Like so many other people this week, I’m indulging myself in the fantasy that I could win the biggest lottery jackpot in history. 800 million dollars! That’s $32 million every year for 25 years. Or, if you take the cash award, about $400 million after taxes.
Now, I realize that my chance of winning is so small as to be statistically zero, but if I don’t buy a ticket my chance of winning is definitely zero. So, what the heck? I bought a ticket. Just one. Buying hundreds of tickets, as I have seen some people do, only increases one’s chances by an incremental amount (they’re still so close to zero as to be negligible). I’m not going to waste that much money. I’m very fatalist about it. I figure, if I’m going to win, I’m going to win, whether I buy one ticket or a thousand.
So what if I do win? Well, I’ll admit I have indulged myself with a bit of fantasizing.
I would give most of it away. Let’s face it, who needs $400 million? Nobody. I confess I have zero respect for all those super-rich billionaires we’re always reading about, whose only purpose in life seems to be accumulating even more money, no matter who gets hurt or no matter how much the Earth is damaged. If you already have $40 BILLION, why would you want more? What could you possibly do with it? It just doesn’t make any sense to me to spend all one’s time accumulating more when you already have more than any sane person — or any sane thousand people, for that matter — could possibly need. There’s way more to life than that.
Anyway, back to the fantasy. First, if I won, I would use a very large chunk, perhaps as much as $100 million, to create a trust fund. The purpose of the trust would be to provide grants and low-cost loans to small farmers who want to convert to organic but can’t afford the cost. In this way, I would be able to increase dramatically the number of organic farms. People would be healthier, the Earth would be healthier, and the cost of organic would probably decline, perhaps even approaching the cost of “conventionally produced” food. (I love the use of the term “conventional” to describe the practice of dousing food with toxic chemicals, as though that’s how food has always been produced. In actual fact, until about 70 years ago, conventional food was all organic.)
Second, I would also provide hefty chunks of cash to a variety of environmental and social justice charities, because I believe we need to take better care of the Earth and because I think that people should be treated with dignity and respect. Sure, there are undesirable elements that don’t deserve respect (you know, like some of those avaricious billionaires I just mentioned, sitting in their fortified mansions, fondling their money). There are always going to be predators and parasites, in nature as well as in human society. But I believe most people just want to be treated fairly and live honorable, peaceful lives. If I can use some of this lottery windfall to help some of them do that, then so much the better.
Third, I would of course provide my extended family with enough money to erase their financial worries, for the rest of their lives if they manage it well.
And finally, yes, I would indulge myself. I’d like to have a nice house right by the beach so I could surf every morning without fighting traffic. I’d like to travel more. And I’d like to be able to charter a plane whenever I need to fly in the continental U.S. so I can avoid the hassle of flying commercial. And I’d like to have a Ferrari. Or maybe a Porche. I’d keep — and invest — just enough to allow me these things without having to worry about finances ever again. I don’t need much more than that.
What about you? What would you do if you won $400 million?
UPDATE: Now the jackpot is $1.5 billion. Holy smokes. I can barely conceive of that much money. But my priorities remain the same, just more for each. It’s fun to think about winning, of course, but there is a very real danger that winning that much money could completely destroy someone’s life. Perhaps that’s another reason why I would give most of it away.