General Thoughts

Daydreaming: The lottery

With a Mega Millions jackpot that will likely reach $2 billion before the next draw on the evening of Tuesday, October 23, it’s easy to get caught up thinking about what my husband and I would do if we won the lottery. The whole thought of it is overwhelming and exciting all at the same time.

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We’re occasional lottery players in our house. My husband and I buy a $2 ticket now and then when the mood strikes us and additional ones until the large jackpot is rewarded for times when it gets huge. The chances of winning are astronomically low, but it’s not like we’re basing our entire future on winning. We never expect to win; we want to say we tried by buying a ticket, because you never know, right?

A few years ago after the lottery became legal in Arkansas, we purchased a Powerball ticket and won $12. It was fun to joke with our families that we had won Powerball and then give them a laugh with our “jackpot.” We chose not to reinvest the money, and instead, bought two $5 pizzas at Little Caesars to feed our family for dinner and lunch the next day. It was fun, but we would have loved to have won enough to pay off our debt (mortgage and the like).

My office pool recently won $200 with our eight tickets. Not a bad investment for $23 each in profit. We all had fun discussing what we’d do with our equal shares of the money had we won the jackpot. I think we figured it at just under $50 million each. I am confident my family would have no problems being comfortable with that much money.

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I started thinking about what would be the minimum amount I’d need to quit a job I love (so I could write full time) and live the rest of my life without having to hold down another steady-income producing job. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact amount knowing life’s changes and challenges.

I think we’ve all read the stories of lottery winners whose lives were ruined by winning the lottery. I’d like to think I would be smart about it if I did win a large sum of money. Some of the common themes I saw with reading the failure stories were spending too much on extravagant things before setting up a plan for the future. What good are multi-million dollar homes if you blow all your money and leave yourself unable to afford the upkeep and property taxes?

So what would I do? First, I would set up an appointment with a lottery attorney after doing a tremendous amount of research. Second, I would find a reputable financial advisor to help set up trusts for my children. Trust they couldn’t touch until a mature age, such as 25. Of course, there would also be money set aside to send them to any college they desired. Flunking out would result in forfeiture of the remaining college-fund balance. The current plan for them now is the same plan that was set forth for me. My parents helped me with what they could, but paying for college was my responsibility whether through loans or scholarships. Luckily, the latter paid for my entire six years of college for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

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Housing would be a consideration of course. Our current home is wonderful. I would want to have it gutted and redone: updated baths, hardwood flooring (I have a love-hate relationship with our current flooring, which I painstakingly installed myself), updated electrical and plumbing, a new deck, new sheetrock and paint for every single wall and ceiling in the house and updates for the few remaining light fixtures still in the home.

My dear husband would want to buy land and build a brand new house designed exactly the way we wanted it, with a basement and a garage, a home theater, etc. I could get on board with that idea too,  but I would still want the home to be modest in a way that didn’t make it too large for our family. There would be compromises in the same way there were compromises when we bought our first home and our current home.

What else would I want to do? Donate to several charities. The ones at the top of my list would be St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the Crohns and Colitis Foundation, the Make a Wish Foundation, Gut it Out, the American Cancer Society, and several local charities that help the poor and homeless people in our community. I would also want to set up scholarships for students studying creative writing in college.

I would invest more money in my publishing company, Luminesce Publishing, and put more funds into advertising, which is something I lack now. I would pay for experiences such as more travel. I would ensure that my family was taken care of for anything they truly needed. And I would also do everything in my power to keep us all grounded.

What would you do if you won the lottery? Comment below.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

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