I’m one of those people who pays little to no attention to the lottery scene. For me, it’s not so much a moral thing having to do with gambling. I see it from a more practical point of view, in that it’s a waste of money. But every now and then, the multi-state lottery jackpots grow to ridiculous numbers which gain the attention of local and even national media. It’s at times like these that we have the inevitable interview with a few people waiting in line at a local convenience store. They’re waiting to buy their Powerball ticket.
Now, I can’t say that I grew up in a household where my parents didn’t occasionally play the lottery. Back in the day, before we had Powerball or Mega Millions, my folks would buy a ticket or two when the state lotto would grow to a number that was large for the late 80s or early 90s. Not that any number with the word “million” after it should ever be considered anything but large. I also can’t say that I’ve never purchased a lottery ticket myself, either. In fact, that was one of those things I did on my 18th birthday. I bought one simply because I could. I got one of the scratch tickets, too. Those are a lot more fun than picking six numbers and leaving it up to fate. No, you really have no more control over what’s under that disgusting silver gunk, but it sure feels like you’re an active participant in that version of this game of chance.
Over the weekend, I caught a news broadcast that announced the Powerball would be over $420 million for the next drawing. By the day of the drawing, the estimated jackpot had risen to $500 million. When it’s that big, it’s difficult to fight the temptation, in spite of the astronomical odds that are never, ever in anyone’s favor. Back in my banking days, whenever the Powerball or Mega Millions would breach that $200 million mark, several of us in the branch would pool our money and purchase a bunch of tickets. I know that didn’t increase the odds of winning, but it felt like we had a better chance if, between the five of us, we had 50 tickets to look through when the numbers were drawn.
Anyway, each time we would take up the collection and chip in for the tickets, we’d go around and dream out loud about how we would spend our share of the winnings. Because, of course, we were going to be the ones who beat the odds and walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars to split between us all. I had no intention of buying a Powerball ticket this time around. I may have if some friends or co-workers wanted to go in as a group, like I did with my fellow bankers, but alone it just didn’t feel worth it. But that didn’t stop me from dreaming about what I would do if I had that much money.
I did contact my former assistant manager from the banking days. He was always good with the financial advice, so I wanted to know what I would, hypothetically, walk away with if I took the one time payout, after taxes. He estimated that one would pocket $180 million after all was said and done. So I guess the title of this post shouldn’t be “If I Had $500 Million”. It really doesn’t matter the amount. When you get to numbers like that, it’s more than I could spend in my lifetime. Unless I’m stupid and try to buy the moon or something. Ooh… I should buy the moon!
In reality, most of my winnings would be given away. Because what am I really going to do with $180 million? Here’s what I’d do…
- Invest – Whatever amount would allow me to draw interest to live on from month to month for the rest of my life. If I had a smart adviser, I’m sure I would be able to do this very easily and never have to worry about where my next paycheck will come from ever again for as long as I live.
- Pay off all debts – Student Loans, Credit Cards, Car
- Withdraw a large amount in singles – I mostly just want to throw it all on the ground and roll around in it. Though, I realize money is about the dirtiest thing that people come into contact with on a regular basis. So I may have to table this one.
- Pay off my mom and stepfather’s mortgage
- Make sure the children of the Most Awesome Person I Know are set up for college – They’re the closest thing I have to nieces and nephews at this point in my life, so I’d like to know they’ll all get a good education and not have to worry about paying for it.
- Anonymously donate a bunch to my church – I’m not sure how the church would feel about accepting a donation from lottery winnings, so if it’s anonymous, maybe they won’t figure out that that’s where the millions of dollars suddenly came from. But we’re in the process of building a new facility. I wouldn’t be able to just sit on that much money and not help out. The way I see it, winning that kind of money would be a miracle, right? And I’m just sitting here justifying why it was okay for me to gamble…
- Anonymously donate a bunch to the school system where I work – A lot of schools are behind the times. The county where I work is no exception. They need new buses. They need updated facilities. A very large anonymous donation could help with that. I’d make stipulations that it would need to be spent specifically for the schools and that the school board would have to use a large portion of the funds to fulfill the wishes of the educators. The men and women who are actually teaching those kids should have a very large say in how that money is spent.
- Donate a bunch to my alma mater – Notice I did not say anonymously. If I’m donating money to my college, for whom I’m still paying student loans (and will for many years if I never win the Powerball), they’re gonna know it’s me. And they’re gonna name a building after me.
- Buy a decent plot of land and build a smallish house – I’m thinking two bedrooms, a couple of bathrooms, a nice kitchen, and a large library.
- Install one of those money machines – You know, one of those things that people step into and it has a fan in the floor that blows dollar bills all around. If I ever have kids, that’s how they’ll get their spending money for the week. They have to work for it.
What would you do with $500 million? I mean… $180 million after taxes if you take the one-time payout… Let me know in the comments.