Contra Mozilla

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On Winning the Lottery

My wife and I were talking about winning the lottery (we didn't actually win it, of course, unless you count winning $4 for a $1 ticket)--and joking about it, too--and it seems that we aren't the only ones. In the last year or so, it seems the Mega Million and Pwerball lotteries (but I repeat myself) have frequently boasted jackpots in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Several times the jackpot has exceeded half a billion bucks. Yikes!

We are apparently not alone in these musings, as Rebecca Hamilton shares her own thoughts on this on her blog. I mostly concur with her, and actually would put the money to a very similar use (exchange Austin for Oklahoma city, and I would probably build up some nice chapels etc around the state and/or country and staff them with Dominicans; donate a bunch to the Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (they've set up shop nearby), and I would probably try to set up some sort of small trust for my children (current and future). Oh, and eliminate that student loan debt.

One of the more thought-provoking points brought up by Mrs. Hamilton is this:

The amount of money that was on the line in the lottery yesterday — hundreds of millions of dollars — was beyond my comprehension. My husband told me that if we won it, we’d have to move and go incognito for our own safety.
My reaction to that was thank you, but no. That doesn’t sound like a gift. It sounds like a sentence.
My home/family/community give my life structure. This is my place, my spot in the world. What could money possibly give me to compensate for losing that?

She concludes by asking if winning the lottery would be a blessing, or a sentence.

Something similar crossed my own mind in thinking about this: would it be a blessing, or a curse to suddenly acquire that much wealth? For some, it would surely be a blessing, and many more would echo Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis:
Ask the rich man he'll confess
Money can't buy happiness
Ask the poor man he don't doubt
But he'd rather be miserable with than without
For me, I think that winning that much money suddenly would be a curse. It would be another "talent" to steward, and I don't think I would do that. It's not something I want to be answerable for some day--have I used this vast fortune wisely? Some men would be able to, and some certainly do. There's nothing wrong with having a fortune, so long as it is used (invested, donated, etc) wisely. And I may be able to do so.

I'm also certainly at a different stage of life and in a different financial state than Mrs. Hamilton. I don't know that I would want $636 million to worry about, but I wouldn't mind seeing tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt disappear, or of seeing a few hundred thousand big ones appear in a retirement account for my wife and myself; it's not that this would make me quit my day job, but rather would let me pursue a job which would pay less but carry more satisfaction (like teaching, or thinking and writing, and not merely about physics).

Winning enough money to wipe out debts and afford a house or put away for retirement would be nice, and I think I could manage that. But enough to buy a neighborhood is also more than I could really fathom. Though the temptation to buy an island somewhere and to leave the country before things get any worse s strong...

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