What would you do if you won the lottery?

Who hasn’t thought what to do with the prize?

“Buy a sports car, a house on the beach, spend two months in the Caribbean, …”

Think for a moment, what your life would look like? After you have showed your friends your new car and you have spent the first summer in your beach house… what is left?

Those two months in the Caribbean?
The first day is spectacular for sure: you are in an incredible white sand beach, you take a boat ride and you lie in a hammock drinking mojitos.

So far so good, you’re on vacation and enjoying the experience.

After 5 weeks … The beach is still spectacular but you are used to it. You know every corners so you don’t take boat rides anymore. You are tired of the mojitos and your health is suffering. In fact, if you were forced to keep doing that for 3 months you would go crazy. While you are on vacation it is great but after a while you need other things.

When we imagine ourselves winning the lottery, why do these things come to mind?

As human beings we have many dimensions. One of them is to live in the moment. But we have many others. Feel useful, have a positive impact on your environment, take care of your body, learn things, meet people, play sports, be with your family, improve in an activity, etc.

The things we really want to do might be very simple. Read a book, go to painting class, go for a run, have a beer with friends. It doesn’t cost a fortune but it fills many of your dimensions.

When we imagine ourselves winning the lottery, we can now afford things that before we couldn’t and we want to “make the most of it”.

It is like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet. It is “free” so many people eat more than they really want to. It is a behavior motivated by an impulse. Imagine going everyday for a month to this buffet restaurant. I’m sure that on the last day you end up eating very similarly to how you were eating before.

What happens when the euphoria passes and you get used to it?

The term “old money” refers to people that come from families that have been rich for many years. They don’t go through the stage of euphoria because they are born with wealth. It is usually associated with noble titles and family businesses created many years ago. It is the opposite of “new rich”.

In general, old money is discreet while new rich are flashy. I am generalizing to convey the message. Obviously it is not all black or white and the exact classification of each is not well defined.

Recently I realized that I was talking to someone from old money. It was not because he was wearing Rolex or anything like that. In fact, he was not even wearing a watch.

We were talking in a group of 4 or 5 people about traveling by plane. Someone said that he spent all his last long-haul flight drinking gin-tonics. Several others commented similar things, from different airlines, other destinations, etc. This person, in a way that could not be more humble, said “I only drink water on airplanes or I arrive at the destination dehydrated and without energy”.

The fact is that we all know that flying dehydrates you. If you drink alcohol it is even worse. But as it is free we have it by default to “make the most of it”. Not him. 

The lottery and financial independence

Financial independence is based on calculating how much is enough. If we aspire to spend as in the moment of euphoria after you win the lottery, we will never have enough. But I think that what we really want is not so expensive. Finding what we really want of course is not easy. It is very complex and has to do with all the dimensions that we have.

This conversation shows this mindset perfectly. The writer Kurt Vonnegut was with his colleague Joseph Heller at a party given by a fund manager:

-Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel ‘Catch-22’ has earned in its entire history?

-I’ve got something he can never have.

-What on earth could that be, Joe?

-The knowledge that I’ve got enough..

Imagen: Thirunavukkarasye-Raveendran,

2 Comments

  1. Before I was on the path to FIRE, a big lotto win would have had me thinking of the new car, exotic holiday, house on the beach.

    Now, I would give quite a bit away to friends and family, invest most of it and then spend/donate the rest. I’m not sure I would give up working straight away, although I guess it depends on how much I win! The simple things in life make me happy so perhaps I will travel to places I’ve never been to before but I’d always come back home!

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