Thursday, September 24, 2015

Winning the lottery

Have you ever wanted to own this?

Or this?

Yeah, me neither.

I saw an interesting article a few weeks ago entitled Twelve Things Not To Do If You Win the Lottery. These twelve things are:

  • Have a stash of illegal substances around the house
  • Tell everyone you know
  • Automatically decide to take the up-front cash
  • Think that you are the smartest person to manage your money and finances
  • Let your debts remain in place
  • Become the generous high-roller, living the life
  • Buy everything for everyone, or even for yourself
  • Say to hell with a budget
  • Become the business backer for all your friends and family
  • Give away the whole enchilada
  • Get celebrity and athlete envy
  • Think that laws and decency standards no longer apply

Like zillions of other people, Don and I have batted around the idea of what we would do if we won the lottery. (Of course to do that, we'd have to play the lottery.) I'd like to think we've be more sensible than to do any of the twelve things mentioned on that list, but then we've never been put in that position either.

Back when we lived in Oregon, there was an older couple who won a "small" lottery of about $5 million. I actually got the chutzpah to call the wife and ask if I could interview her about what a lottery win was like. She was very kind and, while she declined an in-person interview, she answered a few questions over the phone. I was deeply impressed with how sensible she and her husband were being.

Among other things, they delayed announcing to anyone they had won the lottery until they had entirely upgraded the security on their modest home. They had no plans to move and no plans to buy anything fancy. They were in the process of setting up trust funds for their children and grandchildren in such a way that no one would run wild (especially their grandchildren). In short, they acted calmly and rationally.

So what would Don and I do if we won the lottery?

Besides paying off the mortgage, we might consider moving to a more remote property (though it would be a wretch to leave our wonderful neighbors, so maybe we wouldn't). We would continue to live frugally, though we might replace our worn kitchen linoleum and hideous blue indoor/outdoor carpeting the house came with, and install hardwood floors. We would set up trust funds for the girls and our future grandchildren, while encouraging all parties to live as frugally and self-sustainably as possible. We would set aside a generous portion for charitable purposes.

Of course, this is all hypothetical since, after all, we don't play the lottery.

But in a manner of speaking, we already have won the lottery. So have you. What do I mean?

Well consider: most of us are in reasonably good health, reasonably happy with our families and relationships and friends, reasonably well-off enough that we can afford to live someplace decent, with reasonable amounts of modern conveniences, and have reasonable access to modern medicine when needed. You're only reading this post because you're experiencing a modern miracle (the internet). You're only reading this because you can read (many people can't). You're only reading this because you can see to read. Catch my drift?

These are all lottery wins in the game of life. Beyond that, an astonishing number of "wins" in life are due to making good choices (the premise of my Simplicity Primer book) and living frugally. Almost anyone can make the decision to get out of debt, raise your kids right, become more self-sufficient, etc.

Still, those fantasies about winning the lottery linger. After all, there are few of us who wouldn't agree a little bit more money would be nice.

There are ways to achieve that too. I've heard it said the quickest way to give yourself a pay raise is to spend less money. Daisy at The Organic Prepper has an outstanding post called Personal Austerity: 12 Ways to Radically Cut Your Expenses (well worth reading!). Along these lines, there's an article on the Dave Ramsey website entitled Seven Characteristics of Debt-Free People.

Let's face it, most of us have won the lottery in life, for which we should give praise to God.

Sometimes it helps to keep things in perspective.


  1. Granted, money can make some problems just go away. But how many financially rich people are truly happy?

    On our fridge we have a saying by Frederick J. Miller. "Happiness is not created by wealth and luxury, but by simplicity, moderation, a pure heart and a peaceful disposition", all of which leads us to Rural Revolution every morning.
    Montana Guy

  2. this summer i dodged invasive cancer. i caught melanoma early enough before it had a chance to spread (originally the doctors thought it had begun spreading). I am cancer free... no amount of lottery money can buy that.

    1. Whoo-hoo, you DID win the lottery!!!

      - Patrice

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Great! He is the great healer! Best wishes to you!

  3. When we take trips to our neighboring state to visit my family, we drive by billboards about the current lottery value. It's fun to think about what we'd do with that money while we're driving. Mostly our list covers giving much of it to our families to make sure our niece and nephew are taken care of (and I wish I could snap my fingers and my sister would never have to work again). The rest covers how best to take care of our kids. We rarely make it far enough to talk about actually moving or spending money on ourselves, let alone anything "fancy". Fun to talk about but we've never played, nor would we! I am amazed when I read articles about how lottery winners go bankrupt. I just can't imagine that level of stupidity!

  4. Tithe. We inherited $300,000 two years ago. My husband joyfully wrote a $30,000 check to our church.
    No regrets.
    No debts.

  5. Patrice, we sure enough woke up on the same page today.

    I'm normally an openly thankful person, but today I woke up with a strong, warm sense of gratitude foremost in my mind.

    The list is long of the things with which God has blessed me, and the healings He's done in my life.

    The replies and responses to this post are heart-warming and resonate well.

    Your lottery-win list is very nearly identical to my own...'cept I'd buy a tractor. ;)

    A. McSp

  6. Ok, I'll admit, I've dreamed of spending time on a small Caribbean island since I was quite young. I want to wander pointlessly through the sand. I want to lounge under the shade of breezy tropical trees. I want to dance to a steel drum band in a small village market square at night. I want to own nothing more than sandals, wild print moo-moo, sunglasses and a glass of rum punch.

    If I ever buy a lottery ticket and win, I'll decide what to do with it from a beach cabana on some little forgotten island. Then I'll come home and get back to real life. All that lounging around will exhaust you.

  7. That was beautiful!!!!

    I agree with all of those Things Not To Do. I would add one more:

    Don't tell ANYBODY.

    Money changes things. Most importantly, it changes relationships-- and usually not for the better.

    I'd rather live in a trailer and have friends and family who respect me for who I am, not friends who want to capitalize and relatives who either love me for what I enable or resent me for what I don't enable.

  8. I would take the upfront money, I'm 72 and the twenty year payout option doesn't seem like a good choice. I would do good things with it but send zero to any charity or other tax exempt I know of.

    1. anon,
      better to do your own charity. then you know it truly goes to do good and not skimmed off into someone's pocket.

    2. anon do your own charity, then you know where it goes, not embezzled.

  9. My hit the lottery dream? A new set of tires on my Jeep, then disappear. Kinda like my own witness protection program...

  10. Boy, what would I do if I won a lottery? Hmmmm.

    Keep my mouth shut. Hire a financial lawyer. Go into hiding. Buy a new couch.

    There's an old saying that I love: "To have more, desire less." Kind of fits the topic of this post.

    I loved the comment about the tropical island. But, why wait for a lottery win? Why not now?

    And the comment about surviving cancer! Wow. That's a true win!

    Just Me

  11. This forum has a really good article on what to do if you win a lottery.
    It is a little long, but well worth reading, even if you do not win.
    There are some foul language (f-bombs) in there so be aware.

  12. Have pretty much everything that we need. Would set the family up, give a nice chunk of it to the DAV. Have always believed that you can never miss what you never had. (But I would LOVE one of those walk in, sit down tubs with all those relaxing spray jets). Ahhhh...

  13. In late January 2006, my husband took our family to San Diego to celebrate the graduation of daughter from high school (a semester early with a year of college credits). This trip was different from any other trip we had managed to scrimp and save for and it must have shown in my demeanor, because I was asked about it. I replied to the inquirer that I didn't have the usual worry (which does no good, but it's something I excel at) because we paid the mortgage off in September 2005 and if I decided to not return to my job and the mountain of accumulated work that would be waiting for my return (which the extra hours required to catch up on negated the whole vacation thing, lol) I could just call and quit if I wanted. The freedom of choice was liberating.
    And it was because we had NO DEBT.
    That's whatI would do with lottery winnings: eliminate debt, which we have once again, having moved to a little place that may someday actually be a farm.
    It could be used to prevent college debt for the grand girls and to send a couple of the adult kiddos to college as well, if they chose. I would also use some of it to pay for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University for the kids, even if they said they were doing fine without it. Upon completion of that course (without telling them prior to), I'd then help them with their debts.
    And like Patrice, I'd get rid of the carpet in this house, as it's full of cigarette smoke and burns from the previous owner.
    I'd have to play first, though.

  14. The best times i ever spent were at our hunting camp. No running water we do have electric.Here at home, We both have good jobs. and house will be paid off this year. We have a 20 acre farm, and grow most of our own food and can it, also butcher 3-4 deer a year and raise chickens for meat and eggs.All vehicles are paid off , we both have about 12 years to work yet. Life is good. We used to go to Mexico every other year for vacation. Cheaper than staying stateside. Feel no need to travel anymore.My wife handles all investments, and bills. Thank goodness : ) But even without a big retirement we are pretty set if t.s.h.t.f. Money does not equal happiness IMHO...