Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A windfall in the lottery of life

This year's London Health Sciences Foundation millionaire dream home is on the street where I live, about a block away from my home. So was last year's. We didn't check out last year's offering, but curiosity got the better of us and we toured this year's home a couple of weeks ago. A million dollars doesn't go as far as it used to.

I mention this because I dropped in on my cousin's son's blog and was pleased to learn that his parents had just won a million dollar home lottery in British Columbia. Having lived several thousand miles apart for most of our lives, I can't say that I know my cousin or her husband very well, but they seem like nice, upright people and I congratulate them.

Co-incidentally, I was speaking with my chiropractor a few days ago, and in one of our typically rambling conversations he happened to mention that many lottery winners are no better for the experience after a few years. He speculated that this might be due to the fact that we tend to appreciate most what we earn ourselves, and that windfalls are often used foolishly because there is no real value attributed to them.

I think that is true, at least to a point. I think though that the bigger issue is one's overall outlook on life. I think that the 'if only' individuals among us ("if only I had a better job, a bigger house, a bigger car, a prettier wife, I would be happy") discover that when they can afford the things they thought were lacking, they are no happier than before. Those people who are already content with their lives, I think, will behave more responsibly and get more pleasure out of the windfall because they never expected anything other than their own efforts to make them happy in the first place.

If I won a million dollars or more, what would I do? Pretty much the same as I am doing now. Would I retire? No. I love what I do and need the stimulation and challenge of running businesses and completing projects. Would my lifestyle change dramatically? No. I might buy a newer car and take a special vacation with my family. Otherwise, things wouldn't change much. I would just do more of the same. Instead of investing just in Panama, I would also buy land in Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay. Would I be any happier? Nope. I'm a pretty happy camper already.

I think my cousin and her husband are going to do just fine. Judging by the kids they have raised, individuals I actually know a bit better than their parents by virtue of email exchanges and being able to read their blogs, I would say that they are level-headed enough to do the right things and to enjoy their new-found wealth. Good for them.

I wonder, should I run down to the convenience store and buy a lottery ticket? Maybe, while I'm at it, I could pick up a dream home ticket as well. Hmm, there is a casino not far from my office, maybe I could drop in there on my way home tonight.

Or maybe not. I think instead I will give my wife and son extra big hugs tonight, and be grateful for what I already have.


  1. Lotteries, I fear them. My employees have an office lotto pool in which my wife takes part, and sometimes on "special lotto days" when the jackpot is huge, I'll have the company kick in some extra tickets for the gang on the understanding that if they hit the lotto, I'll still have a staff left the next day.

    But the last thing I ever want to do is win the lotto. My life's ambition has been to become financially independent, and for the most part I am living that dream: building my business and making what are (hopefully) shrewd investments.

    In my mind, having a pile of money fall out of the sky into my lap would ruin that, it would basically negate my raison d'etre.

    So my wife and I have an agreement: if your office pool hits the lotto, you are on your own in terms of that money, I don't want a dime of it, keep it the hell away from me.

    I can't stress enough how much winning a lotto is the absolute last thing I would want to have happen to me.

  2. I hear you, Mark. My staff has the same sort of pool and I imagine that my office would be pretty empty in the event of a big lottery win. Interesting idea you have there, of participating in the pool and essentially, if I understand your comment correctly, offering to use your share as some sort of inducement for your employees to hang around after a windfall.

    I am at a stage in my life where I have made (and lost, on occasion) a lot of money and winning a lottery wouldn't take any edge off of my drive. Habits honed over many years are pretty deeply ingrained.

    Like you, though, building the dream is what I derive my satisfaction from, not necessarily only living it.

  3. All I really have to say is THANK YOU!

  4. I've probably bought 3 or 4 lottery tickets in the past but generally I am happier keeping that money and putting it into or towards something which will become reality at my doing, not fate's.

    The litigation lotto seems very popular here.

  5. I don't buy lottery tickets often, but admit that if the pot is large enough, say 15 or 20 million, I sometimes pick up a ticket. Why? I have this notion that if I had the time and extra cash available, I would like to do two things in developing countries, in Africa particularly: One set up a network of micro-loan facilities to help people start small businesses, and two, to have a fleet of drill rigs driving around drilling water wells in countries where hundreds of thousands of people get ill or die from filthy, bacteria-infested water in rivers and mud holes.

    I don't believe much in simply giving people stuff. I believe in showing them how to help themselves. That is ultimately a much better and more permanent solution.

  6. So refreshing to hear someone say they actually love and appreciate what they have in their life!

  7. Thanks, Jean. Sometimes we really don't realize how lucky we are.

  8. For a moment, I thought I read one of your comment replies above as "to have a fleet of drill rigs driving around drilling gas wells in countries so that hundreds of thousands of people get ill or die from filthy, bacteria-infested water". I guess that tells me where my concerns are placed lately. I definitely like your intended idea.

  9. Water is quickly becoming one of the most precious commodities on earth, even here in North America where it is being squandered.