Hope Springs Eternal

Here’s a thing that happens at work every now and then.  Someone sees a sign at the newspaper kiosk and comes in and casually says, “Did you see how big the lotto is tonight?” This is a cue for me to send out an email and set up the office lotto pool. I inherited this job maybe a year ago; I forget how.  It’s pretty fun to organize though.  With the job came a nifty spreadsheet template someone made long ago where you plug in each person’s name and how much money they’ve put in as well as the jackpot amount.  It then calculates how much everyone would get if we were to win.  (I have an ongoing love affair with Excel, so the elegance of this delights me every time.)

Before I started working at this place, I had never played the lottery.  I was raised to believe that gambling is for the stupid, the weak, and the irresponsible.  I’m not sure if it was ever put exactly that way, but the understanding was pretty clear.

Pearls Before Swine

Everyone knows that as far as gambling goes, the lottery has some of the worst odds going.  If you run the numbers and then throw them up against some other statistical improbabilities, it becomes clear that a better retirement plan is in order.  So the first time I was exposed to the lotto pool, I didn’t buy in.  But someone always wins eventually, and as the draw time drew closer, I became terrified that my office would win.  And I would be the only sucker still working there.  So now I put my toonie in with the rest of them.

At first I looked at it almost as an insurance premium against my workmates winning, but I’ve moved away from that and now I see it as buying the right to dream about an easier reality.  For the bargain price of $2, I am buying 24 or more hours to think about what I would do if I suddenly had several million dollars of unearned, tax-free money given to me.  And for those hours, I know that there is a possibility – however slim – that this could happen.

So the question is – if you had a fortune at your disposal and would probably never have to worry about money again, what would you do?  And what would you do differently?  I’m fascinated by this question.  I mean, presumably everyone buys a few trinkets, pays off their debts, helps out some family members and charities, that sort of thing.

But then what?  Like most people, so much of my time is spent at work.  If I had that kind of cash, would I still be motivated to show up?  I don’t think so.  In fact, I’d probably feel guilty taking a job away from someone who actually needed it. Suddenly here would be available time and money, two things that are usually in scarce supply.  So much freedom!  So much responsibility!  It’s actually a little mind-boggling to contemplate.  I have ideas about what I’d do though, and I’d be happy to give it a shot if the opportunity arose.

However, I am under no illusions that such an opportunity will arise.  That is the stuff of fairy tales and I live firmly in the real world.  But I think there’s still value in dreaming about it, and here’s why: dreaming about it makes you realize what you actually want your life to be like.  Sure, there may be the odd person who, given that money, would buy a spaceship or something, but I like to think most people are like me and would have more modest plans.  I’d travel, spend more time with my family and friends, and take the opportunity to try as many new things as possible.

And the thing is, I can do all of those now.  I might have to work harder to find the time and the money to do them than if I won the lotto, but that’s ok.  Knowing what I would do means knowing what things are important to me.  And I figure that as long as I remember those things when I make decisions about my life, I shouldn’t go too far wrong.

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