If You Won The Lottery, You Would...

Photo: ReneS

We've all had the dream where the bouncing white balls in the glass orb line up perfectly or the numbers we picked magically materialize in the exact order we predicted to set us up for life. Millions of dollars are coming our way, and we don't have to worry about anything anymore.

We've won the lotto. Ahhh...the life that would await us...

But the odds of winning the MegaMillions are 1 in 135,145,920, so don't hold your breath and get back to work.

Not Likely

While the lottery is a nice fantasy, it's much more likely you'll wind up in a position (CEO, anyone?) that pays you tons of money for working hard instead of getting lucky. And that's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. What would I do if I won or was making millions of dollars a year? I've talked to friends about this and usually the answer is the same:

I'd work for a few years and then retire to an island somewhere!

I understand the sentiment—who wouldn't want to quit the rat race and go relax on a beach without a care in the world? But I always play devil's advocate and try to get them thinking about this at a deeper level. My argument is that they probably wouldn't just walk away like that.

Here's why: whatever motivation drives you to work hard enough to make it to CEO (or any other top-paying position) isn't just going to disappear after you've "made it." If anything, that drive would get even stronger. Sure, this sometimes happens with certain athletes after they get their big contract (which always draws the ire of fans—you're getting paid to play a game!), but most athletes follow the same pattern. They play because they're driven to compete and win.

You can't just turn off the machine that got you to the top like that—it's not that simple.

So What Would You Do?

I love imagining these kinds of scenarios and trying to picture what I would do. Last year, I imagined what I would do if I had all the money in the world and how my life would change. Here's the weird thing about that little exercise, though: I figured out that most of the things I would do or change were things that had nothing to do with money. 

They were things I could do in my life right now.

I didn't want to buy a new car or move into a mansion. The things I wanted to do were more about personal fulfillment (although I did want to buy an apartment on the Seine and travel more). But most of it was about the job I had and some other things I could actually control.

And I asked myself, "Why don't you do them then?"

It was quite the moment for me—I was surprised that money had nothing to do with the things I would do if I had tons of money. Does that make sense?

Granted, once you have a couple million bucks in the bank, things change...but I think it's still a worthwhile exercise to picture yourself in that position to see what you would do. Go ahead and list out the things you would do right away if money wasn't an object: would you quit your job or get a different one? If you quit, what would you do with all that spare time? Would you move to a different apartment or house? 

Think about it for a second and then look the list up and down. Can you do any of that stuff right now?

Let me know what you find out!

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Guest's picture

Good post! I think and write about this often. My feeling is most people would blow the money. I know I wouldn't-- I would work at growing it!

I also look at athletes-- they suddenly come into big money, but don't know how to handle it-- they act like this is their annual income for the rest of their lives, when in fact, they are getting a lifetime's worth of income in a few short years . . .

Here are my recent posts on this topic:
What Would You Do if You Suddenly Got a Financial Windfall? http://divorceddadfrugaldad.com/2009/03/30/what-would-you-do-if-you-sudd...

Tragic Lottery Win-- More Tragedy Ahead? http://divorceddadfrugaldad.com/2009/01/05/tragic-lottery-win-more-trage...

Guest's picture

I know that if I find myself in charge of a company it won't be dumb luck. I'd like to make my contribution to the corporate world, put a few million in the bank and move on to some other greater cause. I'd love to teach at a college, get involved with boy scouts again, or work with some charities. My desire is to help people by helping solve problems.

Oh, I'd totally buy a dozen cars and some big houses too.

Guest's picture

If I won millions of dollars (talking $20M or more) I would endow a foundation and spend my time finding worthwhile local projects to fund. I'd even manage one where I lived. Of course, I would also have an apartment in NY, San Francisco and Chicago and maybe somewhere in Europe. And a plane. But for work I would run a non-profit.

Which is what I do now, running a Red Cross in central NJ. It's more stressful now since donations are really low and service needs are up, but that's life.

Guest's picture

"...two chicks at the same time, man."

Sorry, couldn't resist throwing in that quote. Actually, I'd probably go with Peter's choice: Absolutely nothing. I would quit my job and do not much of anything for a few months. Pay off any debt I had. Unwind. Then I would start looking into turning my big pile of money into an even bigger pile of money, or at least make sure it stays a big pile of money with prudent investments. It's lucky I have absolutely no interest in expensive clothes or luxury cars.

I remember hearing some comedian say that whenever someone wins the lottery and says that they'll keep working at the plant like always, they should take the money away and give it to someone cooler. :-)

Guest's picture

i'd love to say that i'd do some selfless thing but who am i kidding? after paying off my debts and the debts of family members, i'd invest the rest in some sound, long-term way to provide an income and i'd never work at anything for the money again. maybe i'd go to grad school in something cool which has no practical application in the job market.

Guest's picture

But yeah, I'd do "...absolutey nothing...and it was all I thought it could be".

I'd do nothing for about two years. Then I'd have more kids and buy a house at the beach in England where I'm from and work at getting my favorite sport into the olympics.

Guest's picture

My plan is based on an E! True Hollywood Story called "The Curse of the Lottery".

1. Open a safe deposit box to hold the winning ticket. Take a few days to figure out what you want to do with the money.
2. Hire a lawyer, financial planner, and accountant.
3. With the help of these individuals: open an anonymous trust to keep your name from being publicized by the lottery (and to keep "family members" from appearing out of the blue), create a financial plan to meet your long-term financial goals and plan out you tax liabilities. If you're taking the lump sum, create a will (if you don't already have one).

My plan with the money would be to donate to my favorite charities, pay off debts, travel, and go back to school to get a college degree.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

well.. a lot of lottery winners end up losing their fortune.  I would say the first thing is to make sure that your win is anonymous.  Otherwise the story may be quite tragic because everyone would want a piece of you.  See:  http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=3012631

Guest's picture

Ironically, if I won the lottery I would want a piece of you too. :p

I would hire a lawyer, accountant, and financial advisor to watch after my new loot.

Then I would hire an additional lawyer, accountant, and financial advisor to look after the first three.

Then I would probably shoot all six as I would just know they were all in cahoots against me.

What was the question?

Guest's picture

I would buy you a green dress. But not a real green dress, that's cruel.

Guest's picture
guy barbato

first, i never buy lottery tickets until the 'pot' is >$80 million. it is a well known statistical fact that you have a better chance of winning when the pot is >$80 million than when it's only $1 million.

second, if i win, i will pay for my house, sock about $1 million in 10 different bank accts (for FDIC protection, natch...).

now. what to do with the rest?? i will buy the worlds fastest car -- around $750K before the current economy, probably on sale now.
but, i only live 3 miles from work... so, the remainder of the money will go for one of 2 things

either, build my own road to work, with no speed limit -- helping to put people back to work and stimulate the real estate market. or, finance several new dept of transportation oersonnel and police to ensure a clear road as i drive 2 or from work.
my accountant can decide which is the best alternative......


Guest's picture

If I had millions of dollars, work would be the furthest thing from my mind. My wife and I would quit our jobs. We'd go to Disney World for about 10 days, or until we got sick of it. Plan some other vacations. Donate a large portion to our church. Pay off some of our families debts. And the only work we'd do would be within the church, which is what I really love.

Guest's picture

quit my job. Working sucks.

Guest's picture

I won't win because I never play the lottery. But if some long lost relative suddenly left me millions, I would pay off all our debt, build our dream retirement home on the piece of farmland we already own, and then move there.

I guess I'm one of those who really would, figuratively, walk away from it all. But only because I have very little to walk away from, and a very concrete view of what I'd be walking towards. I have no career ambitions at all. Only a strong desire to live a more self-sufficient, and more ethical life.

I wouldn't need millions to make that happen, so I'd need to devote some thought as to how to best use the rest of the money for the greater good.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

I would also buy apartments: Chicago, Paris, and maybe Argentina.

Then travel, travel, write, and travel.

It's funny because I expected more people to say "Quit my job and do X" and I was ready to say, "Why don't you do X anyway, without the money?"

But things don't always work out the way you want them to.

The Writer's Coin  |  Follow me on Twitter

Guest's picture

We've talked about it in a dreamy sort of way. Though we never play the lottery. I'd give it away to good causes (things we already have a heart for) as that much cash in a lump makes me very uncomfortable. My DH would put it towards retirement, the kids' college and work the rest of his life at his present job for nothing, as he loves it. Obviously we'd have to compromise.

Guest's picture

1. Don't tell anyone about it. Not even my children.
2. Live the way I am and keep working for a year.
3. If any financial planners or advisors come out of the woodwork, tell them I don't know what they are talking about and act dumb. I'm kinda good at that....
4. Think a lot about it.
5. Pay all the taxes that go with it. I'd take the lump sum distribution. Get my budget ready.
6. Investigate and donate to women's shelters.
7. Investigate and donate to animal shelters.
8. Sell my house and move into a much smaller, quieter place, perhaps out in the country where I can have some animals.
9. Never tell anyone I meet that I am a millionnaire.
10. Quit my job after a year.
11. Live in peace and die with dignity.

And, I wouldn't pay off anyone else's debt. Until those people figure out and exercise their own muscles in regard to money, it would be like giving a drunk a drink and you'd might as well just flush the money down a toilet.

Guest's picture

Quick things - work notice, vacation, debt free, immediate family, 100,000 in 2k each cash cards to give out as, make my day, gifts to random strangers - people stranded on side of road, amazing wait staff, just random acts of kindness.

Next I would set up an independent research and development company to invest in independent software developers, to create better versions of their software. Idea is to identify software that through hopefully dollar and design assistance would take it to the next level, and then release as freeware. Research all completion, create optimal version with better UI and features. Couple of one’s considered: Ubook (ultimate eBook reader), Rocketdock, program launcher, VLC, multimedia viewer.

Nothing is inherently wrong, but all I am sure could benefit from more focused time devoted to them to improve UI, ad features, develop to next level.

Overall idea is optimized software, great interfaces. Take people and groups working on shoestring and part time and get them the finances to take their ideas to the next level.

Particular area I would like to work on is touch enabled friendly software. I would also like to develop netbook focused software, update older software and optimize for netbook usage.

Just my two cents

Guest's picture

I saw the same doc on lotto winners. Hopefully, I'd remember all that stuff. I'd also:

* pay off student loan (only debt)
* buy a house
* spiff up my husband's field truck (we love that thing)
* get regular facials and massages (very rarely am I the center of the world for an hour)
* put a boatload of cash into the public schools
* travel
* enroll my children in whatever lessons they wanted and they could take them year round
* sponsor my high school reunion so that every person could attend without worrying about the $170 per couple cost

I would quit my job, but I know I'd continue to do similar tasks as what I do at work. It feels like work when you get paid for it.

Guest's picture

Everyone has thought about this, here is my list:
1. I would pay off all my bills, all my parents bills, all my husbands parents bills.
2. Take my best friend to the best doctors in the world and see if they could help her be in less pain.
3. Find the right specialist and see if my husband could walk again.
4. Buy property so I could set up my own farmers market and garden year round.
5. My frivoulous purchase would be, charter a plane and rent enough housing in Belize for all of my family and friends to spend two weeks without having to pay for a thing.

Of course you actually have to play the lottery to win....

Guest's picture

A friend who was Director of Marketing at a small firm once told me that if he won a million dollars, he'd keep coming to work until someone figured out he wasn't working!

LOL! I always liked that line.

@Diasdiem: and a K-Car!

Guest's picture

Let's go with the "winning more than I can spend" scenario.

I'm with Diana -- I'd immediately put it in an anonymous trust, so no one could tell I won.

I'd move far from this tropical cesspool that we call Florida, and buy a nice house in the country where they have normal weather. I have autistic children, so I'd endow a school for autistic children and invest heavily in autism research.

After the kids are a little older, I'd travel and/or live in Europe. I like southern France or England. But who knows..?

I would set my parents up comfortably wherever I end up, but not my sibs. They're on their own. ;) And of course, I'd spend on life's little pleasures -- facials, a nice car, someone else to take care of the gritty little details of life.

Mostly, someone has to solve this autism epidemic, and it might as well be me.

Guest's picture

ok i read all the comments and ppl thoughts....and most of them said they will quit the jobs...
awww according to my age(19) i don't have that much experience but i think i will never quit a job yah mab b lad off for time being beacuse money can give u lurxarious life but it can't give u peace unless u spend it for good cause...
if i won million of dollar i would like to built a hospital in the name of DIANA where poor people will get free treatment but not the rich one. i don't have interest in cars or houses even though i m girl. i will divide mi money equally in 3 parts one for me, one for mi relitives and one for my country.

one more thing if i know that i will never going to die may be then i was interested in making lots of money but i know i have to die eventually one day so there is not point in making lots of money.

Guest's picture

If I have won the lottery... and the day I will collect my money, I will rent a nice car for a day. Without informing my company that i will take the dayoff. (They will most probably call me to my mobile)

Whatever, after collecting the fortune, I will write up the resign letter to my boss and drop it off to the work place without any comments and head straight to my wife and head straight to airport and buy the first class flight out (somewhere like maldive, fiji, etc) of the country.

Enjoy the vacation for a week at top class resort. After returning, we would plan how to slipt the money evenly and prepare to study something I have always wished for (with my wife). While studying, I would open a small business such as
cafe or pub.

And enjoy rest of my life. happly ever after

Guest's picture

I would do nothing...Well I would quit my job and then book a family holiday to somewhere nice, then i would travel around the world in style and luxury, first class and penthouse suites. then i would buy a home somewhere in the county and read and relax and mabey study, but just take it easy. oh and sleep i woud get a hella lot of sleep.

I would also help out in animal conservation projects

Guest's picture

say my winning is 100 mil after tithe and tax, and assume I've done my research and hired the correct people and now I'm invested to get 5% interest a year for the rest of my life. that means I can live off of the 5% (including any taxes that come out of that, again I will figure that out) very nicely without touching the principal. this would be adjusted with inflation as well, with a yearly evaluation and then more immediate evaluations as things happen with the global economy as well.
so, 5 million a year, say 3 million after taxes:
in the first 5 years (15 mill?):
I'd buy the land I want and have my dream house built and do the basic setting up of everything on my land, as well as buying the cars and furniture and giving my dogs a nice area to be when they are not running around the acreage and things like that. I'd get a large garden going and a greenhouse full of things as well. basically the goal here is to be able to live off my land as much as possible and give to (hand picked people, not just anyone) those in need. I'd have animals as well, so I could have for myself and them, eggs, chicken, beef, pork etc. I'd also stock my storage of things that I can't grow on my property (assuming there are these things, and that I still really really want them) food wise and things like shampoo etc. lol
once my place is set up, and possibly during that whole process, I'd be going on some nice vacations. I've never been on one, so that would be nice. I'd go all over the world.
as for helping family out, I'd give my parents X amount for their mortgage, but that might be it. I'd rather help a little bit at a time as the years go by. I'd help one of my sisters and her husband buy a house or do something like that, but I wouldn't do a lot, and my other two sisters, one wouldn't get a dime cause she'd just blow it on booze and concerts and cigarettes and God knows what else, and my last sister... I'd buy her a horse (actually two, one for my mom as well and they would ride together).
as for cars, I drive a mid nineties SUV, so not only is it bad on gas, but it's starting to have issues. it would get replaced buy a few cars that I've wanted for years, nothing fancy though.
I'd put a gym in my new house and I'd work out a good amount to get down to the size/weight/health I want to be, THEN I'd fill my walk in closet. nothing fancy again, but I'd need clothes lol just do basic things like that, and be modest but not live like I'm poor either.
Idk... it would be nice wouldn't it? but you know what they say, if you want to win the lottery, you gotta do your share and buy a ticket :-p

Guest's picture
Randy Cox

I'd secure the investment in a diversified portfolio, with a million in cash accounts.

I'd patch up all my old stuff, and move into a nicer modest home. I'd buy houses to resell or rent. Folks wanting help, would get a nice job to suit them.

I'd devise a stiff gauntlet for those who wanted more than a job, starting with community service and a few other qualifiers. By the time the deadbeats finished the gauntlet, their character would be strong enough they could loan me money!

I'd write a book about how to manifest luck!

I'd buy something for a dollar that I could sell for a dollar and a dime. Then I'd repeat that process in progressive increments of 10%, document it, and teach others how to make two million dollars in 153 deals or so.

Guest's picture

Well there is so much I would like to do!
Being as though im only 19, at uni while living with my parent, i would go find the lawyer and accountant and financial advisor.
Collect my money
Buy a really modern house by the lake and move out!
Then i would buy my dream bed I keep seeing at the shops
The next day after waking up in my amazing bed, i would go buy myself a corvette and just go for a drive to my friends house to pick her up and fly us to america (I live in New Zealand) to go to a John Mayer concert!
When I came back I would buy all these guitars I have always wanted, buy drums and get lessons for that.
Get my best friend to move in with me and then we would go on a roadtrip around New Zealand for a few months.
After that I would come back and finish off my music degree while enjoying the perks of the extra money but also invest a few properties
I would only tell my direct family and my best friend about the money.

Guest's picture

It would depend on how much the lottery was for. If it was for a couple million, I would pay off debts and keep working towards an early retirement. If it was worth over ten million, I would probably quit my job and start working to multiply that amount through investments, as well as give a lot to charity.

Guest's picture

I would have my 1977 Ford F-150 finished being fully restored, new paint job and all, and have a nice stereo installed in it, car alarm put in, pay a reputable shop willing to take it on and restore it for me and find and put a fully rebuilt 351 Cleveland motor and c5 tranny in it and pay each one of the guys that works on it for me very handsomly. I finally got the truck I wanted ever since I was a little kid, my dream before I die someday is to see it fully restored and on the road, its what my dad would have wanted for me. I dont have much in this world, but I love my old truck and it has been faithful to me for a long time, couldnt ask for a better vehicle if I tried in my humble opinion, thanks.

Guest's picture

I would probably die of a heart attack so it wouldn't really matter.

but if I did live through it I would take the money and invest it in myself. Go to college become a politician, play the game, get to congress and then leave the country and write a book and tell all of their dirty secrets.

Guest's picture

Thank goodness I have found a forum to discuss what I had told all my co-workers when I was working.

I would tell people that if anyone won a large amount not to quit their jobs.  A person should not do anything differnet for at least 30 days.  Then, having worked at a Electric Utility I told people I would buy stock in that company and being a "blue collar" union worker would seek a position on the Board of Directors.

Besides being greeted now by my managers as Mister ...., and completely looking forward to each work day,  I could learn the in's and out's of how a company is run, in case I would later make a choice of buying a small company.  Learning from those Board members various positions on running a company and being part of seeing my money grow as I learn. I would also draw a Board of Director salary.

Making new social connections and the just plain strangeness of perhaps seeing in new's media my choice of doing so.   Which I had always thought would increase in a small way the stock in the company seeing a small increase.

Perhaps it is a take on the "9-5" movie, people working at the job sometimes know more about the "real" work and can make postive change.

One last thing, I had told all my co-workers I planned on workign till I was 80 and I meant it.  At that time a person could draw social security and I was told the company after after 70? would have to start paying part of my pension while I also made my very good salary.



Guest's picture


Guest's picture

I would sleep a lot, eat a lot, holiday a lot, and buy a lot!!!!!

Guest's picture

I don't belong here based off the answer I'm about to give. I would tell the people I currently work with what I really think. I'd come in later than I already do. Being on time has always been my biggest flaw. I'm ten minutes late every day. Have been for the last twenty some years of my life. In a sense I'm on time depending on who you ask. I'd hire a personal trainer to help me rid the junk in my trunk. I'd personally chose a couple of families to help financially. A decent home, school, transportation. I'd invest in a nicer home in a nicer area. I'd buy a new car. Nothing grand but at least I'd be rid of my hail damaged car which I never repaired. It's been years since that hailstorm took place I'm pretty much the only person driving a car that looks like the lunar surface. I'd finish my education. I'd invest my money so that I'm secure for the rest of my life. I think I would eventually leave my job a few short weeks after winning to enjoy a cruise or a trip to Spain. Id probably be a bit more appealing-money does that-so instead having to go on these trips solo as I so often find myself today I'd probably acquire a friend or two.

Guest's picture

When i talk about the lottery with friends, the argument often comes up that money can't buy happines. Then the topic turns to "what is happines." everybody usually agrees that having good friends and family is what brings happines. Then i ask, "wouldn't it be nice if we had more time to spend with friends and family?" the unanimous answer is always, "yes!"

So then, if you win the lottery, you could quit your job and spend more time with friends and family. That means that money does buy happines!

Guest's picture

Not be a fool. My parents and I would not claim it right away, we would get the best legal advice, have our lawyer claim it, tell no one, move out of our neighborhood. My parents would buy a nice home, I would buy a condo over looking the city skyline. We will give my brother a few millions, but that's it. He's very materialistic, he's the type you're always reading about. We would give family members no more than 500 dollars a piece, that's it. Start my stepfather's potato salad company. He makes the best there is. Travel, live life to the fullest, but in a positive way, like we are now. You won't see us with ten cars, five houses, diamond belts, because that's not us. It's very hard to win the lottery, so there's no way in hell I'm going act a fool with money I thought I would NEVER EVER win!

Guest's picture

If I had that much money, I would wisely invest it in savings and give at least 95% of the interest every year to save peoples lives, through food or clean water etc..., and take what I needed to live from the remainder. Who knows, maybe I could feed all the hungry people in my state every year for the rest of my life. If only I had the chance. The people with money, do not care.

Guest's picture

Thank the Lord and live good. I'm not someone who cares about labels, so I'm still going to shop at Walmart. I'm going to check out all the high end stores too, but Dollar Stores won't be too good for me.

Guest's picture

i would give it all to Charity . that's the right thing to do.

Guest's picture
Summer Clark Nightingale

I would build a shelter, orphanage, and bless random people all day everyday. I'm rich with happiness and money can't buy God's love so I would share it through blessing and caring for those who have lost hope and have nothing. I would help youngsters who have had a life that made the stop believing in themselves find success in college and their dreams. What would I do for me well gciving back to others is the richest bank I could ever invest in and doing it all to glorify God stores my lottery in heaven one day!

Guest's picture

If I won 16 million, I would give away at least 8 million to family and friends. Always said if I won I would give away at least 1/2. Now that I have kidney disease, it would be nice to win something like this because me nor my family has never had money so it would be nice so we could do some things we have never been able to do before.