I opened my email this morning to this wonderful question from WordPress:
You’ve just won $1 billion dollars in the local lottery. You do not have to pay tax on your winnings. How will you spend the money?
Such fun! I’ve posted on this thought before (well, sort of – actually that was on what I’d do with a magic wand) for the wonderful Finish the Sentence Friday blog hop, but it’s always a fun thought to revisit. And this time on such a HUGE scale.
As with that post though, it comes down to selfish or selfless, right? Well, I think $1 billion is a great amount with which to do both. And I’m way more selfless when I’m happy. Just sayin’.
So, in the “It’s All About Me!” column, I would:
- Start off with a bunch of boring responsible stuff
What can I say? Even in the land of excess, I’m still me.
So I’d pay off our mortgage, max out our registered retirement savings plans, make sure college for the two girls is taken care of, pay off any other debts and replace our two aging cars. I’d then set up a sound, moderate-risk, growth investment plan with a good chunk of the money, arranging to be able to pull a certain amount out annually in such a way as to ensure we’d never have to worry about money again.
Taking it a bit beyond our immediate family of four, I’d then make sure my extended family was comfortable and taken care of.
- Stay home with my kids
I’d take a leave of absence from my job. We can take off up to 5 years unpaid in the Public Service. At that stage, I could revisit if I should go back.
Then, I’d pull my youngest from daycare and raise her full-time until she hit school age. Like an extended mat leave, we’d spend our days doing music classes, swimming, playgroup and play-dates. I’d also get to see my eldest board the bus for school each day and be there when she’s dropped off afterwards.
And we’d have time for some nice after-school activities together. So we wouldn’t be cramming all the ORGANIZED FUN! in on weekends.
I’d pay for a maid service. Because, really, happiness is never having to fold another load of laundry or empty another dishwasher again. Ever.
Then, I’d spend a lot of time at the gym; making full-use of their classes and play-care. I’d join in on some of the insane “this is how the other half lives” conversations I sometimes overhear and be able to weigh in on the benefits of family vacation in Florida vs. three weeks in French wine country. Because we’d have totally done both in the last year (more on that under “Fun Excess”).
I’d have the time to cook healthy, balanced meals; and not feel like I was rushing like an insane person to do all that on top of normal life. I’d take cooking classes. I’d have the time to (really try to) learn to appreciate yoga.
My husband could choose to work or not. Up to him.
I’d get enough sleep. He’d get enough sleep. We’d be nicer people. Generally, and to each other. I wouldn’t feel the need to post passive aggressive e-cards. Because neither of us would be stuck matching socks at the end of a long day.
And hey! Maybe we’d have a third child. Because we’d be able to afford it! And wouldn’t be spending our “downtime” folding laundry! Deep down, I know granny would love a grandson. And with a billion dollars and enough sleep? I could be procreatively benevolent.
- Focus on personal fulfillment
While I know full-time parenting is a lot of work, once they were both (or all) in school full-time (in 2.5 years in current reality), I’d seriously try my hand at becoming a writer. I might also take on some part-time horribly underpaid or volunteer work that was fulfilling as well.
- Then move on to the fun excess
I’d spend a good chunk of time finding or building my family’s dream house. Or better yet, I’d hire someone to do that for us.
We don’t need THAT much. I’m thinking: five or six bedrooms (so I have a study and we have a spare room or two); double story; 3+ baths; proper dining room; finished basement with a pool table and games room; double garage; pool; and hot tub.
Also – in our current school zone. Because my eldest likes her school. And I like living near family – which we do now.
I’d buy a nice cottage on a nearby lake, because my husband has always wanted a cottage. Perhaps we’d buy near our good friends’ lodge. We could spend weekends there. And a good chunk of the summer. It would be a great place to focus on the writing. When we weren’t focussed on awesome quality bonding time. Or the art of sleep.
Then, we’d do some great holidays. We’d do Disney as a family. Visit friends in France. Maybe do a cruise. Spend more time at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid. Then, we’d hopefully be able to have the grandparents watch the girls so my husband and I could have a holiday away on our own. If we couldn’t swing that, we’d find a nanny to bring along with us to watch the girls in the evening so we could enjoy adult time. We’d do this annually.
Finally, I would cultivate a love of Louis XIII Cognac. Just because I could. And I love me my cognac. Sure, it may be about $3000(ish) a bottle, but can you really put a price on
flagrant excess quality?
Then, once our family’s life was well and happily in hand, in the “It isn’t Just About Me” column, I would:
- Donate enough to local causes I advocate for to make a big difference
I’d donate enough to Carleton University so they could have a Varsity Swim Team again. I swam varsity while at Carleton and it was one of my most memorable experiences. They cut the team a few years back. If I was a billionaire, I’d hit “undo” on that one. While I was at it, I’d also find a way to a) help support high performance sports generally in Canada and b) help support access to sports programs for lower-income children so that income isn’t a barrier for participation.
I’d donate enough to Frontier College to ensure they had sustainable, successful literacy programs in Ottawa. I worked for Frontier College as the Ottawa Regional Coordinator for six months when I was in Graduate school setting up free reading circles and homework clubs for high needs learners in Ottawa and training volunteer tutors. When the program got cut, and I was let go, myself and a group of volunteers – with support from their head office – kept some of the programming going for a few years on a volunteer basis until they found another source of funds and re-established a local office. It was a labour of love. And something I’m proud I did. But literacy is a cause that needs consistent support and funding if we are going to move the markers on illiteracy rates in Canada. I’d think local first on the issue, but I’d want to give a lot of my winnings to this cause to try to truly make a difference here.
- Donate or contribute to help fight some of the root causes of poverty in Canada
Learning to read and playing youth soccer is great, but if you don’t have a roof over your head or food in your belly it only takes you so far. I’d figure out how much I could give to get the most “bang for my buck” (so to speak) to help tackle those root causes of poverty. Whether that’s support for more social housing; food banks or school breakfast programs, I’d figure out where I could fill a gap and focus there.
So there you have it. That’s what I’d do. I’d still be me. Just on a larger scale than I currently am.
What about you? What would you do?
If you are looking for some inspiration, let me leave you with this clip from one of my favourite movies of all time: 1988’s Heathers. Back then, the question was $5 million; but with the added urgency that you had to spend it quickly because aliens were coming to blow up the world. So the answers landed a bit more in the land of “excess” than “change the world”, but the high school hopeful perspective and quirk makes me smile all the same.