Monday, May 16, 2005

A big winner?

So last weekend I went to the beach. I was able to leave work a bit early on Friday, since the main database system had basically shut down leaving me with virtually nothing to do. This allowed me to run downtown earlier than usual to get a paycheck, and escape virtually all of the outbound Friday traffic. Since I had planned on leaving work at 5, I had everything packed and ready to go in the car; even with three more hours given to me, I didn't need to go back home to get anything else (although, whoops, I had forgotten to bring a jacket).

On the way down Highway 99W, I saw a billboard for Powerball that proclaimed the current jackpot at $111 million. I began to imagine that I was the winning ticket holder, and that I had just taken it to Salem to redeem it. So what would I do with all of that money, assuming it is not paid out in an annuity (which it probably is, but this is fantasy-land, get it?)?

The first thing I know I'd do (planning-wise) is to set aside 10% of the winnings to give to the church. Since this is all hypothetical, I've decided not to wrestle with the spiritual issues involved with giving gambling profits to the Lord. I'd just do the quick math: 10% of $111 million is $11.1 million. Now, I know that I could be calculating the tithe based upon after-tax winnings, but I believe that I've covered that issue already in a previous post; I'm not going to cheat God by giving Him the bare minimum tithe He asks for. I have also decided that the church I have been attending would not be the sole recipient of my tithe, in this case. There is another, small church in Portland that was very influential in making me who I am today, and even though I haven't been there in ten years or more (I keep meaning to visit there one Sunday evening - I miss my cousin and his family), I still think of them fondly. So I'd split the cash this way: Current church would get $9 mil, other one would get $2.1 mil (which should ensure that their doors never close due to money).

Naturally, I'd have to have a meeting with the pastors and elders of each church in advance of the tithing, for several reasons. First of all, they'd need to be aware that there's an overwhelmingly large tithe coming in, and that the money is real and legal. (It took me a while to realize that one could perceive this sudden cash influx as an attempt to launder bad money.) Second of all, even though I'd be making myself known to them as the donor, I'd need to get everyone's assurance that this tithe would need to remain as anonymous as is humanly possible. I would even go so far as to request that this be placed in an account separate from the general fund, in order to protect everyone. Because think about it: If people in the congregation got wind of a $9 million increase in general funds, how many people would be tempted to stop their own tithing? I wouldn't want to be responsible for that. So I would want some sort of arrangement whereby a certain modest(-ish) amount can be transferred to the general fund, like $200 per week, as my weekly "tithe", then whatever would be needed to cover any budget shortfalls would of course be met by the special fund. Maybe the remainder could be used for special projects, like new building/repair projects, or meeting missionaries' support deficits, or sending teams out on short-term missions.

This is not to say that I wouldn't trust the elders of my church to make sound, Spirit-led decisions with that kind of money (remember that this is all hypothetical anyway, and will never, ever happen in real life); I'd actually place my full trust in them. This would just be a suggested method of handling such a huge, one-time increase in funds. And I thought about this all the way to Willamina.

Secondly (I'm only on the second thing?), I would pay off all of my debt. This kind of goes without saying, I guess. My current debt is miniscule, by hypothetical Powerball-winner standards, but it's nothing to sneeze at in the real world. Removing that burden would be wonderful.

Third, I would give myself a certain allowance for the first year, as a sort of cooling-off period. No major purchases. No wild investments. I would purchase a good car, or truck, or SUV, that I could rely upon in the course of the several road trips I would want to take, and I would buy a second car, probably a gas-electric hybrid, for city driving. Just because I have the loot, doesn't mean I can pollute! Aside from the car purchases (and insurance), I might take all of my friends out for a really fancy dinner somewhere once, and maybe buy myself a nice suit or something, but that would be the extent of my indulgences. I would buy myself a lifetime health club membership. Then, I would give myself about $40,000 - or less - to live upon for the first year, plus whatever I would require for college tuition. Oh yes, I'm back in the classroom as soon as I can get in there! Because the sooner I could get trained in something, the sooner I could use that skill for the Lord's work - wherever I am called. And with a jillion dollars in my back pocket, I wouldn't have any trouble getting there.

Fourth (and I'm not sure exactly why this is fourth, but this is how I tracked it on Friday), I would give money to each of my immediate family members as needed. My mom would get enough money to relieve her from needing the death benefit she currently receives, so that she and her husband could be legally married in the eyes of the State. My sister would get enough to cover all of whatever debts she has (if she has any - I've never asked her about this), as well as a good amount to be able to help cover the raising of her daughter. She would also receive more than enough money to cover living expenses and tuition for wherever she may want to go to college. My niece would also receive this amount in a tuition/trust fund.

My dad would also receive enough money to live on for the rest of his life, so that he wouldn't have to work anymore if he doesn't want to. I'd pay for a lifetime health membership, and a smoking-cessation program. And I'd buy him a newer car than the thing he currently drags around town. :)

I didn't really work out how I would begin to help out any non-family friends, because there are always the horror stories of people coming out of the woodwork and leeching onto big-money winners. I only know for certain that my best friend would find a great deal of relief in his situation, and that he could look upon his, and his kids', future with hope that expenses would be met. I'm sure that he has dreams of all four kids going to college; I would definitely want to help that become a reality. Not to shoulder the whole burden, mind you - I wouldn't want to diminish his role as provider in any way - but as a way to stand in the gap, for darned sure....

At this point in my scenario's execution, I had just arrived in Otis, just a rock's throw inland from the 101, and I put this whole line of thinking to rest. It was a good exercise in prioritizing, I think, but it was time to move on. I had some black molasses bread to buy.

3 Talked Back:

At May 16, 2005 at 10:03:00 PM CDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I play this game often when driving to visit my parents. It always has quite a bit going to tithing. Me quiting the grind at the big shoe factory, and then doing ministry full time. Whether that means starting my own ministry or joining one I love. Also I'd pay off my parents home, give each sibling a chunk to buy homes with and then of course get myself a home. I actually would love to give away tons more. Maybe a trip with the friends to some tropical island for a week? Hmm... That sounds good.


At May 17, 2005 at 1:21:00 AM CDT, Blogger stan said...

I also think I'd later have to spend some money on making short, funny films, and/or financing an indie film project that has the potential to become a "cult" favorite, à la Napoleon Dynamite.

That would rule.


At May 17, 2005 at 7:04:00 AM CDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey if you have time, I'd love to read a blog about how the Beach Trip went? I mean, the lottery dreaming was great reading, don't get me wrong. LOL! ~Missy


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