Who doesn’t want to win the lottery? I know I do. Just about every other time I buy a can of tobacco, I buy a couple of tickets. Stuffed into my wallet, those tickets with or without the magic numbers sit alone and lonely. Once in a while, when I have a wad of five or six, I stand at the little electronic ticket checker and go through them. Without fail, the words that come up on the screen say, “Not a winner.”
Well, not always. In all the years I’ve been playing the lottery, I once won $4.
The lottery, of course, is a scheme to remove money from the laboring classes. I don’t think, in all the years I’ve bought tickets, that I have seen a wealthy person buy one. A guy in a tailor-maid suit with gold cuff links and a Tesla outside in the parking lot never stood at the counter at the convenience store and said, “A Powerball and Mega Millions ticket with this.” Of course, rich people don’t go to the QuikTrip. You can’t play the lottery at high-class stores and restaurants. You can’t get a lottery ticket at Dolce and Gabbana.
Gas stations, liquor stores, convenience stores sell lottery tickets. People buy occasionally, regularly, or in bulk. I feel for the people who buy $20 or $40 worth of scratchers or great stacks of Powerball and Mega Millions tickets. The higher the prize climbs, the more they buy. It’s a losing game. With odds of one in 292 million, chances are that’s money down the drain. I don’t know what the odds of winning one of the scratchers games is, but it’s sure to be one in hundreds of thousands. How many hundreds or thousands of dollars do you have to spend to win—someday—a prize?
Yet, someone is going to win the big prize. People win them all the time. I dream about it. I’ve thought about it so deeply that I already know what I’m going to do with the big money:
I’ll peel off a couple of million for retirement and place it with a trusty financial adviser. Insurance money. That will keep us afloat in our old age even if we blow the rest of the money on houses in the French countryside, cars for all our friends, or expensive travel on the world’s great ocean liners. Meanwhile, we’ll set up the kids’ college funds and their trusts.
While I already know that while we might travel the world at least one time in style, the bulk of the money will go into a charitable trust or foundation. When family members and forgotten friends come out of their hiding places, I will be able to say, “Just fill the foundation’s grant form.” Strangers will want a cut: Go to the foundation, I’ll say. With a vast charitable enterprise behind me, I will be able to put everyone on equal footing. They just have to meet the guidelines of the foundation to get their money.
Since the intricacies of a foundation or trust is beyond me, I’m just speculating. But I’m sure that once we gain the power of money, no end of people will be standing at our door wanting to give us advice.
I see myself on the board of the foundation. The rest of the board, initially, will be friends and cronies of mine. We will decide what the requirements for receipt of funds. Income will be a factor. Right now, I’m leaning toward giving money to whomever asks, as long as their household income doesn’t exceed a certain level. We will have a secretarial staff and a couple of experts who will comb through the grant requests, see if the applicants meet the requirements, and then forward it to a selection committee of board members that determines who gets what. Of course, we’ll need an executive director to oversee the trust’s staff and make sure that we have an efficient operation.
We will also need lawyers. I have friends who could be persuaded, I think, to take up as the foundation’s counsel. They won’t have much to do, which is all right since they are all in or close to retirement. Either that or we will hire a firm to do the foundation’s legal business. In any case, I’ll finally be able to say like no working stiff ever can, “I have an attorney on retainer.”
After we get the kids’ trusts and our retirement insurance taken care of, I will take $2 million. We will get the house remodeled and the yard landscaped. We will buy sturdy, attractive furniture and build a spacious studio in the attic. The basement will become a library. Or we might build the living room down there, in which case the present living room becomes a quiet library. While construction is underway, we will visit my friends in Europe and take that Viking River Cruise that Virginia dreams about. We will see the castles and put our feet up in the finest landscapes.
When we return, we will sell our present cars and replace them with reliable, long-lived and efficient models that won’t turn heads but will get us from point A to point B on time and in comfort. Then, we’ll look into an RV. I find myself comfortable in the outdoors with a backpack or a canoe. I can sleep on the ground, and, in fact, like it. Virginia doesn’t do those things well. Many years ago, she gave up going camping with me. But she would take to an RV. We will do what RVers do. We will become members of the Good Sam Club. In between long trips around the country, I will be able to take off with my pack or canoe and whenever I want.
After we chew through that $2 million buying remodels, cars, RV, new camping and backpacking equipment, I will take yearly stipend of, say, $400,000 adjusted regularly for inflation. That’s enough to do just about anything, buy whatever we want. Nobody needs more money than that. Ever. The first year, we will pay off the house. After that, depending on how we spend our annual allotment, we could make payments on that little farmhouse near an out of the way French village in the Alsace. Maybe we’ll get a rustic little cabin in a mountain town on a trout stream somewhere out West.
I’m well aware of the fact that money can’t solve all my problems. But it damn sure solves the problem of being poor and worrying about money. I can’t buy my happiness, either. I’ll worry about that between stints at art school, work for the foundation, and trips to France or to my trout stream. Crises over my happiness will happen as I’m floating the Missouri River from beginning to end again, or while I camp on the bank of the Rhein. Work in my art studio and writing room will take my mind off happiness. My kids will go to whatever college they want. I won’t coddle them. They won’t get their trust funds until they’re 60. They will have to become whatever they want.
And we will be free of ever having to worry about money again.
So, I buy a couple of the big jackpot lottery tickets every other week or so. Just one bid for each. It costs me $3. When I give up tobacco, I will probably buy the tickets when I stop in for gas. In the meantime, I go to bed at night and imagine myself free of financial concerns. I dream of giving money away to deserving causes and souls. When I lay my head down, I become the great humanitarian.