If I had a million dollars…

If I had a million dollars we wouldn’t have to eat Kraft Dinner, but we would eat Kraft Dinner, we’d just eat more and buy really expensive ketchups with it.     ~” If I Had a Million Dollars”

Crystal from Money Saving Mom posed a question on her Facebook page taken from a book she’s reading: “If you knew you only had one year left on this earth, how would it change the way you live?” Questions like that and like the similar “If you had a million dollars, what would you do?” can be helpful, but sometimes I think they can cause you to overlook less glamorous or pressing callings.

The million dollars question, for example, is supposed to free you to admit what vocation you would choose if you didn’t have any student loans or other obligations.  You’re supposed to say, “gosh, if money was no object, I’d feed the homeless!”  So that’s helpful if you’re only becoming a lawyer because your daddy told you to go to law school.  On the other hand, maybe you like the job you have, and if you had a million dollars you’d go out and buy an Hermes handbag or, as Peter says in the movie Office Space, “I’d do nothing.”  Theoretically, after you answer the question you throw caution into the wind and become a hang gliding instructor or whatever even if you don’t have the millions.  I’m thinking my husband wouldn’t appreciate it if I went out and dropped $10K on a purse, and doing nothing is not an option for most people, so perhaps the question is not always a helpful diagnostic.

Likewise, thinking about what you’d do if you only had one year to live can be helpful in discerning your priorities, but might distract you from longer term goals. For example, Josh and I decided that if we only had a year left to live we’d still do our jobs – he loves working in politics and I love being home with the kids – but we’d probably toss out the budget (since the life insurance money would kick in after a year) and go on a family vacation for the first time ever, and go on a trip just the two of us, which we haven’t done since our honeymoon in 2003.  It’s good to think about ways we can bond as a family or as a couple, but it would be unwise for us to plan those vacations now, because without the life insurance money we’d be going into debt for trips.

There are also things we might not do with only a year left, but that are valuable callings or good priorities anyway. No one who had a million dollars or only a year to live would collect garbage or clean the toilets in rest stops (presumably) but we still like to have those jobs done and they help our society run smoothly.  If you knew your time was short, you might not be inclined to do the less glamorous or invisible jobs in your church or build relationships with people you don’t already know, but those are vitally important if you’re going to be around longer.  Sometimes I think people overprioritize their way out of serving or helping others in ways that might be hard or require extra effort.  Prioritization is good, and diagnostic questions can help you narrow down your calling or how you spread your time, but maybe it’s best not to take them too far.

In any case, our conclusions were that if we had a million dollars or only a year to live, we’d do pretty much what we’re doing now, just, as the song quoted above says, with “fancier ketchups.”  How about you?

6 thoughts on “If I had a million dollars…

  1. With either option (the $$$ or the year to live), I would definitely retire from my teaching position and spend more time with my grandchildren. Those three precious children are way more important to me than the 135 I teach every year! With the million I would send you and Josh on that trip you want and then I could take care of my grandchildren while you were gone!

  2. If I had a year to live I’d email every person I’ve ever even remotely liked or loved and set up meals with all of them, filling up every breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and happy hour of the next year with mini reunions and parties, and traveling all around the world to do it. I’d outsource the logistics though, so I wouldn’t waste time on the planning part. I’d spend the first 3 months finishing whatever novel I’m working on. Then I’d hand that in and spend the next 9 months saying my goodbyes in person.

    If I had a million dollars and no time limit, I’d buy and furnish a property in Manhattan, or I’d put it into a 5% CD, so that I can make 50,000 a year. Then I’d just pack a suitcase and become a wandering artist with my 50k a year.

  3. I think one thing that the question (or those posing it) don’t address is that, for those of us without the million dollars to hand, the question is a STARTING POINT. Once we’ve established that we’d “take our whole family on a cruise” or “do nothing”, we need to break that down further. Would we take our whole family on a cruise because we’d like more time with them, or because they’ve had a hard couple of years and deserve a wonderful treat? Our answers to these questions will give us the clues to what we subconsciously know we’d like to do. We then need to find ways to incorporate these things into our lives, whether it’s getting together more often (even on Skype), or sending “wonderful treats” in the mail every now and then. Those of us who’d like to do nothing need to ask ourselves what we would do with our copious free time. Is it writing a novel, lazing in a deckchair or sleeping in every day and lunching with friends? Then incorporate THOSE elements, or parts of them, into our lives. Set aside small chunks of time to write, or to laze in a deckchair. Sleep in once in a while, or have friends over for lunch. I think the important message is that the “million dollars” scenario is an “all-or-nothing” one. If we never get the million dollars, we’ll never do what we dreamed of. But if we ask ourselves the question, we may find we achieve our dreams a little bit at a time.

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