What To Do With $1,000,000

By | Thursday, March 22, 2012 1 comment
When I was in my late 20s, I was hired on at a very large financial company. Large enough that they brought on 25-50 new employees almost every month at that location. So one thing they did to streamline their hiring process was have all the new hires for that month start on the same day. They would all be brought in to one room, and spend most, if not all, of the day going through all the basic new hire stuff. An HR person walked through all the general company rules and benefits and such, we filled out all our paperwork, they gave us pages of reference material on where the best parking was and what restaurants were in the area. All pretty typical first day processes. One HR person could get all of that repetitive stuff out of the way for the month in a single day.

One thing they did when we first got there was have everybody go around the room to introduce themselves. You had to say your name, what department you were going to be working for, and what you would do with a million dollars if you suddenly came into that amount of money tax free. It was clearly an ice-breaker type of question, and used to help people loosen up a bit from the stress of starting a new job. So one by one, people would recite their answers. The last question solicited mostly the types of responses you'd expect: one person wanted to travel, another would buy a Ferrari, another would buy a new house, another wanted to go to Las Vegas... People started repeating each other around then. My turn finally came up...

"Pay bills."

That was the entirety of my answer. Not that I had a million dollars' worth of bills, of course, but that was the first time I'd ever given any consideration to the "what would you do with a million dollars" question. No one had ever expressly asked the question of me before, and the notion that I would suddenly come into such a large pile of money was such a remote fantasy that you might as well ask, "Which solar system would you visit if you had to take a vacation outside the Milky Way?" It's just not going to happen, so why bother putting any time into thinking about it?

Since then, though, I have given the question some thought, largely because I was struck by how A) the question was considered common enough to be used in a situation like that, and B) that everyone did indeed have a ready answer. Why was that something I'd never thought about, and what did that say about me?

I spent about five years noodling the question off and on. I noticed that even my "extreme" fantasy scenarios usually revolved around still-fairly-practical uses, like automating house functions or installing solar panels.

The question really isn't about the money, per se. It's a means to examine your self-indulgent priorities. What's important to you if money is not a concern? I concluded that I was more interested focusing myself inward and being able to avoid dealing with the outside world (by becoming essentially more self-sufficient while not eating into my free time).

For some reason, the question popped into my head again within the past few months. And I find my answers today are quite different. First would be to hire a writer and artist to develop a comic (web and/or print) based on my old Propaganda of the Deed idea. I tried starting to write it at one point, but I'm just not very good at fiction, so I'd make sure to hire someone who could do something cool based on my broad outline. The other idea I had was to create a good-sized city playset for my 6" action figures. Something more cohesive than what I had kit-bashed together, and with some more detail and levels to work with. Built up off the ground, and maybe with a sewer system underneath and some kind of harbor set-up.

And you know what both of those things have in common? Paying individuals. The money would not go to some faceless corporation, but a handful of people who work freelance doing something they (hopefully) love doing. The work would not go quickly, I'm sure, so it could conceivably be their income for months, if not a year or longer.

What do you know? I think I've grown, just by thinking about a completely impractical question!
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Matt K said...

I would probably keep doing a lot of the same things I do now, which I suppose is a good sign. Probably the main differences would be traveling more, and worrying about how I will keep funding the things I do, next year and the year after that etc., less.