"Maybe it doesn't matter whether our stories are true or false. What matters is that they are ours." -- Maya Shanbhag Lang, "What We Carry "

Saturday, October 16, 2021

What Would You Do if You Were Rich?

     What would you do if suddenly you came into a lot of money -- like ten times the amount you now have? We asked this question at a Socrates Cafe session we attended (on Zoom of course). The question was seen as a way to get to the more fundamental issue: What do we want money for?

     (Socrates Cafe is a discussion group through our local retirement learning center. It's part of a larger movement encouraging people from different backgrounds to exchange views and perspectives based on their own experiences.)

     There were about 16 or 18 people on the call. The first person piped up: "My first reaction:  I would buy a bigger house." Then she paused. "But even as I'm saying it, I realize that might not be the right answer -- not because I want to be politically correct, but because maybe that's not what I really want." She paused, reflecting, "With a bigger house comes more work, more cleaning, more upkeep, more worry." Then she brightened. "Actually, maybe what I'd really want is a second home -- a house on the beach!"


     The second person to offer a response said, "I'd hire myself a personal assistant -- someone to handle all the annoying but necessary chores in my life from paying bills to making appointments, answering emails, cleaning the house, organizing the insurance, the medical bills. I'd really love to be free of all that hassle."

     So . . . what would YOU do with a whole lot of extra money?

     One guy raised his hand. He paused for a moment, then said: "I would do nothing." When met with surprised stares he explained, "I pretty much have everything I want right now. Besides, I'm in my 70s. I'm trying to get rid of stuff in my life, not acquire more things."

     One woman explained that her nephew suffers from learning problems and mental health issues. He graduated from high school, but he has trouble keeping a job and is prone to fits of paranoia. She knows he will never be able to fully take care of himself. If she had the money, she would set up some kind of trust for him, so she could rest assured that he'd never end up living on the street or in some terrible shelter.

     Another fellow is an immigrant from a Caribbean country. He came to America in 1970, got an engineering degree, had a successful career, was able to support his family -- and even send some money back to his immediate relatives. If he had more money, he said, he would set up a foundation to help feed, clothe and educate all the people he left behind.

     Another woman said she was less ambitious than that, admitting she didn't have any special cause she wanted to support. She'd give some of it to charity, of course, but what she really wanted to do was travel more. "If I had plenty of money," she said, "I'd go to Hawaii, I'd go to Asia, I'd take a river cruise in Europe ... and maybe the Galapagos. I'd love to see the Galapagos."

     If you think the idea of suddenly receiving a boatload of money is preposterous . . . not so fast! The government just announced that Social Security payments are going up a bracing 5.9% next year. And a group called The Senior Citizens League is campaigning for special $1,400 payments to Social Security recipients. So if you got a $1,400 bonus -- or presumably $2,800 if you're a couple -- are you traveling to Hawaii or sending it to disadvantaged people in the Caribbean?

28 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

I know exactly what I would do. I would immediately fund Supporting our Seniors (SOS) a group I founded and expand its mandate with a foundation to assist the so many senior women living here in dire poverty as our governments ignore them and impoverish them further.

XO
WWW

Fred said...

I am hoping there will not be another government payment to seniors. The other ones we already received should not have been paid to all with no qualifying circumstances. All we are doing is digging a deeper hole.

DJan said...

If I had ten times the money I have now, I'd first pay my rent in advance for a couple of years but I wouldn't want to buy. I would definitely get an electric car! That boost in SS payments will be eaten up quickly by inflation, unfortunately.

Arkansas Patti said...

I would stay here but hire out all the mundane jobs I really don't like. Then I would probably make bums out of my brother's children as he fears I will do if I win the lottery. Then check out the "go fund me" pages for worthy persons.

ApacheDug said...

The older I get, the less impressed I am with stuff. If I had 10 times what i have now, I think I might look into getting a condo in one of those better senior communities somewhere like Charleston, SC. (I think I'd like living near the ocean, and need a little motivation to be social.) But I really don't want anything I don't already have. I'd divvy up a good portion of it among my brothers & sisters, bequeath whatever's left to a couple good charities like the Salvation Army and Humane Society in my will.

Terra said...

That is a fun question and I would like to be in a Zoom group discussing that. I would buy homes for relatives and give more money to charities and political groups I already support. As a senior citizen I am decluttering, not adding possessions.

Red said...

The answers would certainly be different according to age groups. I don't want anything else. Like many seniors I'm trying to get rid of stuff.

Miss Merry said...

Well, my first pandemic stimulus check was the perfect amount and perfect timing to pay my deductible and remainder of my co-pays for an ambulance ride to the trauma center. And my second check paid more co-pays including PT. I would just hope that I don't have a medical emergency if I had some unexpected money come in.

Tom said...

Well, Fred, it sure is nice to get that free money, but like you I do worry that in the end there's no free lunch. I guess we'll see. Meanwhile, Miss Merry, I hope you don't receive any more stimulus checks ... which will surely mean no more medical emergencies.

Kay said...

Since I live in Hawaii, I guess that option is out. I really do think I would donate it since our kids appear to be doing fine.

DrumMajor said...

Don't get excited! I think it's in the recent AARP newspaper: the Social Security increase will get cancelled out with the increase in Part B of Medicare. Bummer. Linda in Kansas

Celia said...

I am also in the decluttering stage of my life. I would probably pay off my grandkids college loans and put some away for college for ones coming up. And I'd like to go back to Alaska with some of those same kids. And stop worrying about my old car falling apart. Pretty much that's it.

Carole said...

I, too am continuing my downsizing, so I definitely don't want more "stuff". After moving from a large family home to a 1,000 sq ft condo, I still find myself with too much stuff. It is very gratifying to be passing along things to my nieces; they love it and I'm glad to be moving in the direction of a minimalist life style.

But if I suddenly had a windfall, well, travel comes to mind, but I already had to cancel my first trip to Europe due to COVID!

I'm pretty contented with life as it is. Like Djan, I would buy an electric car now, and I would fund our HOA to install the necessary electrical outlets to charge our electric vehicles.

Tom said...

We're just beginning to look for a new car. But it takes us a long time to make a decision which is just fine b/c new cars are hard to come by these days. Hopefully by next year things will be back to normal. And then, when I'm in the middle of it, I plan to do a post on the pros and cons of electric, hybrid and gas cars.

Barbara said...

Since I enter the lotto several times a year, I have plenty of experience dreaming up where I would spend it. I would buy a big sprawling ranch with cabins for each of my children or anyone who wanted to help me, and run a rescue ranch for all the unwanted animals.

Rian said...

Tom, this sounds like such a simple question... but it's not. I would have to think long and hard over this. But first thing that comes to my mind is to pay off our 3 kids student loans, then possibly buy a second home - smaller - but able to accommodate our kids and their families for get away vacations together. Always wanted to do this, but just not able. Of course we would give more to our favorite charities and maybe be able to get some help around the house as we age. But with the pandemic still loaming, travel is not even something we'd consider.

Janette said...

Stetting up a fund for my grands for college or a house would be first on the list.
For myself? I don’t think there is anything I need and little that I want. Working with migrant workers and kids behind in school will continue. Maybe giving teachers of the disadvantaged extra treats to keep them from total burn out?

Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

I've been downsizing and decluttering for the past 20 years. I don't want more dustibles and am not even sure if I want to buy a house because it means we're committing to one specific area. I like the traveling option. So many places to see.

Carol Cassara said...

When I see posts like these I always want to respond but I never do. Because that did happen to me unexpectedly, and it's the one thing that's hard to talk publicly about. So I never do.

I think the big benefit for me is not to have more things, it is freedom. It is the peace of mind about finances and the future. So many people my age do not know what they will do because they can not retire, they can not afford to live, can not afford meds. It is heartbreaking. All that vanished for me and it is the most important thing.

The other thing it has allowed me to do is to help others. We donate to charities that help animals and people,(which is fun to do because no one really expects someone to walk in off the street with a big check, so there is that moment of disbelief that we enjoy, because now they can do things maybe they hadn't planned to. i mean, it's not millions but it is still helpful). and I am always glad to be able to pitch in for a Go Fund Me or two or 20 that ping my heart. So that's the other benefit... The ability to give to others in a bigger way. I always gave, now I give more. I see that many people are of like mind here, and that makes me happy. This may be the only time I say anything about this openly, I'm kinda surprised I'm typing this and probably only doing it because it's you, Tom! So I'll hit 'post' before I change my mind.

Tabor said...

It makes me feel so good to donate to my favorite charities and programs and I would certainly do that! But I also would buy some fun vacations for my family so that we could all be together more.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

Well, it would help me pay off credit card debt I got stuck with when my significant other died. To the person who said we shouldn't have received stimulus checks he obviously doesn't understand what it's like to be a caretaker for an extended period of time. Otherwise, I would love to travel more.

Anonymous said...

I would pay off my kids' school debt. Probably would also buy a small home (to replace our small home) closer to one of my kids. Probably fund the grandkids education via funds. Oh! Get an electric car, lose the gas guzzlers.... I can only wish for a windfall...never seems to happen to us though.

Linda Myers said...

Well, it kind of happened to me too. I was able to quit my job at 62 and not retire until 65. Mine was an inheritance. So, in the last eleven years we've taken close to 80 trips of three days or longer. We bought a park model in Tucson where we spend our winters to avoid my seasonal affective disorder. We remodeled our family home in Seattle. So we live in 800 square feet in one place and 620 square feet in the other. I became a certified mediator. We work with refugees and asylum seekers and donate small amounts each month to organizations we want to support. We've been decluttering for the six months we've been in Washington this year. We have eight grown kids between us and we're willing to help as needed.
I'd say I feel luckier than lucky.

Anonymous said...

I did come into money. Three times. The first time was when my mother died. Her father hated my dad so much that in his will he stated that his daughter would never inherit his money. It was to skip a generation. That meant when my mother died so young, I inherited her money. My then spouse went out and spent a lot of it: bought a Mercedes, expensive furniture and jewelry. So I divorced. Money evaporated.
Second inheritance: I also came into an inheritance directly from my mother, as she wrote in in her will what I was to inherit. My dad refused to follow my mother's wishes (no wonder my grandfather hated him) and I wound up suing my own father to finally get what my mother had left me. Took three years for me to win. I used that money to put myself into business in direct competition against my father. Put him out of business. I went on to buy a home and live in the most expensive neighborhood in America that my mother would never permit me to live in.
The third time I inherited money was from my father's own death. He was going to leave me a dollar but I told him I would tie his estate up in so much litigation his other two children would get nothing if he did that to me. My father split his estate evenly between all his children. Me included. In the end, he did the right thing.
Money is nothing more than a joke. I hated the way my parents and grandparents used their money as weapons and tools of mass destruction. Today I live a very simple life and live on very little and I am a much happier person than I have ever been. I've been happily married to a most wonderful spouse for 40 years, have two great successful children and two grandchildren. We all live simply and with respect for one another. My kids told me they want nothing from me and to leave them nothing in return (which I am doing!)
If I came in to money today, I'd give it right back. I'd refuse it. Don't need it and don't dream of it either.

Julie Garman said...

This subject came up with my husband recently in reference to the lottery. I suppose a lot of people discuss that "what if" scenario. My husband said "we sure could change a lot of lives." He was talking about our seven kids and their families. I love that the first thing out of his mouth was about our kids. Most people I've heard discuss this talk about new houses, cars, vacation homes, etc. But my husband wants his kids to have more than he has.

It's one reason why I love him so. As for me, I don't think it would change my life that much. As others have said here, we're downsizing. Not due to finances but because we don't need the big house anymore. I have a framed plaque over my fireplace that says "the more important things in life aren't things." How true it is.

Gail, northern California said...

My husband died 8 years ago. My sister-in-law recently lost a filling from one of her front teeth. She's very frugal but has no "extra" money when such disasters strike and dental work is very expensive these days. I asked her the cost and would she accept a check, telling her, "I just get the feeling this is something David would want me to do. It's certainly something he would do."

The mere mention of his name tipped the discussion in my favor. She accepted. It felt good.

Elle said...

I would do more of what we do now. Foodbank, Women and Children's Shelter, Homeless Shelter, Donor's Choose for school teacher needs......and I would travel more than we currently have funding to do (if that is ever safe again). We are generous tippers now but I would go overboard.

As far as for me? I'm not a stuff person anymore (thank goodness I got over that in my early 30s). I would hire a housekeeper which I can afford now but it seems silly since I'm retired and here.

I will admit that a beachfront cottage sounds fabulous. We have a small mountain cabin we bought in 2003 and slowly over 17 years repaired and restored with cash and sweat. We do love our mountains....but beach? Hmmmmm

What a fun conversation!

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hey Tom! Interesting conversation. As I think you already know, I'm not really into "stuff" so having more money wouldn't really do anything for me. My go-to answer is usually travel, but honestly I have enough money to travel when and where I want so that's not an issue either.

But Thom and I did ask ourselves a while ago the question that if we had LOT of money. And we both said we would love to set up some sort of foundation for animals. Since loosing our fur-baby the first of the year we've discovered how bit a problem strays and unwanted pets are in our country. If we could do something for them, and be around them constantly, that would be awesome. The money of course would allow us to buy an appropriate property and then someone to help manage and maintain the property and dogs/cats.

I think it is always good to have ideas that reach beyond ourselves and I am fortunate to be able to not need the money for myself... ~Kathy

P.S. I haven't gotten email notices for your blog in a long time. Did you change your sign up sheet for some reason???