Last week a couple in our community won the lottery in the amount of $217 million. They took a one-time payout of $135 million. I’m not sure if that is their before-tax, or after-tax, winnings. Either way, it is a lot of money. The husband and wife were reported to be planning to retire early, buy a large retirement home, pay off debts, and give money to charity. The husband bought a quick pick ticket on the spur of the moment as he was preparing to board a plane in Richmond to go on a business trip. It was certainly a fortuitous decision.
It got me to wondering what I would do if I were to win the lottery. It’s not going to happen, as I don’t play the lottery. However, it’s interesting to think about. I bet most of you have at least thought about how such a staggering sum of money, or even a mere few million dollars, would change your life. I think most of us would agree in general with the decisions this winning couple announced–early retirement, vacation home, debt elimination, and charitable giving.
But what would I do specifically with that amount of money? This is what I have come up with:
1) The first ten percent would go to my church and like-minded Christian ministries to share the gospel and love of Jesus Christ. God asks that we return a tithe, or ten percent, of all that He gives us to support the work of the church and spread the gospel throughout the world. A big chunk would go to my local church and to support Assembly of God missionaries. Another portion would go to the Assembly of God’s emergency relief ministry, C0nvoy of Hope, and to organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse. Based on the one-time payout of $135 million, the tithe would be $13.5 million. Let’s round that up to $15 million, leaving $120 million for other things.
2) A large vacation home at the beach would definitely be on my list. And perhaps a second vacation home in the mountains. I would love to have a place large enough for my children and grandchildren, as well as my parents and siblings to all gather together in one place. And, of course, with all those people in one house, I would gladly spend money on a cleaning service. It is hard to imagine spending $1 million or more on a home, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s budget $10 million on vacation homes, leaving $110 million.
3) Donations to my college alma maters would be another priority. It would be nice to give back in a substantial way to the institutes of higher learning that played a prominent role in my education My father taught at my undergrad college, now the University of Mary Washington, for 32 years. It would be very satisfying to donate several million dollars and have a building named in Dad’s honor. Let’s assume that $5 million goes to each institution, with $100 million left.
4) I would spend another large portion, perhaps the largest, to provide first-rate care for my mother-in-law. She is in a nursing home and, while she is more than adequately cared for, she longs to be in a real home of her own. However, she needs round-the-clock care and the socialization afforded her by being with other people. It would be very satisfying to provide her a warm, homey environment with the care she needs. I can envision spending $20 million to build a nursing home in which each patient would have a private room and a personal staff to attend to their needs. After building a nursing home, about $80 million would remain.
5) I would set up college funds for my grandchildren and a nest egg for each of our sons. Conservatively, these savings funds might consume another five million. $75 million remains.
Beyond these five expenditures, I think I would set aside a rainy day fund for Steve and I and would donate the rest to charities. Of course, it would be a chore to decide which charities to support. The Bible teaches us that “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48) I believe I would feel burdened to do the most good I could would the money. Therefore, I would target organizations that help the homeless and our wounded veterans to get back on their feet.
Winning such a staggering amount of money is really beyond my comprehension. While this couple is free to spend, save, and share this money as they wish, they have a moral obligations to use the money wisely. History has demonstrated, however, that many lottery winners frequently wind up broke or in debt in a few years. They aren’t prepared to handle such a tremendous sum of money and they spend it lavishly and donate to any and all groups that asks for a donation. I don’t expect that to happen to this couple. I hope that the money brings them happiness and that with this money, they help many other people to have better lives.
Have you thought about what you would do if you won the lottery? I bet you have. What would be your top priorities for the money?
February 26, 2013
Follow up to blog post: I just read a post about a couple who last year won half of the largest powerball jackpot ever. This couple, Mark and Cindy Hill, have remained true themselves and are generously using much of thei $136 million lump-sum payout to improve their community. The article states that this is unusual and that history shows that 70 percent of all lottery winners will spend or lose it all within a few years. To read the entire articles, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/25/missouri-powerball-winner_n_2749795.html?1361825691&icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl3%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D275177