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!"
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?