Yesterday on Twitter I mentioned that the majority of my office conversations revolved around various aspects of winning the lottery. Those conversations only got more frequent and intense as the day progressed. Fantasizing about Lottery winnings has reached a fevered pitch now that the Mega Millions jackpot has reached over $500,000,000. Do you see all of those zeros?

Our office conversations revolved largely around the most common questions like, "What would you buy?" "Would you quit your job?" "Would you even come into work the next day?" Those questions somehow evolved into, "If we were in an office pool, and we won, who would you trust to take the ticket to the lottery office?" The conversation then went into a perceived assessment of our coworkers' general trustworthiness, dependability, street-smarts, and overal savvy. Somehow this eventually turned into, "If our whole office was part of a Hunger Games style competition, who would win?" As you can see, we got off track. I work with a great bunch of people and we often have these types of conversations at work. It makes the day go by quickly.

In the last few days the buzz about this world record jackpot has exploded all over the front page of newspapers and as the top story of international news broadcasts. It's turned normally level headed people into luck chasing lottery fools, and run of the mill players into regular psychotics, hoping their years of playing will finally pay off.

Wendy and I don't often play the lottery, but we've been known to drop a few dollars here and there when the jackpot climbs above $150 million or so. Why? We feel it's worth our "investment" once the dollar value of tbe payout begins to surpass our 1 in 175,711,536 chances of winning the jackpot (yes, those are the real odds for a jackpot payout on a single ticket purchase).

We realize our odds at actually winning are pretty slim, but our odds are the same as everyone else's, so why not give it a shot? Five dollars in tickets to this week's half a billion dollar lottery drawing will at least let us dream pretty big for a few days. To us, and to many of our friends, the daydreaming and scheming that goes along with playing the lottery is worth the $5 we'll pay to play. 

When you buy a ticket, you know it's a true long shot, but you just can't help but start daydreaming. As soon as I leave the store my mind immediately starts in on the "what ifs." 

What if we win, how will I react? Who will I tell? Who will I call? Will I stay calm? Will I freak out? Will I pass out? How will I make sure someone doesn't steal my ticket if I pass out? How will I claim the prize if I have to drive 90 miles to Richmond? Can I get a police escort? Can I get a secret service escort for the police escort? How paranoid am I???

After the drama of winning and prize collection dies down, if we win the lottery Wendy and I have got some pretty grand plans. Some we see eye to eye on, while others are a bit divergent. However, with a $389 million lump sum payout, you can have plenty of divergent ideas and still be quite content.

I don't think I'd quit my job immediately (I really like what I do and the people I do it with), or go on any massive shopping spree. I think the first thing we'd do is pay off our house. A lot of people would say "move" or "buy a new house," but that's not us. We love our house, and have put so much time and effort into our house that we will keep it forever if we have that ability. I couldn't stand the thought of someone taking over our renovation and making it run off the rails. We've come so far in working on our house, and there's no way I wouldn't see it through to completion. Even if we wouldn't end up living in our current house as our primary residence, I have far too much pride in what we've accomplished. I also think it would make an absolute great guest house for friends and family coming into Alexandria to visit. :-) I mean, who doesn't like guest house accommodations?

The funny thing about our lottery dreams is they seam to waffle between the practical and the over indulgent. I think you'll see the pattern develop if you continue to read on.

Once our house is all settled up, and the money is properly diversified into various investments and interest bearing accounts (this is the practical and fiscally conscious side of my brain) we'd probably buy our forever dream house. The first on the list might be the large home of our friend's that we wrote about a few weeks ago. It's just one of those "I could see myself living here for the rest of my life" type of homes.

Then I imagine we'd go through the normal "OMG we can afford to buy houses in the places we love." We'd buy homes near and far in all of our most favorite places. Some ridiculously expensive, like this nearly $8 million dollar place in Napa Valley (chump change to the winner). It's a small 1915 house on almost 26 acres.

And some even more ridiculously expensive, like this eight bedroom Grade II listed home overlooking Westminster Abbey in London for a cool $20 million.

I'm sure we'd also try to find a castle or manor house somewhere in Scotland, Ireland, or somewhere else in Europe. I mean, why wouldn't we, we won the freakin' lottery.

Ok, ok, maybe we wouldn't actually go on a giant home buying spree, but it's fun to at least dream about them. 

The thing is, my love of old homes and desire to own many homes is simple. These are places in the world we have visited and have loved. We enjoy many of them so much that we want to have a place of our own so we can go whenever we want and always have a comfortable and familiar setting. Add to it that our friends will surely travel with us, so we'll need the extra space. And if any friends are going somewhere and need a place to stay, they can just use our houses and look in on the place for us. I'm not the normal person that says they want to buy extravagant cars, jewels, or other flashy things, I'm more concerned with living a full and comfortable life and sharing those things with friends and family.

After we get over our splurge phase of dream home buying, I've long had a dream (and an agreement with a few friends) that if we ever win the lottery we're starting a software development company. Like many programmers, we've all had ideas for apps or websites that we'd love to work on but simply don't have the time. Winning $500 million frees up a lot of time with not needing to work on your day job anymore, but more importantly, it allows you to spend time and work on your ideas collectively.

The goal of this company would be to follow our dreams and work on these ideas, hoping that one or two really take off and are ultimately self sustaining. The big benefit is that we're working with talented people on things we really care about. A lot of people think I'd be crazy to start a company and keep working, but I really love software development and cultivating ideas into something real, so this is a true dream for me.

Wendy, more than anything, wants to travel. I completely agree on this. Traveling is one of the most fun and exciting things we do, but we always do it on a budget. Traveling the world without concern for cost really opens a lot of possibilities in being able to experience some amazing things in life. It's a little sad that's the case, but it's true. But I think the best part of traveling with a pocket full of millions, if you fall in love with the area, there's nothing keeping you from picking up a little house for your return trip.

Knowing us, a significant portion of our winnings would surely go to supporting pet rescue organizations and awareness, as well as to the treatment of canine lymphoma, both things very near and dear to our heart. Lulu, Mel, and Oliver could all become the poster children of our four legged and furry philanthropic efforts.

Recent photo of Mel doing a little "Cat Breading"

Beyond pet related charity, we'd also give extensively to Parkinson's disease research and treatment, as well as to the fight against juvenile diabetes. There are several other causes we'd surely select, but I won't go into depth on those.  

I'm not sure what would become of Old Town Home. Perhaps it would become Old Town Homes, or Old Town Wendy & Alex Town Home. No matter what, I don't think our DIY spirit would change, and we'd have some pretty awesome projects to talk about.


Actually, I think I do know what would happen to Old Town Home. I think a major aspect of our winnings would end up funding lots of donations to historic preservation projects and societies. So if I had it my way, I'd probably try to chronicle all of the cool old places we'd want to save and the progress in the work that would go into saving them.

Oh, and one other crazy thing I'd do. I want to go to space. I might wait for space tourism to be a little more tried and true, but I want to go to space. I've wanted to go to space since I was a little kid, and I still want to go to space today. It's one of those dreams I hope can come true even if I don't win the lottery, but the lottery would probably help it happen sooner. I know I'd vomit everywhere, and it very well may be the worst but best experience of my life, but I absolutely want to go to space.

Many (including friends and family) point out that playing the lottery is simply a "tax on the stupid," but we don't mind if you call us stupid as long as we can get caught up in the fun of daydreaming about what we might do with a windfall winnings. Five dollars is a small price to pay for that chance, no matter how slim it may be, to be rocketed to having the freedom to do what you want, when you want. Money is not the key to happiness by any means, and we realize this, but an unexpected lottery win would add a considerable amount of freedom to your life. I do think we'd focus a lot more on the difficulties and complications it might add if we actually won, but until then, the grass is always greener.

I think Thomas Jefferson covered it best when he wrote of lotteries, “Far from being immoral, they are indispensable to the existence of Man.”

So what do you think? Are you playing the lottery today? What are your plans when you win? Would you quit your job? Buy an island? Go to space? Or would your life only change a little or not at all? 

Comments 10


Kelly C.
3/30/2012 at 12:47 PM
I'm actually curious who lives in that London home - man that was a doozy! My husband came home with a ticket last night. I've never even bought one, but it is fun to dream! I'd be buying up land everywhere that I could afford. I'm so tired of everything becoming concrete jungles. I'd be on a big patch of land hopefully by a beautiful spring fed lake, probably in the Texas Hill Country. Thanks for the day dream & good luck!
Buying up land is a great plan, and a great way to conserve and keep things natural.

As for the London house, I often have the same thought whenever I see ridiculous houses in expensive places. "Who could possibly live there currently?"
3/30/2012 at 1:34 PM
I think we all dream those big dreams. When I drive by the big outdoor advertising signs with the current lottery totals, there's always a moment when my brain stutters with the 'what if' thought.

After being sure that my family was taken care of (and a couple of houses purchased, not surprisingly), I think I'd set up a charity foundation for the majority of the $. With that kind of money, you can change things - at least some things.
It's funny, as much as we say "Oh then we'd buy this and that..." in reality our approach would probably be closer to what you said. I think it would be an initial shock and spending some money, then more or less putting it somewhere that would generate interest or earnings. Then using the interest and earnings to support ourselves and do good things for others. I know we would end up putting quite a bit of it into various historic preservation projects and societies. Basically, if we win, lots of old houses win. I'm going to actually add that to the post.
3/30/2012 at 10:42 PM
Alex, It's Mike (not Sandy). Actually it was one of my Econ profs at Brown that said a lottery was nothing more than a tax on the poor and the ignorant. And yes, I threw my $5 into the office pool.
I read that the craze in ticket buying racked up close to or over $1 billion, yet only $640 million were given away, and only $300 million added since the previous drawing. Mega Millions (and the various beneficiaries) are the real winners in this whole thing.
3/31/2012 at 1:34 PM
An entire post dedicated to the 'what if you won the lottery'- brill! It made me laugh thinking about all the family dinners where this has been a hot topic for debate.
It's funny how many conversations like this I've had over the years. I didn't want it to come across snotty or anything (oh, then we'll buy a castle), just a bit of a daydream of what could happen is half a billion landed in my pocket without really having to work for it. It's a nice dream.
4/1/2012 at 6:59 AM
Even though one of the winning tickets was sold in the Baltimore area, rest assured that it wasn't us, even though we managed to win a $3 share of it by matching one white ball and the mega ball!

If we had won, I really don't think we would have changed anything, except retire of course! That would be it.
Booo, I was hoping it was at least someone we knew. Baltimore is close enough to home. Sadly, we also did not win, so nothing is really going to change here either. Oh well, at least we gave it the old college try. :-)
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