It is certainly a fun daydream that we've all had, some of us multiple times a day. If I won the lottery (or something similar) and found myself with a million dollars, what would I do with the money?
Many years ago I had an employee who actually did win the lottery. She won a million dollars. This was no longer a fun daydream, but was a real-life situation where decisions actually needed to be made and plans for the future put in place. I spoke with her shortly afterward and coordinated an approved personal leave for her at work.
When she finally returned to work, I met with her to discuss her plans for her current job, etc. She opted to continue working, so we confirmed a few things and she resumed her role. But something she said during the conversation threw me for a loop. Her exact words were "It's just a million dollars. It's not really life changing." ... Pause for effect ... "I'm sorry you say what now?! ... Not life changing?! ... How on earth is that even possible?!" I immediately judged her harshly and assumed she had, in fact, lost her mind.
But then I got to thinking about it ... and as hard as it is for me to admit it, I think she was absolutely right!
Here are a few examples of why it really isn't life-changing. (And I apologize in advance if any of these logistics ruin your future fantasies of hitting it big.)
- The dream: "I'll never have to work again"
The reality: You would immediately be without health insurance. You would run out of money much quicker than you realize with no new income arriving each year. After taxes on the winnings, you are looking at likely only 7-10 years' worth of income. You will be working, either now or later.
- The dream: "I'll pay off my house and all my bills. Debt free!"
The reality: You cannot pay off things like utilities, maintenance and gas for your vehicles, continual food costs, and other typically recurring expenses (entertainment, phones, etc.) And paying off your house carries with it some huge deductions come tax time.
- The dream: "I'm going to take those vacations I always wanted."
The reality: The logistics for the rest of your family do not change just due to money. There are still school and possibly church or other commitments. Travel still takes time and planning and it is not nearly as inexpensive as you would believe it to be.
- The dream: "I'll donate lots of the money to good charities."
The reality: Friends and family members will line up to be that charity, and it will be very hard to tell them no. Someone will always plead a better case and you will be made to feel guilty for any decision to give to one and not the other, or to spend any of the money on yourself.
Song Of The Day:
The Barenaked Ladies have a great song titled "If I Had A Million Dollars" ... so if you actually won (or inherited) a million dollars what would you really do?