Here’s a surprise: I did not wake up this morning on top of a $1.5 billion pile of money. In fact, my three lonely Powerball tickets languish with only one matching number between them. Not only did I fail to become an insta-billionaire, but I didn’t even recoup my costs. In lottery terms, that’s a complete and utter loss.
A bigger surprise is that I played the lottery at all. I am not a gambler. I didn’t buy a ticket on my 18th birthday just because I could. I’ve never played the lotto before, and I probably won’t again. Apparently the magic number to motivate me is $1.5 billion.
The biggest surprise of all is that my $6 wasn’t wasted. I didn’t feel foolish when I didn’t win. In fact, those three lottery ticket were the best $6 I’ve spent in a long time. Those tickets represented possibility, which set off an internal dialogue about what it is I really want.
Normalcy & Comfort
Strangely enough, I do not want to be a billionaire. My daydreams weren’t filled with the Swiss Alps or butlers. Nor were they filled with charitable foundations and business ventures. I wouldn’t buy a jet or build a gold-lined swimming pool.
My wishlist? Pretty straight forward. Post-winning life would be an easier, more comfortable version of my life as it is.
I would buy a one-bedroom condo, fill it with furniture, and decorate it to my heart’s content. The last thing I would want is to buy a mansion. I don’t need more than about 800 square feet to be happy, and even that seems excessively large. More important than size or luxury is a space all my own. As dearly as I love my parents and am indebted to their generosity, being a 26-year-old living at home is a bit mortifying. A billion dollars would be plenty to let me reclaim some of my relinquished independence.
I would continue working. Unemployment or early retirement would drive me completely insane. My current retail gig is enjoyable and keeps me busy, so I don’t see any reason to give that up for a billion dollars. What my new-found wealth would do is take some of the pressure off my continuing job search. I would have the flexibility to pursue opportunities that are impossible for me now. I could take unpaid internships or volunteer work. I could return to school and study anything, spending time gaining the skills I woefully lack. I could hold out only for jobs that are fascinating *and* that I’m actually qualified for. I could do something really amazing with my life. However, I would definitely, definitely not start my own company. I am not an entrepreneur. I do not have a single entrepreneurial bone in my body. Being a number one holds no interest for me. I would much rather be a number two. A billion dollars would allow me to be passionate without being beholden to my financial situation.
Of course, I would spend money on things that would bring me enjoyment. I would travel. I would sign up for every mud run known to mankind. I would go on week-long beer-brewing retreats. I would pay for a personal trainer and nutritionist to help me get in better shape. I would probably just buy Powell’s Books books since I would spend so much money there anyway. I might even buy myself a fancy new Jeep Wrangler. And a puppy. A billion dollars makes all of these things incidental.
Finally, I would work with attorneys and lawyers and all those fancy people to figure out the best way to establish and distribute my wealth. Undoubtably I would help pay off my parent’s house, and my sister’s. I would find the best ways to give back to the people and organizations that have helped me get to where I am now. I would ensure I had money to support my potential, theoretical future offspring. I would invest the remaining money so it would continue to accumulate. This part would require a guide through the world of unreasonable wealth, so its hard to speculate exactly what this looks like. But a billion dollars goes a long way.
One of the firs thoughts I had when I began thinking about winning a billion dollars was where I would take my first trip. Then I began thinking about the need to take time off of work. It would be incredibly presumptuous for me to assume that my time-off requests would be treated any differently than any of my coworkers. However, would I really cancel a trip I had planned because my part-time retail job wouldn’t give me two weeks off? Probably not. This is the nature of billion-dollar entitlement.
I try hard to be aware of my entitlement – this is part of a much larger internal discourse in my life. I would hope that gaining untold wealth wouldn’t change me as a person, but how could it not? Moreover, how can you predict how it will change you? Everything I’ve said above might have gone completely out the window if these:
Had matched this:
And that is terrifying. The very last thing I would ever want is to let a billion dollars change who I am. Realizing that was the real success of not winning the lottery, the value of my $6. Not only did I start considering my priorities in life, but I also validated that for the most part I like who I am. Sure, if I won, I might drink prosecco in my pretentious downtown Portland loft, but it would be with the same friends after a long day of busting my butt at work. I might be a billionaire, but I would still be me. That is my billion dollar dream.