what would you do with mega millions?

wikimedia commons

Le Petit Trianon at Versailles, Wikimedia Commons

In a few hours, someone will scream for joy when they find out they won more than half a billion dollars in the second biggest jackpot in lottery history.  But it probably won’t be me, and it probably won’t be you.  The odds are better that George Clooney will ask you to marry him, or that you’ll suddenly learn that you’re an heir to the throne.  And would you want to win anyway?  I don’t know if I would.

If I won the lottery, I wouldn’t quit my job at Helping Children Worldwide. I work with the kindest, most creative and purposeful people, and I believe in our mission of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty for children in Sierra Leone.  Also, work gives purpose and structure to my day, a reason to get up and leave my house and talk to the public, which I wouldn’t do if I weren’t forced to, but which is very good for my mental health.  So that wouldn’t change.

I don’t think I’d move either, because I like my funky little neighborhood where there are no deed restrictions, and if you want to dig a moat around your house or install a lookout tower, no one will stop you. At Christmas time, Pleasant Valley is transformed into a delightfully tacky wonderland of twinkling lights and inflatable Santas and plastic Nativity sets. It’s a friendly, unpretentious place and I don’t really want to live someplace where I’m going to feel a lot of pressure to keep up with appearances.

If I won the lottery, I would give most of the money to charity, although I wouldn’t give it all in one place. That much money would swamp most charities.  I would sponsor more children through Helping Children Worldwide and Compassion.  I would make more micro-loans through Kiva, an effective way to help people escape the heavy yoke of poverty without robbing them of their dignity.

A couple million for International Justice Ministry, because they are on the front lines against trafficking and slavery. Maybe I could fund a Fisher House for families of Wounded Warriors. I would do it all anonymously. It would be so fun to give secretly like that.

Last summer when we were at the beach, there was a lottery jackpot that was almost as big as this one, and we walked around until we found a 7-Eleven to buy tickets.  It seemed like the thing to do, but James refrained. “I don’t want to win the lottery,” he said, “I feel like it would sap all my initiative.”

He’s probably right about that. Winning the lottery, as awesome as it sounds, would probably create more problems than it solves.  A recent Reader’s Digest article said that 70% of lottery winners run through their money in five years or less. One of the lottery winners bought a home in an exclusive gated community and planned a huge Fourth of July party, but none of the neighbors came, because they hadn’t “earned” their money. 

I don’t know whether all that money would corrupt me, but the sudden acquisition of half a billion dollars would be like a deus ex machina ending to my story. Like a fairy godmother waving her wand and turning me into a beautiful princess and making all my problems disappear–it sounds so wonderful in the stories, but I want to solve my own problems, and learn my own lessons. I don’t want everything that challenges me to magically disappear under a blizzard of money.

The challenges and problems, even the disappointment and heartbreak, have made me wiser, humbler, more compassionate and stronger. In so many ways, I am the sum of my struggles. Life is an adventure, an unfolding story. I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I kind of like not knowing. 

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced. Soren Kierkegaard 

So I don’t know if I’ll buy a ticket or not. But if I do, and if by some strange twist of fate I win all those millions, don’t expect to find out about it. It will just be my little secret. (Yes, Marie, I will pay off your student loans, I promise.)     

Did you buy a lottery ticket? What will you do if you win? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think!

About the Author

Kathleen Caron

I'm good at finding stuff, and I love to share all my discoveries. I write about faith, family and food, and the occasional rant.

  • La McCoy

    Good thoughts

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      How about you Laura, would you like to win or are you already a zillionaire?

  • Katina Vaselopulos

    Agreeing with you Kathleen on all counts. I never buy lotto tickets, but any little money that comes to me from our earnings goes straight to others. If I ever had a lot, would do the same, in a way though that my gift would keep giving!

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      That’s great Katina, I try to give in ways that keep on giving too. That’s why I’m a fan of child sponsorship and micro loans, a hand up rather than a handout. And I can’t resist Salvation Army bell ringers!

  • http://www.ipaintiwrite.com/ Pamela Hodges

    I didn’t buy a ticket, so I can’t win. But it I won, I would buy five plane tickets and go and see my mom in Canada. Then I would buy a dishwasher.

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      So $2500 for plane tickets (that’s what we spent last time we flew to Canada) and $1000 for a really nice dishwasher. What would you do with the other $499,999,000?

      • http://www.ipaintiwrite.com/ Pamela Hodges

        Okay, now I really have to think.
        The selfish side of me wants a truck and an outside clothesline. I would use most of it to build wells for people with no clean water. I would pay of debt, and my mortgage. Timber wants a horse. I want a house with a stable, and a wood burning stove, and an outside clothesline.
        And you, what would you buy for yourself? A new scarf because you gave away your favorite one?

        • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

          I would fix up my house and put hardwood floors throughout. I would hire the Dog Whisperer to train Tink not to pee in the house. Maybe I would have my yard landscaped to have no grass, only trees and bushes and ground covers. I would put in raised bed gardens in the backyard. I would try to see as much of the world as possible and write about all the people I met. I like the wells for people with no clean water, I have to add that to the list.

  • Janelle

    Sorry, Kathleen, but I think it’s in the rules that if you win you have to do some kind of promotion:) a guy in Canada just won (he actually won several months ago but just came forward) and he gave it all to charity. My favourite story is of a homeless man I knew when I was a kid in Yellownife. He recently received a settlement as compensation for aboriginals who were part of the residential school program (children removed from their families and sent to live in residential schools.) He has been giving all his money away, too, to the hospital and different local programs. So interesting.

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      Janelle, that is reason enough not to play the lottery right there, because once you won, everyone would treat you differently and look at you like you were a bank. But I do love the stories about people who win and give everything away, that is really heartwarming. BTW I knew they had those kinds of aboriginal resettlement programs in Australia and New Zealand, but I didn’t know they did that in Canada.

      • Janelle

        Yes, sadly it is part of our history, too. Our Prime Minister apologized on behalf of the government a few years ago, and the country has been going through a Truth and Reconciliation process modelled after South Africa’s.

        • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

          I had no idea. My husband is Quebecois, they live in their own world, actually their own country because in their minds they have seceded, so they don’t seem to pay any attention to what is going on in the rest of the country. I will have to read more about the truth and reconciliation process in Canada.

  • http://www.rocksolidfamily.com/ Anastacia Maness

    Hmm… I don’t play the lottery. Never liked having to wait in line to pay for gas behind a long line of lottery ticket buyers either.

    But if I did have that much money fall into my lap, I would probably take my kids to the doctor for every sniffle, pay cash for a new van since ours is broken, buy a home on a nice sized piece of land, pay my brother’s debt off (He is a missionary in France), and give a good portion to Missionaries and charities.

    But if I did that my kids wouldn’t have this chance to build their immune systems stronger. I wouldn’t get to experience the perfect timing of God giving us the vehicle we need. And if we had the money to buy a house and land outright we might put our roots down in the wrong place when God had other places for us to go. If I paid my brother’s debt off then he might depend on me to help instead of God. If I gave a huge sum to Missionaries and Charities would they still appreciate the widows mite. Hmm… Maybe it is good I don’t have the Midas touch. :)

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      Anasatacia, I think you just wrote a modern day fable there, it could be called “The Woman with the ATM Touch,” about the debilitating effect of suddenly having alot of money. Those are all the things I think about too, when I think of the prospect of winning mega millions.

      • http://www.rocksolidfamily.com/ Anastacia Maness

        Ha! I like that “The Woman with the ATM Touch”. That sounds like a fun story line for sure. LOL

  • oddznns

    I’m a VN dong millionaire for sure – That’s 47$;)
    Like Anastasia, I never play and don’t like the lines. The Heart Guy will always do a quick pick for the BIG ones but he’s never won anything.
    It’s nice to indulge in some day dreaming though.
    So, if… if… if..
    I’d set aside 1/2 of it into an endowment that would pay out to support a full time office to administer all the projects we’re working on. Then I’d expand all my projects, my pipe-dream being the establishment of a drop-in centers in Vietnamese hamlets for the teenagers. I’d want to fund community workers to do programs where they can learn about sexuality, equality for girls, “whats good for me”. Too many S. Vietnamese girls are being trafficked out of “family obligation”.
    When I die I’d leave my children the choice of keeping this endowment going. But if they don’t want to, I’d give away the money to the Vietnamese church to keep it going.
    The next 1/4 I’d give to about 4 community foundations to do what they can for urban homeless, especially teenagers. This wouldn’t be an endowment but a spend down.
    The last 1/4 I’d give to projects for displaced persons and refugees.
    Wow… just thinking about that made me feel good. I didn’t buy a ticket, so I won’t win. But I can always pray for these causes can’t I?
    Thanks for the opportunity to dream Kathleen

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      Did you just come up with that off the top of your head? Because it seems like you’ve given it alot of thought. I play the lottery once in a blue moon (didn’t buy a ticket for this one after all) and one time I actually wrote down my list of what I would do with the money. I decided I would keep 1 million, buy the community center my then-boss was struggling to fund, pay for immigration legal help for my friend, pay off the debt of my former church which was involved in the lawsuit with the Anglican church, donate a million to my friend to start her school, and divide the rest up between Compassion, IJM, Food for the Poor and other projects.

  • oddznns

    The strangest thing… I can’t reply to you Kathleen, but I can post something new?
    Anyway, I was just going to say … Yes, I’ve been dreaming. Same way you were dreaming about buying your community center etc etc. We all can dream can’t we? And maybe one day …

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      I know, something kind of weird going on with Disqus. I might have to change comment systems. Yes, we can all dream. Actually, I really, really enjoyed making my list of all the good things I would do with my winnings.

  • http://www.karentrina.com/ Karen Childress

    While I can’t even wrap my mind around that much money, I would find something to do with some of it. I would pay for college for my children, probably buy a better vehicle, travel and then travel some more, and then…Yep, would have to give it away to organizations that support and encourage families, and IJM, and organizations that help others help themselves. On a side note, my oldest daughter interned with Engineering Ministries International one summer and traveled to Sierra Leone to help do a site plan for a school/medical clinic.

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      I cant wrap my mind around it either. Which makes the amount of money the federal government spend even more mind boggling, but I digress. That is awesome that your daughter went to Sierra Leone! I am going for the first time this coming March. Our missions are in Bo, do you know where she was based?

      • http://www.karentrina.com/ Karen Childress

        No, sorry, I don’t know. I think she spent a week in Sierra Leone, somewhere near the coast. Yes, I know that is very vague considering the size of the country! EMI is located in Colorado Springs.

  • kathunsworth

    Kathleen we can dream although my hubby says he already has everything he needs, I could do wit a few things lol.

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      You could always use some more painting and art supplies right? Maybe some more cows? But really Kath, your life sounds pretty idyllic. I’m pretty happy with my life too.

  • http://www.dawnofchange.com/ Onder Hassan

    I would probably buy a few properties in different parts of the world, and spend the rest of my life traveling by myself and with my future spouse!

    It’s been said that your happiness doesn’t improve beyond a certain amount, and that having experiences is a lot more fulfilling than being a consumer of stuff. And I think there’s no better way than to be a nomad by traveling and seeing the world :)

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      You probably know more about this than I do, but I think I read recently that traveling to interesting places brings people more long term happiness than acquiring stuff. Your plan sounds good to me!

      • http://www.dawnofchange.com/ Onder Hassan

        It’s definitely true. Because we mainly buy stuff for the ‘experience’ it provides us and not the actual thing itself. Once I finally understood that, I realised that experiences can be acquired without monetary expense.

        It’s why I encourage traveling so much. It’s the cheapest yet most satisfying thing you can possibly do.