Friday, April 6, 2012

Money Changes Everything?

We used to play the lottery when we first got married. Our combined income was about a third (maybe a quarter) of what it is now, and yet we found a few dollars to play the lottery. I've noticed it seems to be that way with games of chance-- those who have the least will spend their money in the hopes of winning more. And those who could afford to spend $5 or $10 or even $50 on lottery tickets don't play at all.

I hadn't played the lottery in years until this past week when the Mega Millions (is that what it's called?) was all anyone was talking about. So we stopped by a convenience store on our way home from date night (something we do weekly to the tune of $100, including babysitter) and spent $5 on lottery tickets.

We didn't win. Five sets of numbers and only two of the lottery numbers came up on two different tickets. I wasn't disappointed, didn't even blink. Actually, I forgot to even check the numbers the night of the drawing-- I pulled them from someone's post on Facebook. It was a waste of five dollars, really, and yet we gave into the excitement. The greed? No, because I'm not greedy that way. If I were... well, I wouldn't be a writer if money meant anything to me.

I didn't spend much time fantasizing about how I'd spend the money if I won some crazy sum. Not much would change, just as not much has changed in the twenty-two years since we were making 1/3 or 1/4 of what we make now. I've driven the same car for 20 years, I shop at the same clothing stores, I wear very little jewelry. Vast riches wouldn't suddenly make me a fashion plate, though my husband would most certainly insist I buy a new car. One that doesn't have a leaky roof, at least.

We go out to eat more-- or we did, before two babies entered our lives. Now it's once a week on date night, once every couple of weeks with the kids. That's a lot, compared to the early years when we might have gone out to eat once a month. I can't imagine we'd suddenly eat out every night if we won the lottery. That would grow tiresome, even if we hired a babysitter every night. Which I wouldn't because I like being home with my babies. Maybe a chef? But probably not that, either. I'm not keen on strangers in my house.

Maybe we'd travel more if we had a lot of money-- though with really little children, that also seems unlikely. At least for awhile. Bigger house? Probably not. Someone would have to clean it and, as I said, I'm not one to have strangers in my house. I can't imagine having a staff of people at my beck and call. It would make me uncomfortable.

I'd keep writing, of course. I'll never not write. But I love my computer, I love where I work (the nearby Starbucks), I love what I do. I love my life, mostly. Wealth wouldn't change much for me. Like Lisabet, I'd give away a lot of it. But first I'd pay off the kids' college funds that we've started for them and put money in the bank for them to be secure-- as secure as money can buy. I'd pay off our debts, put more in the retirement fund. Start college funds, build children's playgrounds, create grants for writers, buy a plot of land somewhere and start a writers' retreat. Stuff like that. I'd probably end up being a very eccentric philanthropist, giving piles of cash away like some dotty old grandmother doling out strawberry candies. Sounds like fun, actually.

I'm lucky and I know it. I'm lucky that my life is comfortable. That, even if I have bills and credit card debt, I have a nice house in a middle class neighborhood, plenty of food in the refrigerator and pantry, two cars to drive, health care and a Starbucks gold card with enough money on it to buy my daily coffee. I have clothes and a credit card to buy more. We can afford to take care of our children and buy them clothes and books and toys and too many treats. When they're a little older, we'll be able to afford to take them to Disney World and buy them matching Mickey Mouse ears. I want to take them to London and Paris, too. We can do it, if we put some money aside for a year or so. It won't be a hardship.

I am lucky. The lottery would not change or increase that luck-- you can pour water into a glass all day long and it will only get so full no matter how much water you pour-- and yet I can see the good that could be done with that kind of money. The good I could do with that kind of money. And I wonder why all those who are rich-- the 1% as they've come to be known-- don't realize that. Or do they? I know there are many wealthy people who give their money away. I read recently that J.K. Rowling is no longer a billionaire because she has given away so much of her Harry Potter wealth. Good for her. Warren Buffett has given away much of his wealth, too. There are others. But I think they're in the minority among those who own a fleet of cars and ten houses and gold-plated... everything. Those who think money buys happiness and so they buy and buy and buy.

I'll never get to show the world what I could do with a billion dollars-- or even a million. Not that I lack ambition, but my particular career doesn't make many millionaires and it's unlikely I'll ever be one of them. My luck doesn't run that way and I'm okay with it. But someone did win those many, many millions last weekend. Several people won a lot of money for doing nothing more than buying a ticket for a dollar. And so I hope they realize the wealth they've been given-- the luck they have fallen into-- is more than money, it's a chance to change the world and make it a better place. But what do I know? I don't have a gold-plated anything.


  1. Hi, Kristina,

    I sometimes thing that I don't understand money. I mean, I know how to budget, to balance a checkbook, even do a bit of investing, but I don't "get" money the way rich people do.

    I have a brother-in-law who's pretty rich. He earned it all himself, through hard work, and now he can buy anything he wants for himself and his family. He does, too. When I'm with him, I sometimes feel as though the world he lives in is completely different from mine. Money looms so large in his life. He thinks about it all the time, I think. He loves it, in a way I can barely imagine. He understands it in a way I never will.

    I think you might be the same way.

  2. Yes, very much so, Lisabet. I do like (and am grateful for) the peace of mind money brings and not having to worry about how we'll pay the bills from month to month.

  3. You are very lucky. My kids have never been to Disneyworld or Land, since we could only afford to take them camping. We did take them to the Wisconsin Dells once, but camped while there. I think they need a sign up on the highway exits, similar to the one over the entrance to hell: "Abandon money all ye who exit here!"


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