I probably speak for many when I say how glad I am that someone finally won the big Powerball jackpot. In addition to the frenzied atmosphere it created at all the places where tickets are sold, it was also making my head swim with possibilities and contingencies in the off-chance that I actually won.
I can now relax. The conflict over whether we’ll stay in Florida or move back to California is no longer a cocktail hour talking point. We will continue to live in our rented condo, drive our 2007 Toyota, and buy wines from middle shelf offerings at the grocery store. We remain safely middle class.
But I do admit to actual trepidation about what I’d do if fate bestowed lottery riches my way.
With jackpot fever temporarily removing ISIS and Ted Cruz from the headlines last week, I read two interesting articles in the Washington Post and New York Times on the mechanics of actually winning a huge amount of money. I learned about assembling a financial and legal team prior to claiming the prize, whether to take the cash or annuity payout options, and the realities of how one’s life changes after such an altering event. It dawned on me that no matter how astute I like to think I am about money currently, I would be completely unprepared for the magnitude and complexities that a staggering amount like this would have on me.
Anonymity wouldn’t even be an option. Florida is not one of the five states in which a winner may choose not to have his/her identity revealed (those are DE, KS, MD, ND, and OH). I would no doubt have to stand on some podium with a large facsimile of a check being handed to me and then answer questions from reporters. For a laugh, I mentally thought about what my response would be for how I’d spend the money. “Probably just invest in no-load funds from Vanguard and T. Rowe Price,” and then wait to hear the collective gasp and groan from professional investment managers coast to coast. Oh, the fantasies.
The more Gorgeous and I talked about the scenario, the more we both agreed that it sounded like an extremely well mixed cocktail of stress. I couldn’t even begin to think about the new demands my ex-wife would no doubt make. Then there would be the strange encounters with my siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, and people I once thought were only casual acquaintances. As we laid out the real life probabilities of all of this, we began to laugh at the absurdities both real and imagined.
I thought about an old friend who was fortunate many years ago to begin working for a small company that eventually became a multinational corporation. Today it is a widely recognized Fortune 500 company (Hi, T). She once shared with me some anecdotes of how her more prosperous financial position from working at this company now creates tensions with family members. The specter of her success becomes fodder in nearly every conversational topic as she navigates phone calls or holiday get togethers. It is the proverbial elephant in the room.
And yet, for God sakes… the jackpot is 1.6 BILLION dollars!!! Are you insane, man?! Spare us the sanctimonious blabber on the evils of money and think about buying your mid-life crisis car already!
Of course, I was disappointed when we won nothing. A sister of mine proudly e-mailed that she won $8 in each of the big drawings. Nobody likes a show off.
I still buy lottery tickets regularly. Unlike those recent fair weather players who only do so when the jackpots are gargantuan, I enjoy playing for the more normal amounts of five and ten million dollar possibilities. You know, chump change. I like waking up with my morning cup of coffee, scanning the headlines, and then clicking on a shortcut I’ve saved on my browser for the Florida winning numbers page. No matter how depressing the news is, there’s still that brief moment of anticipation each morning in thinking how something exciting might be in the offing for the day.
Truth to tell, I really have no incredible desires. I am a man with no bucket list nor much of an actual wish list. There are several charities I would want to support. Gorgeous keeps asking me when our names will be on the screen as benefactors prior to all those PBS shows such as Downton Abbey and Grantchester. So much for anonymity!
Of course I’d buy my own home, something I haven’t had since my first marriage. But even then I’m not sure I’d want an actual house. Perhaps a three or four bedroom ocean-front condo would do nicely. Other than that, all I can think of is a vintage stereo system, all the vinyl albums I long ago sold when CD’s came out, and perhaps new vehicles for each of us (an F-150 pickup for me).
Although it was somewhat disturbing to see people spending amounts of $50 and $100 last week, and I do wish the management of these multi-state games wouldn’t mathematically design them in such a way so that the huge jackpots are such a common occurrence now, it did make for some interesting conversations around these here parts. How about you? What was on your wish list?
Until next time…