Sunday, January 24, 2021

Instant billionaire

I stumbled upon a recent study that noted "Making more money really does make people happier." It starts: "The old saying goes 'money can’t buy happiness,' but a new study finds that's not exactly true. Although previous studies find there's a limit to how much a person's income impacts their happiness, a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania says the sky's the limit when it comes to money's influence over well-being."

Unquestionably a certain level of income will make people happier, as endless millions who have lost their jobs over the last year will attest. But I'd like to think the operative word in this study is "making." But what happens when money isn't "made" but won?

Hard on the heels of this study was the news that a winning Mega Millions ticket was sold in Michigan for a jackpot of are you ready for this? $1 billion dollars.

I don't know if the prize has been claimed yet – I'm not following this situation closely enough to care – but instead I've tried to wrap my mind around the concept of becoming an instant billionaire.

Statistically rich people don't purchase lottery tickets, so this sudden windfall has doubtless fallen on some Joe Sixpack-type whose life will never be the same.

Can you imagine being that person? Suddenly everything would change. The relationships you have with friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, community, church it's all altered. You would be placed in a Fairy Godmother position, able to grant wishes with the flick of a wand. Distant relatives would materialize out of the woodwork. You would have legions of supplicants following you everywhere, wanting their share of fairy dust. If you refuse anyone, you will be branded with every possible curse (greedy, selfish, heartless, etc). And of course, you will have your share of Dr. Evils who want to rob, kidnap, ransom, or murder you for your newfound wealth.

There is a lot of tragic documentation of what happens to lottery winners for whom sudden wealth becomes the worse thing that ever happened to them. "Seventy percent of people who land a big windfall, lose it within several years," said one financial adviser. "Many are not prepared for such a massive change in lifestyle and they don't set a budget, (but) even millionaires need a budget."

I'm not even referring to squandering all the money; I'm referring to the corrupting influence sudden wealth has on those who aren't prepared for it (Jack Whittaker comes to mind).

People who earn a lot of money are presumably motivated to do so. Whatever their morals, they're at least equipped to handle wealth. But people who win huge sums of money out of the blue are suddenly and abruptly deprived of whatever motivating factors kept them going in life the motivation to provide for their family, or the satisfaction of building a business, or the joy of working hard to make plans and projects come to fruition. No matter how much we might hate our commute or dislike our job, being suddenly deprived of motivation to earn a living can be a tragic thing.

"A close inspection of how people react to the idea of winning a large sum of money exposes more than a few flaws in our values and the way we think," observes blogger Bruce Wild. "It seems that society has reached the point where it thinks the road to riches is not through the valley of hard work and savings and that we can by-pass the important area known as sacrifice. ... Huge sums of money from lotteries are unmanageable by the average man and often cause adjustment difficulties, resulting in pain and not happiness.  Large jackpots also result in a disconnect in true and associated values causing unrealistic expectations." [Emphasis added.]

So whoever is the poor sap who just became an instant billionaire, my prayers are with you. I hope you can handle it, and that nothing bad happens to you or your family.


  1. I could easily turn down those who were less than kind to me. But, I would donate enough of the billion to make news, and secretly save the rest. The only people to get cash from me would be children and friend, Tommy. I would fear kidnapping and death and ransom. When I hear of people winning only thousands and hear their plans, I worry for them.

  2. Someone I know became suddenly wealthy. I spent some time with them and was absolutely shocked at the steady barrage they were under from "friends" and relatives, distant and close, constantly asking for money. I wouldn't be able to stand it. It must be awful. I'd rather be poor. (Or be rich and hide it from the general public. It WOULD be fun to be anonymously generous while pretending to be poor!)

  3. My husband and I talked about the lottery. He liked to buy the tickets. At time time, we had a list. Pay off our property. Buy some adjacent to give us breathing room. Including buying out and moving a lady down the road that lived alone in a not so nice place.

    But, before we did that, we would not tell anyone until we had a lawyer and a financial advisor. We talked about who we would help. Some family members and some who had been friends so long they were considered family.

    But, we also discussed the relatives and "friends" coming out of the woodwork. At the time, IF we won, I would have preferred to get enough to pay off property and buy the next property over and pay the taxes.

    I believe there was also a large PowerBall jackpot that was won. IF I won, I would wish it to be in a state where they don't broadcast the winners.

    kathy in MS

  4. I plotted out in my mind how much I would get after taxes and who I would help. I would just enjoy giving it away to help businesses that are hurting and people that have lost their job and Samaritan Purse because I have seen them in action. That is just fantasy since I don’t play lotto. I do have a few people that I would desperately like to help and I am unable to. That’s life.

  5. Were I to win, I would find even more ways to make myself hidden and anonymous. I do not know that it would change my plans or my life - I have most everything I want at this point; how is more going to change that?

    But I can see the hangers-on being a real problem.

  6. You can only wear 1 pair of shoes at a time.

  7. Wouldn't it be better that instead of a huge one-person-takes-all jackpot it gets divided up in a 5,000-people-share-the-jackpot? The IRS would still win their share. If I won, I would want to be "gray" and keep it a secret. It would be fun to fully support missionaries so they didn't have to worry about fundraising.

  8. I never play the lottery , but we happened to be in a different state and my hubby asked me to go in and buy a ticket.. the man selling it to me , asked if I was married ? have children? happy ? yes ,yes ,yes ! Then he asked me why I would be willing to take a chance on ruining it all with a lottery ticket !! My feelings exactly , I still never play .Karen

  9. Fairly simple solution.
    Start a trust and turn in the winning ticket, collect the money as the trust.

    A bit of wrangling is involved but basically the lawyer for the trust collects the winnings and upon doing so, the actual winner becomes the trustee of said trust.

    Must have a lawyer that is impeccable in actions and deeds.

    No identification is revealed.

  10. "Must have a lawyer that is impeccable in actions and deeds." Now there is an oxymoron if I've ever seen one.

  11. I actually bought a couple of tickets for it, but didn't win anything. I have a lot of ideas for businesses to start or to invest in, and of course donations. Plus buy property.

  12. As a young or even middle aged man if I had won $1 billion I would probably make a mess of my life. But I'm 77 and If I won $1 billion my goal would be to give it away as quickly as possible in the most effective way for the recipients. The value of the $1 billion to me would simply be to enjoy the joy I could bring to a lot of people.

  13. I inherited a very large sum of money. When people asked me for some, I would always pray asking the Lord if it was ok for me to give it to them. So many times He said to me "no, I want to bless them using different means." To me that is the hardest, knowing you have it but can't bless others with it. Jesus did indeed bless each & every one of those who asked, using different means other than money. He is a Good God!