looking more to the future while the Republicans are trying to drag us back in time. I'll probably even go to work for Clinton for '96. I could even visit the Democratic convention.

I'd love to start a big free Web/Net---something that crosses the investment/non-profit areas---to help promote women's causes and encourage women to get online. Imagine a soc.women where women actually got to discuss their issues. It would be pretty interesting...

For investments, I'll put away at least $100,000 a year for my retirement in some sort of long term fund. I'll probably buy a bunch of investment books and am unlikely to seek out a financial planner. Once a month, I'll take $10,000 and buy a block of stock in a company that interests me.

I'm a fairly cautious investor, but I'd love to invest in DreamWorks (the new Spielberg/Geffen/Katzenburg company) and in some computer ventures.

Finally, the "expenses" category.

We have a small house on a busy street with a hill for a yard that we bought in a hurry when we moved back to Pittsburgh two years ago. I'd love to get a house in a quiet neighborhood. $300,000 buys an excellent house in the Pittsburgh area. I'll probably get a short-term mortgage (three years) so I wouldn't have to pay for the house all at once.

My dream house would have:

I already mentioned my desire for a van.

Some days, I'm tempted to send my child to boarding school. Other days, I'm not. I'd probably save aside some cash for that just in case...

Travel is very high on my list of things I'd do with lots of money. I'd take my family to Europe for the summer. Next year, maybe we'd go to Australia. After that, maybe we'd go to Japan. And so on. I also want to drive around North America and see everything.

Once we got settled in our new house, I'd buy some new computers, so we'd each have one. And three modems. And maybe I'd even network those computers together. And maybe my own T1 line. And...

Ultimately, I want to live in the Pacific Northwest. I'd probably delay this move until after our child is in college. And if Jim wants to have season ticket to the Steelers, he can always fly in for the games!

In twenty years, the gravy train would be used up. I'll be near retirement age anyway. If Seattle doesn't drive my sinuses crazy, I'd probably stay there permanently (even if my house wouldn't be as high tech as Bill Gates' is). If I had health problems, I'd probably move to Tucson.

I probably do daydream a bit much. It's important to remember that money cannot buy happiness, but it can buy choices!