Friday, December 24, 2010

$1 Daydream (on the $168 Million Jackpot)

These days everyone is dreaming of winning the Mega Million Jackpot. Tough economy, loans, mortgages, increasing cost of living, healthcare and tuition, and many other factors explain the long lines outside the stores that sell lottery tickets, especially on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. We all know the odds are extremely low (damn those statisticians for ruining all our fun). So why do we do it? Recently my wise uncle said to us that the utility of the lottery ticket is not in the prize winnings alone. The real fun is that for as little as $1, you can fantasize about all the things you can do when you win. Think about it, can anything else worth $1 or less buy you an fantastic opportunity to dream? A small coffee? A small pack of gum? A toy ring out of a vending machine? It apparently only takes $1 to motivate me to write a new blog entry, and I’m feeling quite inspired. What a great investment! I have only until drawing time tonight, so here I go. In a way, this daydream and writing exercise near the end of the year can be a good tool for setting my goals for the new year. As it happens, we all know what we want when we have a lot of money. We just don’t realize that we can already accomplish many of those things without winning the $164million jackpot. It’s all about figuring out how we can put our time and energies into these hopes and dreams.

What is my method for picking lottery numbers? I used to write in numbers on those sheets (mostly using birthdays, days of significance, fortune cookie slip, etc). Recently though, I only do random numbers (picked by the all mighty computer) and only put a dollar on a ticket if the jackpot is over $100m (but not every time the jackpot is over $100m). I figure, random is just as good as any of my guess and the process is so much easier. It’s hard coming up with numbers all by yourself! I can’t stand using the same numbers either. And hey, all it takes is one dollar to win, I’m not putting more money down on the line. As an economist, I know that utility value is different for everyone. In my case, $1 is enough to satisfy my lottery dreams. If I had put on $5, I might as well use that $5 for a tasty beef soup noodle for dinner. and yes, before you ask, I do sometimes measure money in food form. and $168 million is a lot of beef soup noodles. haha.

Since my team at work specializes in contingency planning, I try to apply a little bit of work into this lottery dream plan. In discussion of the lottery with my coworkers, I noted that by dreaming out loud and talking about what we will do, and maybe even writing down a basic plan, we are planning for ourselves. Who knows what factors will sway us once we have those winnings? Crazy stories (and some quite tragic) had come to many previous jackpot winners. We may be calm and smart now (yes, first finish payment on house, then loans, then…), but if we win, that hot car, boat, mansion, and gadgets we don’t need and cannot afford will also seem much more tempting and distracting.

This is in no way a legal document, but for entertainment purposes only. I suppose I may put a little bit more thought into the real numbers and breakdowns if I win.

Jackpot on Dec 24, 2010 – Total $168 million. Distribution breakdown:

  1. Taxes – $84m. I know it’s less than half of the total but I’m just making my math simple here. And hey, taxes fund scholarships and stuff so it’s a good thing.
  2. My parents – $10m. This will help finish payment for the house. I also hope this will be repayment for my expensive but prestigious tuitions. My parents seriously deserve a vacation, if not world tour, then definitely a spa or resort hotel with amazing food.
  3. My close relatives (uncles, aunts, cousins) – $10m. They’ve been supportive throughout my upbringing. My uncles and aunts treated me like a daughter and my cousins are the siblings I never had. They are all very successful to begin with but I’m sure they can put the money to good use, especially the young ones starting their career and possibly starting families in the near future.
  4. Charities – $10m. At a recent book event I went to, the panelists discussed alternative ways to celebrate the holidays without excessive gifts. After all, what do we really lack? We have food, clothes, shelter, jobs, education, and good health. Do we really need another gadget or designer handbag or toy? There are many people out there who do not have the basics like food and water. Isn’t it much better to help them out and donate to charities and organizations that are doing good in the world? This holiday season I’ve looked up a few of those organizations. Amnesty International is a huge one for human rights activists. I’m also interested in various health/research orgs. I have started donating and will likely continue in small amounts even without winning the lottery, but I think if I had more money I would definitely do more to help. Human rights, education, health, arts, and wild life are some types of organizations that come to mind.
  5. Schools – $5m. This includes my high school, college, and graduate school. I think mostly my high school and college because they did more to shape who I am. My graduate school has a decent endowment and I had only spent a year there, so the bond is not quite that strong. I would probably just start scholarships, unless there are green campus initiatives. I’m not sure how much a building name costs, I’d rather buy a brick or dedicate a tree or something on the side for the future generations.
  6. Remainder – $49m…Wow, didn’t realize I still had so much left over after all that stuff above! Not going to itemize the rest but will provide a wish list in no particular order.
  • Travelling: A Europe trip with T. A Europe trip with TB. A China reunion trip with S. and W., A Brazil and Japan trip with J. Maybe throw in a cross-USA trip (via car or train) in there with a bunch of friends.
  • Personal: I actually don’t know what I really need. Basic necessities are taken care of, and I’m not particularly obsessed with hot cars (except for the Porsche Boxster Spyder, which has an awesome catalogue for ipad, go check it…). I wouldn’t mind a boat but really…how long can a person stay on a boat? I’ve done a short cruise and that was already too much.
  • Housing: I suppose an apartment in NYC and an apartment in Shanghai would be nice. Best of both worlds. The only problem is lack of storage space, which would be a hamper to my lofty goal of starting a personal library. I’m going to start a NYC book collection and do one room of that theme (black, white and gray only). New Yorker Posters. Minimalist furniture. Beautiful photo coffee books. Various NY themed decorative items, snow globes, statues, legos, building miniatures, museum postcards. In fact, I already have one snow globe and one NY book (500 buildings) to start my collection.
  • Education/Self-Improvement: I would actually go back to school as weird as that may sound. While I enjoyed my undergraduate studies as well as more in depth training in my masters program, I am always learning and reading more outside of work. I would like to get back to the investigative/intellectually challenging environment again. Maybe more science and languages this time around, since I have had plenty of English/history/political science etc in my past. Granted, even without a ton of money, I plan to read up on subjects that I’m interested in, so that I may gain an understanding into them. I just think reading alone may not be enough though. I need more discussions and writing and thinking. I need to find more people with common interests and time!

Well, I come away from this entry with some better goals and long term plans. Hopefully I’ll share the good news soon, if not a jackpot winner, I will write about how I’ve worked towards my dreams and goals. What are your plans and goals and lottery dreams? Leave it in the comments and check back next year!

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