Writing prompt from BlogHer: If you found one million dollars in the morning and had to spend it by nightfall, what would you do with the money?
What would you do if you found one million dollars? Personally, I’d be wondering where it came from. After all, nobody just leaves a million bucks lying around; unless it’s a certified check left at the wrong door by DHL, it’s most likely either ill-gotten gains of some sort, or the final act of generosity of a desperate person.
My first inclination would be to turn it in to the police, so they could investigate. If it’s indeed some kind of pirate booty, they can find out who it belongs to, and return it to the rightful owner. Since I didn’t start out the day with a million dollars, I haven’t lost anything. If they don’t find any indication that somebody is missing the cash through mistake or misadventure, then 30 days later, it’s mine. In the meantime, I wouldn’t be on the hit list of any nefarious types who might be after the money.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s say the million bucks is free and clear. That leads to the next question: Where does the “have to spend it by nightfall” requirement come from? Is this genie money? A gift from an eccentric millionaire? A “reality” show test? Since when does found money come with conditions as to its use?
What happens if I don’t spend all the money? Will whatever things I spent money on be taken away? What if those things were given to or done for other people? Certainly they wouldn’t be made to suffer, would they?
“Kevin! Kevin!” I hear you saying. “Stop thinking so much! Just shut up and answer the question!”
Well, if Once Upon a Time has taught us anything, it’s that magic comes with consequences. So, you’ll forgive me if I want to know what the deal is with this little windfall scenario we’re talking about here.
But, I see your point. So…
The first things I would do would be practical. I’d pay off my student loans, and any credit card balances I have. I might have some work done on my car—or perhaps buy a new, more fuel-efficient one (though I do get decent mileage with my present car). I’d look into purchasing an annuity, so that I’d have a consistent source of basic income to tide me over during lean times. I might buy a small house, one that wouldn’t require much maintenance (read: yard work) or huge property tax outlays. In short, I’d buy myself a bit of security.
Then, I’d look to see what I could do for my friends and family. I know a lot of people—even those who are doing relatively well—who are struggling in one way or another. Whether it’s offering to help get a better car, pay for college tuition or textbooks, give somebody a much-needed vacation or spa day, invest in someone’s business, or just taking somebody out for dinner at a nice place with good food, I know there would be ways I could help make their lives just a little bit easier.
I’d donate whatever was left over to charitable organizations—groups helping the hungry and the homeless, groups helping people rebuild their lives after natural disasters, groups researching possible cures for diseases, groups working to create better connections among the people in various communities, and so on.
“But Kevin! Wouldn’t you want to do something fun or frivolous?”
Well, yes. But fun and frivolity could easily be incorporated into some of the stuff I’ve mentioned. I could have my car painted in some insanely bright and colorful scheme. I could take some of my friends out to participate in some silly and otherwise pointless activity that is just plain fun. I could give to organizations that bring that kind of fun and laughter to the lives of the people they are helping. Everything doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other; you can do something fun in the service of a serious cause.
Ultimately, it wouldn’t matter. The important thing would be feeling like a million bucks at the end of the day.
(1 November 2013)