Monday, August 1, 2022

What would you do with a billion bucks?

I've been following (somewhat peripherally) the Mega Millions lottery, featuring the third-largest prize in U.S. history: $1.34 billion (with a "b"). What would you do with a billion bucks?

The winning ticket was sold to a single person, who has been transformed overnight from an anonymous schmuck into one of the nation's wealthiest people. Oof.

The lottery history is scattered with the cast-aside corpses of winners. Sudden wealth, especially if it comes with a "b" in front of it, is frankly a horrifying thought. Why? Because the lottery is the epitome of how money can't buy happiness. Many lottery winners try to "buy" happiness, and it doesn't work.

I remember many years ago, when we lived in Oregon, we heard about a local older couple who won a modest lottery (something on the order of $5 million). In an interview, they seemed like eminently sensible people. They had no plans to move, but they did pay off their mortgage (and beef up the security system around their home). They put legacies aside for their children and grandchildren, set up an account for charitable donations, and let the answering machine handle the spurt of calls from long-lost "relatives." But they didn't let any of it go to their head. The most decadent thing they planned to do, apparently, was to take a two-week vacation. I say, good for them.

But endless others don't have this restraint. Many winners are broke within a few years. Many lose spouses and children – often because of conflict, sometimes because of deaths (murder, drug overdoses, etc.). And of course, friendships are strained by the sudden inequity, and all future friendships must be weighed on whether the interest is genuine or mercenary.

But what about us, the Lewis family? In our case, wealth would be utterly wasted. We have no interest in the latest whiz-bang anything (fashion, electronics, jewelry, cars, whatever), so what would we buy? (A reeeeally nice Jersey cow, perhaps.....)

I quizzed Don on his thoughts about winning the lottery. He said that after putting aside an amount that would make us comfortable (and for us, "comfortable" is pretty durned modest) for the rest of our lives, he would probably give the rest of it away. He would set up charitable foundations for issues dear to his heart. We would probably move – we would probably have to – in which case we'd purchase a similar-sized home on larger acreage. (He always wanted to have a small home at the bottom of a valley next to a creek, and own everything up to forty feet over the tops of the hills. In other words, solitude.)

This is because Don has no envy. "I've thought it through so many times," he says. "And nope, I have no envy. It's just not one of my deadly sins, so more money wouldn't change that."

Envy is pernicious and leads to all kinds of horrible things. A kernel of envy can grow until it drives you mad. Nope, not going there.

Money, especially unearned money, also takes away the motivation to earn a living, which is a cruel thing. It ruins people, it ruins their children, and it ruins their grandchildren. Rather than the need for money, it becomes a love of money ... and we know what the Bible says about that:

"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." – 1 Timothy 6:9-10

Far better to have "godliness with contentment." Or, as Proverbs 17:1 puts it, "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife."

That said, there is an indulgence we would probably grant ourselves, should we ever become wealthy. We'd probably rent (not buy; rent) an RV and tour this fair land for a year, seeing the sights (blogging as we go, of course).

Then we would come home, resume our interrupted homesteading activities, and live happily ever after. What more do we need beyond that?

So now it's your turn. What would you do with a billion bucks?


  1. I would start a scientific foundation to fund studies counter to the current medical and environmental tyrannies and narratives.

  2. We've talked about this too. Our local tiny town really needs a new library, so they'd get that. We'd donate to other causes we care about in a pretty big way. I've always wanted to open a living library (older, well written books.) Our home isn't well suited to it and books have become a problem due to the huge number we can't get onto the shelves. This kind of stupid money would allow us to buy or build a dedicated library space, which would help us reclaim a large portion of our home. Our shelves could be more intentional in keeping what we use and love the most. One 'splurge' I'd have is a housekeeper. It is my weakness and something that would make my life much more peaceful. I'd still be gardening and canning, I'd still be coaching my kids robotics team, we'd still be homeschooling, but most likely our geography studies would involve a few more visits to the places we are studying :) It is a crazy, stupid amount of money, but I like to think we'd be good stewards and that we'd stay grounded.

  3. Well first of all, it wouldn't be a billion. If your smart you would take the lesser amount via the immediate payout rather than over 20 years as if you die before its up the payout doesn't get passed on. So you start with roughly 600-ish million, then your taxed so call it roughly 300/400 million which is still even in today's money a sizable amount.

    Personally while it might be somewhat selfish, I would be focusing the money on improving my family. Call it 20 million in a trust, with half in investments to replenish it for family members up to the 5th generation out to pull from for healthcare and educational expenses. Though definitely with some sort of safeguard to keep the occasional bad apple from plundering the fund. 200 million would be placed into investments and real-estate, again made into trust that family members can pull from in case of emergency or for investments. Again with safeguards in place. Of the last 100 million, I'd place 60 million of it again into real-estate to support me and my immediate family. The rent money from those real-estate investments, plus the other 40 million would be split into trust funds to be released over time to my wife, myself, the kids and so on.

    I'm honestly somewhat torn on the last one. At the office I work at we occasionally have trust-fund babies as clients. Not a one of them understands how money works or why people need jobs. And I'd rather my kids not turn out like that, but on the other hand by making sure they have access to funds, it would give them a good boost for life.

    Money for money's sake isn't really important, but it does afford opportunity. So I personally think its best to treat it like an unexpected gift of a bunch of muscadine vines. Plant it, let it grow, and harvest it in its season, and if you can avoid being greedy, that muscadine vine will grow and multiply, feeding you and your family for generations.

  4. Buy the house across the street from mine. Go on amazing vacations. Quit my job. Give to charity. Buy artwork. Get my mother out of the nursing home. Set up my kids for life. Have a housekeeper and cook. Pay for my niece's college. Buy more art. Buy a kickbutt car. Yep, I'd enjoy that a lot.

  5. Give the lions share of it away....Fix the track at the middle school, fix the church roof, fix our road, fix the high school football field, fix my brothers house, etc

  6. Years ago I read two stories about groups who bought tickets for the group with share and share alike. One group in New York City each got about a half million each. All but 2 continued on the job as usual. One went full time to a business he had been operating part time that needed to be full time. The other took the retirement he had been putting off because of worry whether he had enough money to last.
    In the other case a group shared about the same amount each. They were guys who had coffee at a feed store every morning. One of the usual guys was depressed at skipping the usual$1 contribution until he found out his wife had done for him. All continued as usual except for one who opened a small restaurant wife his wife—a great cook who had been making plans for years—that became a success. Again sensible people who didn’t go crazy.

  7. I agree with the 2nd Anonymous comment above. Take care of the family and put money into trusts for education and healthcare expenses. Think about this for a second......everyone wants to be remembered and that is a great way to do it.......100 years from now you would paying for the education of future generations, but here is the caveat, only pay for 1 or 2 degrees per person. Then it would be causes that i support.
    Also agree on the property and space....the more I am around people the less I like them. They tend to be a dangerous herd animal.

  8. Since I first considered this question years ago, my first interests would be education for my children and land, land with houses where my children could live, not just land. I would encourage my children to continue their education.

    I would rebuild my house and buy most of the other houses on the block! I would have a housekeeper and gardener. Lately, my desire for a mobility scooter and an automobile to carry it!

    After that, taking care of the future for others would be my goal.

  9. I guess that lottery had me thinking too.
    I am in awe of Franklin Graham's work with Samaritans Purse. I think they could use a big windfall better than I could.

    Most educational institutions of higher learning have lost my respect. Baal worshipping towers of babble. I think a multitude of scholarships for young people, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, to go and live at Christian colleges and be educated in that atmosphere would be good. Perhaps it would ripple back home.
    I kind of like Don's idea of space. But reality in this aging process is a need for closer proximity to some aspects of infrastructure such as medical care. And I would want a "new" house. Not a bunker. But I am so worn out with tornadic weather, and flooding rains though thankfully I am on high ground, and some years drought and whatever.
    I want a house dominated by an enormous basement with a big conservatory on top that's surrounded by decks and hardscaping that includes raised beds. I love big beautiful trees, but so many have been falling on people's houses down here, I don't want any close to the house. The conservatory would be fine for good weather, but for heating, cooling, and storms, a basement could be best . Call me crazy, but I honestly think having the outdoor living area upstairs instead of out back should be the wave of future building.
    And I may start planning this without waiting for a billion dollars.

  10. I'd give it all to the Russians if they allow me to have my own little autonomous Island in Southern Siberia to disappear to. I don't trust US Democrats enough to keep their word.

  11. If I won, first I'd pray and ask the Lord how he'd like it used. I'm sure we'd spruce up the house a little, fence our acerage, set aside some for our children's futures, but then I would love to bring joy to others by sharing it, donating, gifting.

  12. Lemme see...$total after taxes divided by $10 per six pack = .........

  13. Sit down with my wife and come to a decision on how much we would realistically need per month to be comfortable in our daily lives, pay off all the bills/house loan etc.., invest in gold and silver hard currency and real estate, and put the remainder into money market and stock brokerage accounts.

  14. Yeah, hubby and I bought some tickets and were then talking about what we would like to spend money on and what kinds of charity we'd like to invest in. We agreed on so much, particularly top dollars to God.

    We both though each other's charity ideas were really stupid and wouldn't help enough to make it worthwhile, a complete waste of money. We even disagreed on little things like whether to work with current charities or build our own. As the saying goes, you never know who you married until you try to buy a house together. I guess that applies to winning the lottery also! But we're an old married couple and we let these things roll off our backs.

  15. I'd buy expensive cars, diamond rings, loose women and learn to gamble!
    Then I'd complain about how the world's not fair.

  16. If we won a big lottery I plan to pay off my elderly aunt's mortgage - she is 88 years old - no one should have a mortgage at that age. We would also have a home built to house aging family members together - sort of a star shape with a wing for each aunt and an elderly cousin who is 97 with a central dining area, a greenhouse and anything else they might enjoy. They could live safely and be near each other. We would hire a cousin who is in the field to run it. My heart would be happy to know my dear aunties are cared for. As for me, I would probably get another dog and a new truck and we would fix up my husband's '56 Chevy.

  17. I'd take the cash payout, and with after the gov't stole the taxes, and I tithed, I figure I'd have about a quarter billion dollars. So I'd buy a big chunk of land, put up a little house and a big barn, and buy a long arm quilting machine, and have fun figuring out who/what else to give the rest of the money to. (except what I figure I'd need to live on til I'm 100).