What Would You Do With a Million Dollars?

By Will Chen on 5 November 2007 (Updated 8 June 2011) 213 comments

If you had a million dollars (tax free), what would you do with that money? Will you invest it, take a trip, start a business, quit your job, or give it to charity?

Tell us what you would do with a million dollars and be entered in a random drawing to win a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.com!

This drawing is over. Congrats to Lauren, the winner of the drawing! Thanks to everyone who participated.

(See also: Wise Bread Giveaways)

Philip Brewer

There's an old joke people tell around here. One farmer asks another, "What would you do, if you won a million dollars?" The other farmer thinks for a moment, then says, "I guess keep farming until the money runs out."

I didn't give up very much to become a full-time writer (because I had been saving for this for a long time — the closing of the site where I worked just accelerated things by a couple of years). We dropped our standard of living just a bit. If I won a million dollars, we could move back up to the standard of living that we had when I was getting paid a salary. We had also been looking for houses, and have had to put that on-hold indefinitely. (I want a small house within walking distance of downtown. I've got plans to make it super energy-efficient.) Winning a million dollars would make buying a house possible.

Other than that, I don't expect winning a million dollars would change my life a whole lot. I pretty much like my life just as it is — why screw it up?

Sarah Winfrey

Sarah Winfrey's picture

I would pay off student loans and then buy a house, though in this market I might wait a couple of years, until we know more of what is actually going to happen with real estate. I would invest a large chunk of the rest of it, though I have no idea how, off the top of my head. That much money is beyond what I know how to invest right now, so I'd read some good books and talk to some good people.

The most important thing (at least to me!) that I'd do with it, though, is use it as an opportunity to quit my job. I have a pretty complex business idea in mind that would play off of my writing, art, and people skills, and I'd focus on that now instead of going slowly at it, as I am now.

Julie Rains

If I added $1 million (tax free) to my assets, I would:

  1. Start a charitable organization, perhaps structured as a foundation, perhaps not that would fund non-profits with great ideas, committed volunteers, and limited start-up resources; these non-profits could be involved in any endeavor but I would look favorably on those who would a) give Internet access and appropriate resources to senior community centers and retirement homes so that senior adults could go digital (don't laugh, once they get the hang of it, they'll be blogging away, making new friends globally, sending digital images of bingo night to their grandchildren, etc.) and b) increase green spaces and opportunities for outdoor activities, mainly for children but for all ages
     
  2. Buy a second home in the Blue Ridge Parkway, where I will bicycle during uncrowded times, host family reunions and parties, and invite kids, families, etc. to go hiking
     
  3. Hire a professional organizer as I am nearly hopelessly disorganized when it comes to filing papers, storing legos, placing tupperware containers neatly on racks, etc.

Justin Ryan

Justin Ryan's picture

Sadly, these days, a million isn't really that much, so it wouldn't go as far as I'd like. Here goes:

  • A 3BR house (one for me, one for my home office, and one for company) in the area I used to live, with a big kitchen, and the furniture to put in it.
  • A new fuel-efficient car.
  • A vacation to London. (I haven't had a real vacation since 1997.)

The rest I'd take in cash, put in a wheel barrow, roll it in to my bank branch, dump it in front of my personal banker's desk, and say "Look at all this. I just don't know what to do with it — can you think of something?" (Based on a running joke between the two of us.)

Linsey Knerl

Assuming it is AFTER taxes, I'd like to start a small family-support office in my hometown. I'd staff some counselors and support workers and contract with the state to assist families in the area.

I'd also like to buy a few hundred acres of farmland to rent out. The land would generate some passive income while leaving something for my children's inheritance.

Andrea Dickson

I suppose I'd pay off my mortgage and my sister's. The rest, I'd split between investing in conservative stuff, like stocks and bonds, and I'd probably invest a hefty chunk in Wise Bread.

Paul Michael

I'd give my $1 million to Richard Branson, telling him he could keep half of the profits he made from whatever venture he decided to start with it. He's way smarter than me, I know he'd turn the $1 million into some serious cash. Then I'd buy my own island and retire there with my family, sipping ice cold beers on a perfect white beach.

William Chen

I would start a small venture capital fund modeled after Y Combinator. The fund will invest $10,000 to $20,000 on small startups like Reddit during their initial development stages. It will be a great opportunity to meet lots of exciting and smart people. Of course, the prospect of hitting home runs and earning billions is a nice bonus as well.

Tell us what you would do with a million bucks in the comments and be entered in a random drawing to win a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.com! Deadline to enter is 11/10. Only one entry per person.

This drawing is over. Congrats to Lauren, the winner of the drawing! Thanks to everyone who participated.

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Guest's picture

I would pay off all of my mortgages and debt. I would buy a home for a mother. I would donate 10% to charity.
I would also purchase additional investment properties to provide future income. I would invest about 20%.

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Karen

I'm debt-free, so I'd probably buy Berkshire-Hathaway.

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Guest

I will probably do the same...Let Warren Buffet do his magic.

Guest's picture

At first I thought you meant buy the whole company. Might take a bit more than $1M. ;)

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DivaJean

I'd buy myself a green dress (but not a real green dress that's cruel!).

Wacka wacka! But seriously folks...

My kids would have two stay at home moms- because at the level of financical consumption we live, a million would be enough for us. My hubby mught not agree- but we could afford for her to work instead of me if that was her hang up (my job pays more, so I'm the working mom). I would have time to get my nest the way I want it- and to build a treehouse with my son like he's been wanting.

I would pick up the volunteer work at my church that my mom had to walk away from recently-- I'd be busier doing that sort of stuff as my "job" in life- a philanthropist with my time.

I'd have time to write and have my own blog instead of wasting bandwidth on others-- if I earned any money from ads on my blog, I'd donate it to other bloggers.

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Guest

Your are to confused !!

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CT

Well, first of all I'd have to hire an accountant, to figure out what kind of fees I have to pay, because I would be over the maximum income limit for a lot of things (such as my Roth IRA). Then I would have to open up a bunch of bank accounts just to hold the money while I figure out what do with it, because the FDIC insurance only goes up to $100,000 per account.

Around this point I would probably be talking to the IRS, trying to explain to them how I magically aquired a million tax-free dollars (since the IRS general wants to collect taxes on my income). I could possibly go to jail or have my accounts frozen, depending on where I got the money from.

Assuming all that works out, a lot of extended family members that I don't know too well would probably start hitting me up for cash, especially the unemployed when with their great "business ideas". That would end up with a lose/lose situation for me, because I would either lose a lot of cash on their schemes or end up being known as rich snob of the family.

I guess with all things considered if you gave me a million dollars tax free I would probably just say "No thanks". I would take the $25 Amazon.com card though.

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STEVE G

THAT WAS SO TRUE AND REAL FUNNY!!!!!!!!

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Guest

That's exactly what happens! I related to your comment so much, I had to respond.
With all of that goes, a million dollars isn't enough anymore. Uncle Sam gets half when you add it all up. You pay taxes on everything you buy, and you don't qualify for any of these handouts that most people get including these stimulus checks. I could write a book on this subjects. When you do have the million dollars all of this stresses you out so much that you really can't enjoy the half that you came away with.

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Gina

I'm also debt-free but I could use that kind of money to get out of my terrible marriage, fund my retirement account and put my kids through state college with a little wise investing.

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Charise

If I suddenly had a million dollars tax-free my husband and I would pay off our debt, take a modest vacation, possibly buy a small house (now that we live in a more affordable area), and invest the rest.

I think I would also want to give some to a charitable organization. I'm a big fan of sharing.

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Charise

If I suddenly had a million dollars tax-free my husband and I would pay off our debt, take a modest vacation, possibly buy a small house (now that we live in a more affordable area), and invest the rest.

I think I would also want to give some to a charitable organization. I'm a big fan of sharing.

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Kaxx

Let's see... first, I would put enough in the bank to pay taxes on it (if not a tax-free million). Second, get someone to arrange a smallish cruise ship to go around the world and during the trip have poker pros holding various workshops. Oh, I'd also hold back enough for my boyfriend and I to enter the World Series of Poker twice, then I'd quit my job and spend time figuring out how to make this money make money for me. :)

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Kacie

I'd put $20,000 in a college savings fund for my 17-year-old sister. She has some saved for college, and I think this amount would cover the rest.

I'd give $100,000 to my parents. They've spent so much money on me--this probably wouldn't even cover it all.

I'd donate $100,000 to 3-5 charities (anonymously, so I won't be hounded by other charities!)

I'd buy a modest house at less than $150,000. That's very doable here in Pittsburgh, PA.

I'd buy a really nice digital SLR camera and some lenses.

I'd go on a cruise.

The rest I would invest and put toward retirement. We'll still live as frugally as possible, since we want to retire at age 52 or sooner.

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Evan

Cooking school! Then I would invest, live pretty frugally and make delicious meals for my friends.

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Adam

1. Pay off my mortgage
2. Buy my wife a Mini-Cooper
3. Buy our parents something nice
4. Go on vacation
5. Improve my home recording studio (My Music Page)!!!
6. Give to our church and other charities
6. Invest the rest in index funds and stuff like that

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Mona

We are essentially debt free, so that wouldn't be an issue. I would share a portion with my children, parents, and siblings. After that I would give some to the school library at my children's elementary school and the school library where I work. School library budgets are so small that a little will go a long way. After that, I would purchase a hybrid or alternative energy car. The next step would be to incorporate green energy into my house. It is 100 years old, so the boards it is built with are amazingly strong. There is no reason to waste the resources that are already in the house to build something else. Then, if there is anything left, invest.

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Mary

Since I'm pretty young, and don't have debt or children/spouse, I think I'd just take it to the bank and plunk down something like $950,000 in a nice CD, set to mature at 5% interest every year. Then I would live off the uninvested 50,000 for the first year and then the interest after that. Meanwhile I would find a part-time job I enjoy, take some more classes, maybe travel around a little bit. I can't imagine buying a house or something like that, not right now.

I'd probably keep clipping coupons and living frugally, anyway.

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Dave

Hi Mary. You are the smartest person on here!! Perfect idea!!

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gt0163c

First off, 10% goes to charity. Some of that would go to my church. All of the missionaries I support would get a big gift. A couple of missionaries that I would like to support would get picked up for regular support.

Second, I'd pay off my mortgage to allow me to be debt free. And, at some point soon after that, I'd put in new windows throughout my house to help make it more energey efficient.

For fun, I'd buy out everything on my Amazon wish-list, sign up to go to Space Camp the following summer and hire some friends to make some other of my friends and me a really nice dinner.

I'd also hire a good financial planner/accountant/tax advisor person to help me figure out how to manage the money with the intent of helping to fund my nephews' college educations and increaseing the changes that I can live debt free for the rest of my life.

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Russell

I'd certainly use some amount -- less than 50% -- to seed college funds for my two sons, and also pay off my mortgage. That's the serious bit.

Some amount -- perhaps 10% -- would be 'fun money'. There's no point in getting hold of some filthy lucre and not acting like it. This would likely be a nice long vacation and some pointless spending.

The rest would be invested 50/50 between some "serious" investments that would have reliable results (stock/bond investing) and also some unusual investments. I'd probably start a business with some of it, perhaps a recording studio or some other music-oriented business. This would keep me from pretending that I'm idly rich, and yet would allow me to start up a new career in a field I love even more than my current field. Because my mortgage and future would be secured, I wouldn't need to pay myself too large a salary for it to work out well.

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Lauren

I would pay off my remaining debt, pay off my parents loans that they took out for my education, pay them back for that accident I had when I was 15......

After that, I would buy myself a plane ticket to sub Saharan Africa and start a foundation that would help with education as well as maintaining their cultures, and live the rest of my days very, very happily.

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Shirlene Davis

We will be praying for you and your project. I would like to be a part of your missions.
Shirlene Davis
Email:holdingonministries@yahoo.com

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Guest

Why sub sahra Africa ...are you from that part of the world? I am curious!

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martha in mobile

Were I to suddenly obtain a million tax-free dollars, I would:
move back to my (expensive) hometown to be near my aged and declining parents. That's $350K. Put my husband through nursing or cooking school (as he hates his current government job) so he can find his passion. We're up to $450K if we include living expenses. Fund my daughter's college fund. $550K. $100K to charity and the rest to the retirement fund. Thanks for the dream-time!

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Kevin

I would pay off the debt I have (school loans and daughter's braces), buy the house in the mountainsthat my wife wants, replace my 12 year old truck, and then invest the rest for retirement. Other than life would go on pretty much the same as usual only with a bit more peace of mind.

Guest's picture

I've actually linked to it and posted my response in my blog.

1. I would build my sustainable/off-the-grid farm and "little green house" outside of the city, furnished and ready to go (down to $700,000)
2. I would fix up our current home (down to $650,000)
3. I would sell our current home (up to $925,000)
4. I would pay off our car lease (down to $906,000)
5. I would help my boyfriend finance his business - either now or in the future by putting money aside (down to $656,000)
6. I would utilize the "Couch Potato" investing method, with an expected return of approximately 10% annually, the interest essentially paying equivalent to my current wages (down to $306,000)
7. I would pay off our debts (down to $296,000)
8. I would build our emergency fund (down to $276,000)
9. I would "max out" our retirement savings (down to $216,000)
10. I would put a chunk of money aside for raising our family (down to $116,000)
11. I would donate a chunk of money to the rescue center where we adopted our Great Dane (down to $100,000)
12. I would send all of Chris and my parents on a vacation (down to $60,000)
13. I would develop and market my personal organization consulting business (down to $40,000)
14. I would finance our wedding and throw a fantastic party for everyone we know. This would be including a great honeymoon to Ireland, France, Greece and Italy (down to $1,000)
15. I would leave the remaining balance in my savings account. :)

Everyone has really fantastic ideas on what to do with their theoretical windfall - I'm impressed!

Kalyn Cybulski
http://www.lifeedit.net

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iPosty

If I had million dollars, that'd buy a lot of Kraft dinners.. (apologies to BNL)

Seriously, here's my plan, which I've considered for years...

1) Pay off student loans
2) Pay off mortgage
3) Invest 50% of remainder for retirement
4) Invest 25% of remainder for children's college funds
5) Invest 25% into home updating/remodeling

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Jen

If I had a million dollars, I would follow my same current plan:

1) I would pay off my student loans and my second mortgage
2) I would put 9 months of expenses in an emergency fund.
3) I would put 15% of the money towards retirement
4) I would put enough money away to send the kids to school
5) I would pay off my 1st mortgage ($170,000)
6) I would spend no more than $75,000 on stuff (furniture, a sailboat, a car, etc)
and I would invest the rest in our various businesses and mutual funds.

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Taylor

I'd pay off my parents' mortgage and give them $300,000. I'd pay off my sister's debts and give her $100,000. I'd buy a Colonial-era home in Eastern Mass and restore it. I'd go back to grad school. I'd invest the rest (Probably only down to about $100,000 at this point.)

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DivaJean

I already quoted Barenaked Ladies, iPosty! (Great minds think alike!)

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Gil

I'd probably do this (in this order):
(1) Pay off my husband's school debts,
(2) Fund our (my husband and I) retirement accounts to the maximum and set up more investments for the future,
(3) Fund our daughter's (and make new mutual funds for future kiddos) college plans to the maximum,
(4) Gift a $100,000 to each set of our parents (because they've given us so much),
(5) Gift some to our immediate family members - "requiring" them to use it for school stuff (with 7 siblings between the two of us.. it turns out to be a lot),
(6) I would quit my very part time job and take up a fun consulting job or start a new business (so many ideas, so little start up and time) instead OR just invest a chunk to be used in the future for a new business,
(7) Take trips to the top 5 world destinations we've been wanting to go to together (British Isles, China, Mediterranean, U.S. National Parks and Monuments, Europe) over the next several years,
(8) Increase our current charitable donations (and probably make new donations to places we've been wanting to give to),
(9) Buy some "useful" stuff - a bigger car (to handle the family better), some "makes it easier to live" baby/kid gear, a pda, etc.
(10) And lastly, buy some "fun" stuff we've been wanting (but not too much, because we won't be moving from our tiny apartment, there's no "need" for us to move and buy, not to mention housing where we live would cost us about three-quarters of a million for somthing that's "just decent"... California, bah!)

That's what we would do... but we'd probably still be as frugal as ever and our lives would not change much.

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Gil

I'd probably do this (in this order):
(1) Pay off my husband's school debts,
(2) Fund our (my husband and I) retirement accounts to the maximum and set up more investments for the future,
(3) Fund our daughter's (and make new mutual funds for future kiddos) college plans to the maximum,
(4) Gift a $100,000 to each set of our parents (because they've given us so much),
(5) Gift some to our immediate family members - "requiring" them to use it for school stuff (with 7 siblings between the two of us.. it turns out to be a lot),
(6) I would quit my very part time job and take up a fun consulting job or start a new business (so many ideas, so little start up and time) instead OR just invest a chunk to be used in the future for a new business,
(7) Take trips to the top 5 world destinations we've been wanting to go to together (British Isles, China, Mediterranean, U.S. National Parks and Monuments, Europe) over the next several years,
(8) Increase our current charitable donations (and probably make new donations to places we've been wanting to give to),
(9) Buy some "useful" stuff - a bigger car (to handle the family better), some "makes it easier to live" baby/kid gear, a pda, etc.
(10) And lastly, buy some "fun" stuff we've been wanting (but not too much, because we won't be moving from our tiny apartment, there's no "need" for us to move and buy, not to mention housing where we live would cost us about three-quarters of a million for somthing that's "just decent"... California, bah!)

That's what we would do... but we'd probably still be as frugal as ever and our lives would not change much.

Guest's picture

1. Pay off our debts (about $120,000)
2. Pay off my parents' debts (say $30,000)
3. Invest $100,000 for retirement (mostly mutual funds, maybe some CDs)
4. Put aside $100,000 a money market account to supplement my upcoming change to a lower-paying job and freelance writing.
5. Buy a used fuel-efficient car ($16,000)
6. Put aside $200,000 in safe accounts for our future home (multiple banks for FDIC coverage)
7. Give $434,000 to World Vision, IJM, and MCC (three charitable relief-type organizations--Christian affiliated without being missionaries)

With a $25 amazon gift card------hmm. :-D *gleeful look* I'd pull out my wishlist and see how much I could buy (used)!

Guest's picture
luke

It used to be that $1 Million was a LOT of money. Now - especially since I live in San Francisco - it's merely a 'lot' of money.

But I would do a few things, mostly around education:

1 - make sure my daughter is going to a great school, with money put aside towards higher education.

2 - take some courses myself to pursue my various interests and possible career paths.

3 - fix up the house some and consider moving (w/ my daughter's future education as a priority, both for convenience and to save money long-term).

4 - increase savings and investments.

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Stephanie

I would probably do the following:
1) Pay off student loans
2) Put some money aside (meaning invest it) for my retirement
3) Put some money aside for taking care of my parents
4) Start some sort of small endowment at my church
5) Look into buying a home, and whether it would be better to take a down payment out of that money and invest the rest and make mortgage payments or what
6) Have to see where things stood at that time; probably invest anything that's left over and decide what to do with it later

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Dawn

First, I'd pay off my school loans and put enough aside to pay for the rest of this year, grad school, and living expenses during that time. I'd also pay off my parents' house and possibly my sister's loans. I'd also go on a relatively small shopping spree; replace my broken laptop and buy a few other things I've had my eye on (some new clothes, a Wii, some nice Christmas presents for my friends.) I'm not sure if I'd quit my job or not; I just got hired (as a cashier) and I'd feel bad leaving just before the super-busy holiday season.

I'm not too sure what I would do with the rest. Probably put it in an account with a good interest rate and hope I got enough from it to live on, so I wouldn't have to worry too much about money. As much as I'm looking forward to it, my future career probably isn't going to make me rich.

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Bart

First of all, I wouldn't tell anybody that I received the million bucks.
Next I'd discretely pay 10% to my church as tithing, reflecting my gratitude and acknowledgment that nothing I receive is really mine anyway.

The following two things are very important. I would take my wife out to a good dinner and then put the rest into a trust that could only be accessed by my grand-children for home buying and college, and forget about it.

I know what it's like to not value what you've been given, and I am not mature enough for such a gift to not effect me. I couldn't take it and use it without damaging my development.

The thing is that I want to work,struggle, and learn on my own. I want to make a million dollars with my own steam and I don't want anyone to take away that opportunity from me.

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Bloggrrl

would be to quit my job, go to Leon, Mexico and start an orphanage. That's it! I guess I'd better start buying those lotto tickets...

Guest's picture
Phil

Convert my entire office to Apple/OS X so that we don't have to keep debugging spyware/virus problems :)

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Pat

I'm afraid that wouldn't do it. Since Apple has starting using Linux/UNIX as the base for its OS, there are plenty of viruses and spyware for Macs too.

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Jessica

I'd figure out exactly how much I was dealing with, after taxes and get some advice on what to do with it.

I would invest much of it, and at somepoint (maybe now or later after said investments would pay off) pay off some student loans because even with a million dollars, paying off loans with 2.45% interest don't make sense or cents. I'd want to help out my parents and give to charities, plus set up investments/give outright to my church. I'd consider paying down my mortgage, and maybe helping out my brothers with some of their needs (not wants necessarily). I'd like to buy a second home in the "city" vs. a cabin in the woods, and take my husband on a couple of great vacations. Maybe start a business too.

I guess the real question is when I'd get this million dollars...in forty years it wouldn't do as much. Ah, inflation.

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Brent

I would definately start an online kid-friendly roll playing game like Runescape.com or ClubPenguin.com . For $5 a month, children and pre-teens get a cool social site to play on. Those sites make millions of dollars profit every month! I'd use the profit to do good things for children all over the world.

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Mel

Remember that line in Office Space? -- Two ch¡¢/s at the same time! Lol... But seriously, quit my job, live modestly.

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shawna

First I would pay off all of my debt. Then I would put most of it away to make compound interest work for me. And then - travel around the world. Not a quick vacation but a few months here, a few months there.

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Amy

The only thing that's stopping my fiancé and I from starting our lives together is money. We often speak of if we won the lottery, we'd jet off to Italy and live in a small cottage in a beautiful small town. We'd live frugally, but we would be so happy not because of what we could buy with our fortune but with the freedom that a large sum would grant us.

Guest's picture
Amy

The only thing that's stopping my fiancé and I from starting our lives together is money. We often speak of if we won the lottery, we'd jet off to Italy and live in a small cottage in a beautiful small town. We'd live frugally, but we would be so happy not because of what we could buy with our fortune but with the freedom that a large sum would grant us.

Guest's picture
James

Not worry about money (I hope).

Eat lunch with my friend Kevin every week or two.

Live in a clean, low-maintenance house, in a quiet, private area.

Get a couple of nice indoor/outdoor cats.

Rent my own private office.

Take a vacation 2-3 times every year.

Host the family get-togethers at my house with both sets of parents.

Not answer to anyone as to what I do (yeah right).

Ask my wife to quit her part-time job and give her an allowance of $1000/month.

Learn to program computers again, the NEW way. Not Pascal and C. (Not that there's anything wrong with that)

Develop a few of the projects I have in mind.

Continue and expand my ministry of helping people by giving them free financial counseling and instruction.

Get back to practicing the guitar and stick with it this time.

Hey, the good news is that most of this is doable with the money I already have. Except for the "stick with it" part!

Guest's picture
James

Not worry about money (I hope).

Eat lunch with my friend Kevin every week or two.

Live in a clean, low-maintenance house, in a quiet, private area.

Get a couple of nice indoor/outdoor cats.

Rent my own private office.

Take a vacation 2-3 times every year.

Host the family get-togethers at my house with both sets of parents.

Not answer to anyone as to what I do (yeah right).

Ask my wife to quit her part-time job and give her an allowance of $1000/month.

Learn to program computers again, the NEW way. Not Pascal and C. (Not that there's anything wrong with that)

Develop a few of the projects I have in mind.

Continue and expand my ministry of helping people by giving them free financial counseling and instruction.

Get back to practicing the guitar and stick with it this time.

Hey, the good news is that most of this is doable with the money I already have. Except for the "stick with it" part!

Guest's picture

Ooh, this would be too amazing! I would pay off all of our debts, then set the remainder up in a trust account with a mix of investments (and put the trust in the hands of a professional financial adviser because I'm not competent to properly diversify that amount of money). I would have a percentage of the return paid out to us each month, and add the remainder of the return to the trust's principal so that it will continue to grow. I'm sure my husband would prefer to continue working no matter what, but I would think about becoming a stay-at-home mom when my kids start going to school.

Guest's picture
Keter

I sat down and estimated how much money I had earned in my lifetime, and it is about $486,000...earned over 32 years of working full time most years (3 years out for having babies, 2 years out for a near-fatal illness brought on from working too many hours with hazardous chemicals, and one year of unemployment due to the dot-bombs). 16 of those years, I was a single parent, and 7 of those years I was the sole breadwinner, either single or married to a retired man with no income to speak of. Even adjusting for the years I didn't or couldn't work, that's only about $18K a year. I couldn't even qualify for a credit card until I was 40. This is not a sob story, though.

I own a 2400 square foot house on a lake in a prime area - a fixer I bought out of foreclosure. I have a nice car (bought used for $5K 7 years ago; now it has 200K miles on it and it's still sharp - good for at least another 100K), and a nice sailboat (bought from a moving sale for $2K). I have a closet full of nice clothes and shoes (bought at deep discount - my latest find was a nice tapestry vest - new - for 49 cents). I save, I buy very carefully, I don't waste, and I manage to live pretty well, if with no extras.

What I don't have is savings. The dot-bombs knocked me out of two great jobs in a row - right after I had been promoted in one case, and right after I had bought a house in the second) and I was unemployed for 14 months. I had $20K left after buying the house - my life's savings - and it went away during this time, mostly on emergency house repairs. Since then, I've been stuck in contract work, working only 6 months out of a year, so what I can save gets spent during the next out of work cycle. I also have a small student loan balance left to pay off ($2k) and a credit card that I ran up during the unemployment phase ($4k).

I also have been able to do very little work on the house; I'm DIYing it as I can afford materials, but I need about $60K to buy tile and cabinets and patio doors to finish it, and I would like to add on a carport so I can turn the garage into a shop space for my husband, who is a great tinkerer, probably another $8K for materials. BTW, that $68K investment would take the market value up by about $100K.

Lastly, I would like to take a real vacation. I've had only one paid vacation in my life...and I had to use it to move unexpectedly when my landlady sold the house I was renting. Unemployment doesn't count as vacation, particularly when you're as poor as I've been. I would like to take a month or two and go to several places that interest me, most of which are overseas. I don't need or want fancy accommodations; a rail pass would do in most cases. I could do this nicely for $20K.

That leaves the bulk of the million, even assuming it was tax-free, after paying off everything, fixing the house, and taking a vacation. That would go into savings and low-risk investment. Don't boo me for not giving to charity...I never got any when I needed it, and there are more effective ways to improve other people's lives than to give them a hand out. That money could buy me some time to set up a cash engine business like "Newman's Own," but in a different area (not food) that also has a "social benefit" built in (doing something ethically that is currently being done unethically - the ethical model is still profitable).

No one looking at me would be able to tell that anything had changed, because really, nothing would...I would just be able to act on a few things I have already planned, and wouldn't even do them much differently than I would if I was working steadily again, just a little more quickly. I know the meaning of 'enough' and that million would be 'enough.'

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Guest

i really appreciate the way you made the best out every single dollar or every single cent you earned in your life, you are one hell of a person. hats off to you.

regards,

Raja Dhand.

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Gabriel

Hi Raja!

Were your comments for my entry regarding the percentages in terms how I would portion out my million dollars?

Just wanted to know?

Thanks
Gabriel

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yuri

1) Pay student loans
2) Travel all over the world for at least a year
3) Buy a modest house
4) Give the rest away

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Guest

My wife and I were married when we were young and broke, those were hard times. That was 20 years ago. If I won a million dollars I would give my poor suffering wife something she has wanted for most of those 20 long years.....A divorce. ;)

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JanLar

that is just sad, go for counceling and learn to love again..........:)

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Guest

It takes a lot of courage to break an emotional bond, especially one 20 years in the making. Some might suggest counseling, but life is short - why live in hell prematurely?

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chris

first paying off our house. After that I would make some necessary home improvements - copper pipes, some of those shingles that last 50 years or more and solar panels on the roof. I would also get my husband a pickup (his current car has well over 200,000 miles and I won't agree to a new one until this one falls completely apart first. With the remaining, I would open a "secret account" for each of the kids for college and the rest I would stick away for my husband and myself for retirement. Of course, a million dollars wouldn't really go that far after the tax man gets his hands on the first cut, so I'm really figuring about less than $500,000.00.

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Blaise Pascal

$100,000 would go immediately to getting rid of personal debt -- mortgage, back bills, student loan, consumer credit, etc.

I'd use $200,000 as "mad money" -- new car, home repairs, new computer system, PV panels, wool combs, spinning wheel, etc (OK, maybe my idea of "mad money" is different from others.)

I'd invest the remaining $700,000, probably towards retirement. Going for income investing, it would only get me about $30-35K/year, not enough to have the standard of living I wish to become accustomed to, and less than I'm currently making at my job. So I'd probably plunk it into an index fund and let it sit for a couple of decades, as much protected by a Roth IRA as I could.

I'd continue to work, but the lack of personal debt would free up cash to improve my standard of living somewhat. Also, it would allow me to entertain other long-term goals, such as buying some farmland outside of town and getting some sheep.

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denise

1. Pay off all family debts
2. Help family members
3. Invest whats left
4. Continue living frugal life

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If I had a million dollars after taxes, I'd eliminate my student loan debt and all of my parents' debt. Then I'd invest in modest but nice mortgage-free homes for myself and my parents. I would set up trusts - one for my parents, and one for my grandmother, that are designed to help them if they need help with medical care, taxes, or housing and energy costs during their retirement. Other family members could get small, low-interest loans from me for down payments on homes, seed money for business investments, or educational pursuits. The money would come with strings attached - I would likely retain a financial advisor to help guide my family through the process of learning how to handle money better. I'd invest in financial education for young people by supporting existing programs, and I'd also like to invest in AIDS research and treatment.

I would use some of the money to have a dream wedding with my honey, and I'd give serious thought to investing in starting our own business(es), which could possibly involve family members, depending on the nature of our work. In any case, I would not stop working and in fact, I'd probably hold on to my current job for some time. I'd hope to keep the majority of the money in investments so that one day I could live off the interest.

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Mike S

After paying off my debt and mortgage, I'd let the rest sit in the bank and accrue interest while I spent the rest of my life finding & pursuing work that doesn't feel like work.

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Kristy

First of all I would take my whole family (hubby and 8 children) and my best friends family (hubby and 7 children) to China. Our 14 yr. old son who died 5 years ago had always wanted to go there, and my friends oldest son (21 at the time he and his 18 yr old brother were killed in a car accident 3 years ago)had been there before, and thought they would like to see where he had been. I would be interested in adopting foreign children and helping out orphanages. I would anonymously help out some family and friends who are struggling financially. I would donate to help children in need of heart and lung transplants, which is what our son was in need of. I would want to buy some acreage and build our dream home (building it ourselves) for a great family project! Also I will be housing my mom and caring for her as she has Alzheimer's. I would lastly buy a new black Morgan horse in memory of our son who had a horse given to him from Make-a-wish (he wanted the Black Stallion), but sadly and unexpectedly his horse, Napoleon, died two years after he did.

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Yuppy

buy a home for around 300k.

buy a car around 30-40k
buy a truck around 10k (used)
and a boat around 50k.

That leaves about 600k to start a biz running booze cruises / scuba - snorkel tours out of either florida, texas or the maybe even grand caiman

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cait

oh to dream, huh?
I'd invest $500,000 in a mix of index funds with an expected return of 8-10% /year (conservatively) and plan to live on the ~ $36,000 that accrues in interest annually. Assume I'd keep my job for at least another year, possibly two (because I like it! yay!)re-investing the principle for those years or giving it to my parents to take that vacation they've been talking about for three years.
then, with the remaining $500,000 I'd:
1. take care of my immediate family's debt: one sister in law school (state law school, but still ~ $100,000) one sister about to start med school (she's eligible for some major aid, so call it ~ $250,000 to get her through to her residency), my folk's mortgage and minor consumer debt (less than $100,000, call it $85000) $37000 to take care of the last of my student debt...
2. leaving around $28000 to give to local charities.
boy that went fast, huh?! I would say part of it would go to a house on the lake or something, but honestly after a couple of years of enjoying my job-life I'd probably start traveling a great deal on my $36,000/yr and have no time to enjoy it. :)

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Jennifer

If I had a million dollars, I would pay off all my debts, put myself through veterinary school, and then open up an animal shelter.

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Sheila S.

What would I do if I won a million dollars? There are a few things. But at the top of my short list is this: I would move to LA.

In LA, I would get a cozy, one-bedroom apartment that would be my haven for the next few years. I would lounge around on my comfortable lavender couch, reading an article about Alan Greenspan in Newsweek Magazine, with the luscious aroma of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies lingering in the air.

Then, I would suddenly get a phone call from my agent letting me know that M. Night Shaymalan has offered me the lead role in his new film. It would be such a sweet surprise! Later that evening, I would have my mom and dad, and best friends over for dinner. Since I am not a very good cook (Emeril baked those chocolate chip cookies for me), I would ask Emeril, the famous chef and my neighbor, to prepare a nice meal for my family and friends.

When everyone has gone home after the joy-filled get-together, I would have a nice conversation with my boyfriend over the telephone about all the day's excitement. He would tell me that he has already packed for his trip in two days. In two days, he would come visit me in LA, and leave the blisteringly cold winter weather of Oxon Hill, to spend two whole warmth-filled weeks with me! After saying, "good night to him," I would hang up the phone and think, "I am a very lucky girl!"

Early the next day, I would wake up and realize it was all a dream. Well, the LA and Emeril parts, that is. See, in reality, I would still be an aspiring actor, a daughter, a girlfriend, a friend, and one very lucky girl! So, who needs to win a million dollars? Not me.

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Chris P

i would say buy a house, but with pricing in the bay area making an average house basically a million dollars, i guess it would be more like putting a down payment on a house.

of course i would pay off my measly debt from the scam artists over at the local hospital, charging me 8 grand to sit and wait to be helped for an hour, then be told its nothing.

then payoff my car, the whole 4 grand i owe. then well do that whole deal above, put a down payment on a house, thats if i could find one in San Jose / Santa Clara area.

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Sarah M

The first thing I do is pay off all of my student loans. I'm about 16,000 in debt and it would be fantastic to get that off my shoulders.

I have two younger brothers and I would love to pay for their college educations. My parents (and grandparents) did what they could for me, so I'd like to make things a lot easier on them. Besides, this way, my brothers couldn't say that I never did anything for them.

Money left over goes to a trip to Italy (so I can climb Vesuvius), diabetes research (because it's in my future), and investment.

I wonder if a million would stretch that far.

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Peggy

Right off the bat, I'm giving half of it to my parents. They deserve it. Knowing my dad, he'll go nuts and finally buy himself some fancy golf clubs. I'd strongly urge him to also pay for a nice, long European cruise/vacation for himself and my mom.

I'd bribe my sister to move herself and her family overseas, back to the US to be with me and my parents =)

I'd pay for a decent, 2-3 bedroom house with garage so I can finally leave my crappy, horrible dismal apartment.

Whatever is leftover, I would give to the American Red Cross or Make a Wish foundation.

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Meagan

If I had 1 million post tax dollars I would:
1) Take a year off from school with my husband and see as much of the world as we could during the time period. This is something I dream of doing before we start our family and without a surprise million it's probably not going to happen! We're still talking hostel style travel so if I could book round the world tickets through www.airtreks.com or something to keep travel prices down I could try ot keep costs down.
2) Take 1-200,000 to pay for my husband's dental school and the establishment of his future practice.
3) Save, invest, save! We hope to be homeowners (with maybe new furniture!), parents, and financially secure. Money would go into retirement accounts, college savings plans, an adoption fund, and a down payment fund.
4) And of course we'd have to share the love with our friends and family somehow.

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Wannabe Cheapskate

Hi. I would:
-set aside a chunk for my daughter's college education
-buy a small house (I'm in L.A. so I'm talking SMALL)
-send my parents and my husband's parents checks for maybe 20-grand each
-buy some really cool gifts for my brother and his family
-invest some
-explore some different child-care options
-help pay for my two grandmothers' nursing-home care
-if there's anything left, buy some ridiculously expensive, big-name shoes and bags for myself
Thanks for asking! When can I expect to receive my check?
;-)

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Val

I'd pay off my debt and my immediate family's debt..which hopefully isn't too much! I'd invest at least half and buy a 3br house close to downtown---near where I currently rent.

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Guest

It's very simple, as I am a simple guy. I remember when I first started working at 31 (lots of schooling). I had 1 full-time job that I loved and 1 side business and I was making about 1/3 what I make now. My expenses were low since I bought a condo cheap and didn't have much else to worry about so I had plenty of disposable income to play with. I paid off my credit card debt which I accumulated over 5 years within 8 months.

Now that I am 36, I have 1 better paying full-time job which I don't love so much and 2 side businesses, making 3x what I used to make 5 years ago, my expenses are through the roof, mainly due to a bigger house and a new car which is way beyond what I need. The car cost only a tick under what I paid for the condo 5 years ago! Now I am barely able to splurge once in a while because my disposable income is next to zilch. Before people start jumping on my car, I am stuck in the lease for a bit more so getting rid of it is not an option unless I want to pay big fines, plus, I just like the car.

Anyway, with the $1 Million, I would pay off the mortgage and any other long-term existing debt like student loans. Then the only expenses in my life would consist of recurring costs like utilities, cell phone and car insurance (my employer pays 100% full health insurance costs) and those are not too unreasonable.

With the left-over money, 75% (~$315k) goes into long-term holdings such as an index fund, international funds, I-bonds, and any retirement vehicles I can exploit such as Roth and traditional IRAs. The other 25% (~$105k) goes into short-term liquid funds such as money markets and CDs for flexibility and use. My living expenses would go down to a level that I can afford with 1/6 my current income.

That plan would give me what I need the most: freedom. I am stretched pretty thin on my time and work commitments because I am bound to make so much to make my bottom line every month to keep afloat. Even though $1 Million is not a lot these days, the fact that I can be debt-free at 36, with enough money socked away in retirements funds would give me a peace of mind to take it easy a bit, which in turn, can give me what I can never have right now with my current situation: Freedom.

I'd love to have the freedom to take a vacation, freedom to pick and choose the clients for my side business because it's all gravy instead of having to take some jobs just because I need the money, etc. Best part of all, the freedom brings with it that people say you can't buy... TIME! Imagine having more time to do what you enjoy because you are not tied down by work and the stress of keeping afloat. You might not be able to buy time, but you sure can lease it on an hourly basis.

I would still work, but it would be by choice. I might even go back to my old job that I love for 1/3 the pay and get rid of 1 side business because I don't need it anymore.

Having been in a few fields and some really trying jobs... being able to do what you like and make some money instead of having to work in something you don't like to make bigger money is definitely a luxury worth having.

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DC

With a $1,000,000 I'd leverage it to borrow $5,000,000 from the bank, then buy 5,000,000 Powerball lotto tickets for a single drawing.

Crap, with that many chances, you'd win for sure.

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Cathy

Love the Barenaked Ladies Quotes!

A Million bucks would be great to...

pay off my husbands student loans
pay of the second mortgage I took out to start my business
give my mom her dream bathroom/bedroom
invest more into our retirement and my lake house dream fund
invest in my business by marketing more, creating more products and building my dream website
take my husband away for a months vacation where we would learn how to cook healthy yummy food, relax, breathe and enjoy life.

A Million bucks wouldn't change...

my gratitude towards my family & friends
my love of my work
my desire to give

it would only provide me more opportunities to do more not buy more. (ok, maybe a new iMac, MacBook, and iPhone but that's the only stuff ;)

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sid

Aston Martin's for everyone!! Or a Bently if that's more your taste.

Well, it would only buy 3 or 4 so you better be nice to me.

The remainder i'd use on a cruise around the world.

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adora

One million dollars is a lot of money, but it's really not enough to blow it off on fancy cars. My family had lots more than that at one point and but the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis took it all away. My parents are savvy enough to have a decent stash of emergency savings. My friends aren't very lucky and many had to drop out of school. This taught me the true value of money.

I'm 29 and my grandparents lived to almost 100. So I have to make it last 70 years. Or at least until my other incomes are reached a safe level.

Any financially savvy person will know that one should pay off debts first. I'm lucky that I don't have any debts. I'm not big fan of interest rate unless it's on my gaining side.

1) Buy an apartment, cost $200,000. Approximately $10,000 on property tax, utility and maintenance per year.
2) Gotta furnish the place. I'd use IKEA. Will cost about $3000 because I will keep some of my old furnitures.
3) I will buy a Mini Cooper, which will only cost $5000 when I trade in my old car. Approximately $1000 per year for gas.
4) Go to Grad school. That is my life long dream! Cost $50,000 for 2-3 years.
5) I'm already making about $300 donation to charity per year, I think I will increase that to $2000.
6) I have to travel every year! With mom! Cost about $5000 per year.
7) At this point, I will have about $700,000 and I will invest it. Even if I put it in a Term Deposit, I would still have 30,000 interest per year. That's my living expanses. (all those "per year" cost above plus food)

The best thing about this would be my freedom to choose my job. After grad school and few years of working, I can set up my own company without worrying about money.

I don't think I would want to stop working. Retirement seems boring and I would want to know that my intelligence is serving the community. I would probably live just like how I've always live but minus the coupon clipping. This is because I'm a single woman and men are threaten by money. I do want to get married someday, not to a gold digger. (yes, they come in male forms too)

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sassyfras

I'd pay off my house & cars and invest the rest in plain-vanilla index funds. I'd also go to Hawaii!

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Carla

I'd pay off some debt and set up the finances so that I could live off the interest. Then, I'd go to grad school!

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Ohabu

I have about $20 000 in debts, gone.
Then I would spend some money on making my car look new again, probably $10k.
Probably buy a run-down house because I really like making things look new and pretty again and spend a year doing that while also working on my studies.
I would set aside an emergency fund and enough to allow me to finish school without working because right now it is killing me.

The rest I would donate to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. My dream is actually to work for them when I'm done with my studies.

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Teresa

If I had a million dollars.
I would:
Pay off my mortgage and all other debt.
Pay off my parent's mortgage.
Quit my job. Take my one-year old out of daycare and watch him myself.
Pay for my husband to go to grad school.

What a dream! =)
It could happen.....=)

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Guest

I would be able to fund 2.6 minutes of the Iraq war and help keep America safe. ;P

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Pat

Buy a house! Here in southern California owning a home has always been an unattainable dream for me. Paying rent month after month seems like such a waste but I have never been in a position to be able to buy. A million dollars would make that dream a reality! Whatever is left over I would divide between investments and charity.

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TWood

Actually thought about this recently because of the McDonlads Monopoly. Not that I expected it... but I figured it was better to have a plan and not win than win and blow it all.

I'd start by paying off my student loans, but they are few. I only paid for 1 summer abroad. My parents paid for the rest which is why the next step would be to pay them back. They are not expecting me to pay them back, but I hope to do it some day. I'd also put enough away so that my sister can go to both grad and undergrad on my dime.
I'd probably also put away enough for grad school for me. I'm an actor, so there is no guarantee of me going, but its an option.

After that, the rest would go to founding my own theatre company hopfully including building a space in the District of Columbia (2nd largest theatre town in the us, where I am now) and the first season of shows.

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Jill

Sorry - couldn't help another BNL reference - I love that song!

If I suddenly became a million dollars richer I definitely would go the route of some of the other posters and not tell a soul!

Then, I'd pay off my house/student loans/small credit card debt, secretly/anonymously pay off my parents' house and then see if I could get some inside information on their finances. I know they don't have enough to retire and I'm not sure if paying off their mortgage would do enough to make retirement a little easier. For me - I'd probably fund some grad school - go where I want to go and do what I want to do ya know ;) I'd definitely save a ton of it though - maybe doing the live off the interest bit. I'd have to do plenty of research for that one.
I'd have to say that I would splurge on a vacation for the fam - again anonymously. I'd probably also send some money to some charities. Finally, I'd move. I want a real house not just a townhouse. Thanks for a little wishful thinking!

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Rebecca

We've had some (semi-)serious discussions about this at work, and we decided that 1m wouldn't be enough to live on for the rest of our lives, but...it would fund a hell of a retirement. I'd probably take at least half of it and invest it with an eye towards funding my retirement. I'd use the rest to live frugally for a few years while I made a real, serious go at being a writer (something I've never tried to do because of the lack of financial security).

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1)My wife and I would pay off our debt
2)buy an affordable/modest 4BR house
3)start a college fund for our expecting son.
4)build up my free-lance business so I can work from home.
5)invest the rest for retirement

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mk_writer

I'd definitely give my parents something. Maybe I'd pay off their mortgage, or pay off some other debt they have, or just drop $100K on them, but they'd definitely get something.

I'd give money to various things that I like giving money to, including (but not restricted to) an ashram that has a really great teacher, my temple, some charities who do really great work and some struggling theatre companies who have been good to me.

I'd mount a full production of a full-length play that I feel never got a fair shake (this play had a ton of readings, in NYC, Chicago and LA, but no one seems to want to risk a full production). I'd rent an off or off-off B'way theatre in NYC and have the show run for at least three weeks, with everyone involved getting paid ('cause that doesn't happen so often in theatre).

If there's any money left, I'd pay off my grad. school loans (at least partially - at less than 3% interest, they're not so pressing) then maybe start my own film production company, and possibly put a down payment on a Manhattan apartment.

I know - I dream big, especially for just a million$ (doesn't go as far as it used to).

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Cindy

The first thing I'd do is provide for my parents to have a less stressful retirement. Then I'd set up funds for my nieces' and nephews' education. After that I'd just be happy I could buy my next home without having to sell this one first. A very pampering honeymoon and extra retirement fund cushioning would be the icing on the cake.

Guess you can tell I've considered this before.

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Doretha

Although this contest is over, I would like to put my thougts into words so that they would become concrete one day. If I had a million dollars cash (tax free money), I would be off my medical bankruptcy, students and loans and travel to the City of Corinth where Paul walked and did missionary work. Also, I would have a modest home built in the Carolinas (preferably a log home with three bed rooms, living room, dinning room and loft). Once I returned from traveling in Europe, I would start a small medical supply company or run a laundry service. This would be the beginning of having a peace of mind. Free lance writing would be my next alternative. I am currently working for the government. It's ironic because my job wouldn't pay for my doctor bills yet some of the stressors from the job caused the surgery. One million dollars would be my way to escape from a job that is truly one of discouragement.

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Guest

I would pay off all my familys debt and hand the paid bills to my husband. Then I would book us a trip to an Island so we could finally have a honeymoon. I would help people in my family and start a home for abused children. Invest in My childrens education........

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Joy

First I would pay off debt. Buy a reasonable house. Invest the money so some how I would have monthly income every month. I would like to take extra money and give it to people in my community who need help. I want to do it anonomusly. In cash, by simple handing people an envelope and walking away. That would be fun.

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amanda lenningdayle121

if i had a million dollars i would give 5 or 10 percent to charity and then spend some on a vacation for my parents 20th anniversary and maby a vacation for my husband and me,and i would probaly go to a poor country and build a hospital and sponser a couple of kids and then pay off everything

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jordan7682

Have a subscription to easystockalerts.com and the get the latest news that interest you before it hits yahoo and makes a coming on the web. This would be a good way to make money without the worries of the stock news…so sigh up at easystockalerts.com and make things happen.

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Guest

I will give:

25% - Charity
20% - Parents
35% - Starting Businesses
10% - Investments
10% - Personal

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HiYo

Great comments

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Tony

I would buy 10 kilos of cocaine and flip it...
stack that money and repeat that twice and retire in 6 months.

--trapstar.

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Herb Mathis

I would take a vacation for a month, becouse i have cancer i dont know how long i have to live, and i would put my 78 year old mother in a nice Sr. home, then i would pay off my house, and make some investments for my family, so they could be taken care of, when i go to the Big Truck Stop in sky.

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Hmmmmm

I would take 700k of it and buy CiTi Group Stocks, then wait, then wait a bit longer, and FINALLY after some waiting it will go back up to where it USED to be, not the peanuts 20 bucks per share it is now. Then I would take my TWO million (hopefully), start an investment company, and travel the world to find smart young ideas who only lack funding to start, and perhaps someday I will be somewhere on one of Forbes' may lists.

But lets get serious....you would THINK a million dollars would last you a LIFETIME....but the sad truth is, the more money you have, the higher your standard of living. So at the end of the day, a million dollars may be the same to you as ten thousand would be today. Just a Lamborgini would run you almost HALF your money, not to mention running costs. And a yacht? Forget it.