I won the Powerball!!! Not the $550 million jackpot, but I am $4 richer this morning. Yay!
Seriously though, I know why I bought Powerball tickets. It was probably 20% peer pressure, 30% dreaming, 30% for thrills, and the remaining 20% because I can’t add. Did I have my hopes up? No. I’ve played the lottery and gambled enough times to know better. But despite all the websites and articles talking about better chances of other things occurring, like being drafted in the NBA or becoming the President of the USA, I always figure that someone has to win it. And two lucky people, one in Arizona and the other in Missouri, did.
Lucky? Yeah, I guess. As much talk as there was about the infinitesimal odds of winning, equally the idea of winning the lottery being a curse was discussed. Apparently all of these past lottery winners were interviewed, and none of them were any happier now than they were prior to winning. Most were substantially less happy. Because, as the adage reminds us, money doesn’t buy happiness.
As I've stated in previous posts, I’m not a material possessions kind of guy. I never go out and buy something because it’s new or fancy or cool. OK, maybe cool, especially if they are toys for my kid, but that’s about it. Both of my vehicles were pre-owned upon purchase. We don’t have fancy furniture or tons of valuable jewelry. My house is on the smaller side of most residential dwellings. And I’m fine with that. Someday I’ll need newer stuff. I’ll almost definitely need a bigger house. And when those times come, I’ll shop around and make some purchases. But until then, I’m happy with what I have.
In my office at work I have a Zen calendar with a thoughtful proverb for each day of the year, and I’ve taped some of the more meaningful ones to my monitors. These are just two of them:
The one on the left is rather obvious. And my home is a prime example. If someone broke in while I was away on vacation, they’d be very disappointed. Even if they brought a U-Haul, I doubt they’d have much more than a few thousand dollars worth of stuff. Definitely not worth the time and effort and risk of setting off my deadly booby traps.
As for the proverb on the right, I think of the Sphero toy I bought for myself a year or so ago. I was so excited to get this thing—basically a ball that you can remotely control from your phone or tablet. The video demos of it seemed so neat, and I pictured myself having days or weeks or months of fun with this thing. And then, after spending the $130 for it, I played with it for maybe an hour. Then a few days later I turned it on and played with it for fifteen minutes. I chased my son around the house with it a couple of times. It was neat, but not as thrilling as I expected. And then, well, I think it has sat on my dresser for the past eight months. It may be fun to play with if you had cats. A dog would probably eat it though. Other than that, eh. Nothing special.
Sometimes expensive things are worth the money. For a year or so, we had a very crappy Dodge Caliber. The transmission in it was like a wind-up toy, and it was cramped and cheap inside. We purchased it because we wanted a four-door AWD vehicle for when my son was born, and we regretted it soon after. Yes, it got us around in the snow, but the gas mileage was horrible. So after putting up with it for about a year, we bought a GMC Acadia. Substantially more expensive, yes, but we immediately knew we had made a smart decision. Aside from the superfluous XM radio (albeit great for listening to Penguins, Penn State, and Steelers games while travelling back and forth from Harrisburg), we loved some of the other features of this car. Heating and A/C controls in the back to keep the little guy warm (and Daddy cool). A rearview backup camera and alert system—which let me tell you is totally worth it, because backing my truck up is a P-IN-THE-A now that I’ve been spoiled by this thing in the Acadia. And the automatic rear lift gate is great when carrying a wheelchair with both hands. So yeah, spending a little money is sometimes worth it.
But most times, I think it’s probably not. At the park where I go running during my lunch hour, I often see this lady there walking her toy poodle. She drives a white BMW 740Li, and she walks around with her nose in the air wearing these gaudy track suits. Her ankle-biter also wears a track suit and holds its nose in the air as well. She has this attitude about her—like she expects park traffic and other walkers/joggers to move out of HER way when she walks, and she doesn’t even clean up after her animal (and I’ve almost stepped in it several times). But her silly $70,000 car is what causes me to shake my head, especially as she bounces it over the speed bumps and pot holes in the park. I’ve ridden in a few BMWs, Mercedes, a Dodge Viper, and even a Bentley once. Nice cars, but so impractical and not worth it. I suppose if you are into cars, owning one of them would be fine—I’m thinking people who are into racing and restoring classic cars and that sort of thing. I’m personally not high on collecting or working on cars, but everyone has to have a hobby. But I doubt this lady at the park collects cars, and that BMW she drives is probably nothing more than a status symbol. Look at me, I’m rich. Hey lady, you’re not impressing me one bit with your vehicle.
So if I’m so against material possessions, why on earth did I play the lottery? Well, if I won, I probably would go on a mini spending spree. I mean, what else would I do with all that money? I’d probably upgrade my housing situation to accommodate our new little bundle of joy arriving in a few weeks. Something slightly larger with a rec room (man cave), another bedroom or two over what we have now, and definitely two or three more bathrooms--a house can never have enough bathrooms. I repeat, a house can never have enough bathrooms. But I’d also want a big yard with some woods and a cleared area well away from the road that we could blacktop for basketball, hockey, skateboarding, or whatever. And after our housing upgrade, I’d pay off all of our debts (crazy that I’m 35 and still haven’t quite fully paid off my college loans--guess that's what I get for transferring schools and switching majors). Other than that, I may buy a new wardrobe, and I’d definitely buy my wife twenty or so pairs of new shoes and some purses/handbags/clutches to match because she likes that kid of stuff. Some people collect cars. My wife collects shoes and purses. To each their own! And lastly I’d probably get myself on the season ticket list for the Steelers and Penguins (if the NHL ever comes back). Seeing my favorite teams play live substantially more often than a blue moon would bring a smile to my scruffy face.
But then I’d go back to school. I’d delve into law and/or medicine. I’d definitely…finally…get my MBA. I could easily see myself spending a million bucks on college courses. I’m curious like that, I guess—always wanting to know how things work or what this or that means. You know, like the difference between an affiant and a deponent? Or how muon-catalyzed fusion is different from beam-target fusion? Most of the people in the world are probably fine not knowing the answers to those types of questions, but I’m not one of them. So I’d spend some money to educate myself more.
And then I may start or own a business. I live in a county in Pennsylvania that is notoriously lacking in entertainment, particularly for younger people. I’d maybe open a Dave & Busters or something of the sort. I’d consider putting in a new movie theater, because watching a movie at the Carmike Park Hills Plaza 7 is almost as bad as setting up my TV on my front lawn. In fact, we do almost all of our big-screen movie watching in State College or Harrisburg with their stadium-style seating (and where you can't hear the movie playing in the room next door). I’d additionally put some money down for some walking/bike paths throughout the county—maybe encourage people to get out and about. And I might invest in a local tech company to try to retain some of the young talent that leaves the area in droves after graduating from high school.
And of course I’d donate a lot of money to charities. I’d probably focus on bullying prevention, breast and pancreatic cancer, MS, cystic fibrosis, and kids with physical and cognitive disabilities. Those are ones that are closer to my heart. After that I’d give some money away to friends and family, and of course that’s always the tricky part because “friends” and “family” would probably be coming out of the woodwork asking for handouts. I’d probably give more to the people who didn’t ask for it over those who came begging, but each and every case would be different and evaluated appropriately. No matter what, anyone I know or have known (more than just as a passing acquaintance) could probably expect something.
Above all else though, I wouldn’t let the money change me. I know that’s easy to say now, having never won more than like a hundred bucks at a casino, but I think that kind of attitude runs deep within me. I look at some of the closer people in my life—a former coworker who is a prominent philanthropist, some immediate family and cousins and friends. Some of these people are very well off, yet you’d never know it by talking to them. They don’t flaunt their money or their achievements or anything else, for that matter. They are down-to-earth people, and these are the people who have helped to mold and shape and guide the person I am today. And so whether I had $10 or $100,000,000 in the bank, I think I’d still be the same happy, go-lucky guy I’ve always been.
Could you say the same?