Nine Lottery Windfalls – and How I’d Spend Them

Me with my winnings

In these trying economic times, when both jobs and solid investment opportunities are scarce, even the most hardened realist may dream about winning easy money in a lottery. Why, all you need to do is guess six or seven numbers, and you could win millions! I only buy lottery tickets once or twice a year, and of course I've never won anything, but it's fun to dream. Thus, the below is what I'd do with my various winnings. In the spirit of fun, let's pretend each amount is what I'd see after taxes, and that I wouldn't be allowed to put any money into savings or spend it on "drudgery costs" such as bills, rent, or groceries.

  1. $1. I'd just reinvest it in another lottery ticket.
  2. $10. I'd treat myself to a cheap lunch or a matinee (sadly, in Los Angeles it's hard to find an evening movie under $11).
  3. $100. At this point I'd share the wealth by taking my wife out to a nice dinner. We could eat well for under a hundred, as she's vegan, so no steaks.
  4. $1,000. If you can't spend it on bills, a thousand dollars is actually an awkward windfall. It's too small to do anything extravagant with. But this amount of money would easily cover a nice weekend in San Francisco with the wife, even taking friends up there out to dinner. And I'd take a hundred bucks and give it to charity.
  5. $10,000. Not to brag, but I've won ten grand before, though not in a lottery, so I should know what to do with this amount. Of course in reality it went into savings and bills, though I did buy a new iMac with it. If I won the same today, I wouldn't blow it on a new computer because I don't need one yet. Instead, I'd whisk the wife off to a week in Paris. We're frugal people, so I imagine we could only burn through about six grand of it. I'd spend the remainder on a small trip for myself, going to some destination that the wife has no interest in. Surely there'd still be a few hundred bucks left over, and that would go to charity too.
  6. $100,000. Now we're getting serious. Yet not serious enough to, say, buy a house. So seeing as how I don't need a new car yet, this hundred grand would just go into more travel! And perhaps I'd spread the joy by hosting a nice party in town for a hundred of my closest friends. Charities would of course benefit too; I reckon I'd shoot them at least five grand. And last but not least, I'd tuck about $10K into an account for my 7-year-old niece's college fund. It's technically putting the money into savings, but for a good cause.
  7. $1,000,000. With a cool million, I'd buy a house. Thanks to today's crippled real estate market, I could finally find a decent place in LA for $700K, maybe a cute little Spanish revival with a big yard and lots of sun so I can grow fruit. The rest would go into travel, my niece's college fund (Hopefully $100K would pay for four years of most schools by the time she's 18), and charitable causes.
  8. $10,000,000. You may have been thinking, Hey Mark, you're an indie filmmaker... Why wouldn't you spend any of your winnings on making a movie? It's true, I've made two features for well under a million dollars, and I could do it again. But why? Why, when there are so many more fun things to waste money on? Don't get me wrong - I'd shoot a feature again in a heartbeat. But for all the lawsuits and egos and heartaches involved, I'm in no rush to spend a great deal of my own cash on a film again. But for ten million? Sure, I'd make a film. Maybe two films. Because you see, I've also learned that if a filmmaker wants his films to actually make money, he really needs to drop some serious coin on nabbing an A-list star who will sell the picture, and the right producers reps and publicists to get it seen and sold. That's how the game works. Even if the film went nowhere, I'd still have enough left over to buy a nice house in LA - and one in New Jersey, too (don't laugh; my wife's from the Jersey shore and it's quite nice out there). I'd never have to work again anyway.
  9. $100,000,000. It boggles my mind that some people have actually won this much in a lottery, even after taxes. That's frankly too much for most folks to deal with. But not for me! Before any greedy third cousins can come out of the woodwork, I'd set up a production company and start cranking out a $5-10 million movie every couple of years, and presumably I'd make some money back on that venture. Naturally, the houses, the vacations, the charities, and my niece would be well taken care of. I'd become a more serious art investor, too. And set up a scholarship somewhere (or even better, an "I'll pay off your student loan for you" situation, which I prefer because it's helping those who already made it through college to get on with their lives debt-free). What wouldn't I buy is the more interesting question. Fancy cars? I don't care one whit about them. Private jets? Waste of money. Mansions? No, small houses are more my style. Personal assistants? I can tie my own shoes, thank you. Oh, okay. Perhaps a chauffeur.