Typically, playing the lottery is about as tempting as taking a wad of cash, throwing it in a toilet, defecating on it and then flushing it away forever – for me, at least. In fact, that might be more interesting for the simple novelty of such an exercise. When you’re driving home from a long day at work and you pass a billboard announcing the lottery has risen as high as $116 million, however, you take notice.
And my girlfriend did. Yesterday she announced she had stopped at the corner store and bought five lottery tickets. When she bought the tickets she had to choose between a monthly pay-out or a lump sum payoff… of $86 million. Of course, we had to launch a little thought experiment to figure out what we would do with this money if we were to win.
Armed with a compound interest calculator and our two little brains we set off to work. First, we assumed that a lump sum pay-off of $86 million would probably be taxed at 50%, so you would actually walk away with $43 million. That’s still more money than 95% of Americans will ever see.
First thing we would do is cut this basically in half. Take $21 million and create a Trust to benefit the important people in our lives. With $21 million in a trust, invested to earn a modest 5% interest each year one could easily provide a moderate living of around $50,000 a year for 15 to 20 people for the rest of their lives (the fewer people, of course, the greater freedom to raise this as inflation decreases the value of the dollar). For us, that would include our grandparents, providing them with a comfortable retirement and save them from the growing stress of aging and trying to figure out how they will be able to pay for living expenses, property taxes and medical expenses with dwindling savings. For the rest of our close friends and family, it would provide them with freedom to choose what to do with the rest of their lives instead of being stuck in jobs out of the need to pay for student loans, mortgages and just getting by. This is also little enough money that no one is going to be tempted to destroy their lives from their newfound “wealth.”
So, with half the money we have forever changed the lives of around twenty of our closest friends and family. And with this scheme this could be passed on for generation after generation assuming no major calamities in the economy. With the other half of the money we would set up a separate Trust for our own personal benefit. Now, that sounds excessive, I know. But we have a plan for this, as well.
With the remaining $22 million invested to earn a modest 5% interest each year, that would result in this Trust paying out $1,125,000 each year in interest. For the first year we would pay ourselves $50,000 to be able to leave our jobs and set up a not-for-profit organization that, after the first year, would be the recipient of $1 million of these earning every year (some time might be invested to figure out how much less could be withdrawn to keep this amount growing equal to reasonable inflation, but I haven’t taken that time).
Looking around we have noticed that a single investment on an average of $25,000 to any given person with the need and a plan to be used for education expenses, paying off student loans or crushing debt, invested into a charity, or to get their business or some project off the ground could completely change the lives of the average American. One Million divided by 25,000 equals 40. That means with the interest of this other half of the winnings you could change the lives of around 40 people a year.
The remaining $125,000 a year would go to us so that our jobs -- for as long as we could stand it -- would be to find, meet, be won over by and invest in one person a week, to completely change their lives. And make a decent little living, doing it.
Of course there are some details to iron out, like how to invest in such a way as to earn 5% to 6% interest every year and the pay of the people running these trusts, but I think that is all easily worked out. Of all the possible situations and plans we could dream up for what to do with the winnings of an excessively large lottery, I think this is the way to go.
In doing all of these calculations we were taken back by the gravity of this situation. With this $43 million you could permanently change the lives of over 400 people in just the first 10 years of this kind of scheme. All of that with only $43 million, which seems such a small number compared to all the Trillions-of-dollars sized numbers being thrown around in the news the last few years.
In fact, let’s take one really important Trillion dollar number here and examine it. Between the money doled out by TARP and the cash created out of thin air by the Federal Reserve, all of which was given to banks so that they could continue to enrich the already richest people in the world, around $10 Trillion was handed out (that we know of). $10 Trillion is about 232,558 times more money than $43 million. If that $10 Trillion had been given to 232,558 trustworthy human beings – instead of bankers – whom implemented our plan as stated above with an average of 40 people positively affected each year by each trustworthy human being, in ten years 93,023,200 people could have had their lives forever changed by our scheme. That is roughly equal to the number of households in the United States. So every household in the United States could have been the recipient of a life altering investment within 10 years. And our scheme is kind of selfish, giving preference to our friends and family. If the money was used all in $25,000 chucks, every household could have been positively affected within 5 years – that is, by now – creating entrepreneurs, educated citizens and freeing others from debt and allowing them to participate in real, local economies, instead of paying all of their money towards debt. Kind of makes you wonder into whose pockets that $10 Trillion went, doesn’t it?
I drove by the same billboard again on the way home today. Nobody won the lottery last night. $138 million, now.