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.