[VIDEO: Chaim Topol as Tevye, in the 1971 motion picture Fiddler on the Roof, which won three Academy Awards, and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor.]
Lately we have read in the news, about certain people who have been caught in their indiscretions. At some point, they may have believed that their fortune was a license for their behavior. It is certain that others were attracted to them by that fortune. There have also been stories of people reaping millions of dollars from a state lottery, only to squander it away and subsequently ruin their lives.
But oh, no, not me, mes amis. I would be one to show the world that this need not happen.
I know this for a fact. One of my cousins was a professional baseball player. And while he was never among the real high-profile talent, his contract did run into the millions before he retired. He now lives in a very fine (and from what I'm told, very big) house, and he makes his living as a contractor, building backyard decks. No, he doesn't just own a company that builds decks; HE builds decks.
This essay is to demonstrate, through the depiction of four scenarios, what would happen to me were I to be so fortunate, be it winning the lottery, writing the next great American novel, or just having it fall into my lap. It includes certain prudent measures, not the least of which would be to have a long and serious conversation with that cousin of mine; you know, what's okay, what's not okay. After about thirty percent going to taxes, and ten percent being tithed to the Church (it's the least I could do), I am assuming that I would be left with sixty percent. Other than that ...
If I won $100,000 ...
... I would settle all debts except for the house, including any funds borrowed off my inheritance. I would establish an automatic fund to contribute to the care of my parents, as well as make up for any deficiencies in my retirement portfolio. I would also trade in my current car and put a big down payment on a new one. The rest would go to the renovation of my townhouse, and getting ahead on my mortgage. The upshot is, that my life would change little, but would improve.
If I won $1,000,000 ...
... I would do all the above, except that I would keep the townhouse as an investment, and put down a huge payment on a larger one. It would have to be one of the dozen or so three-bedroom units in my neighborhood, because I love my neighborhood that much. I would get two cars instead of one; a larger one, fully loaded, for long trips, and a Smart fortwo or similar vehicle for local driving. I would also establish a fund for the care of my parents, where they would draw from the interest. My life would change, but not go crazy.
If I won $10,000,000 ...
... I would do all the above, except that I would find an estate in the middle of town with a large carriage house and a servant's cottage, to create a neighborhood within a neighborhood, cordoned off by a combination of fencing and clever landscaping. My future wife and I (it could happen) would live in the main house, with a separate entrance for at least two boarders, most likely expatriates from the Philippines who work in the home health care industry. There would be a quarter-acre garden for flowers and produce, and a shed for chickens, all under the care of a semi-retired couple living in the carriage house above the three- or four-car garage. The guest cottage would be for a retired priest, who would say private (Traditional Latin) Mass in the chapel to be built on the property.
[IMAGE: Artists rendering of Hundredfold Farm, a cohousing project near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Used without permission or shame.]
If I won $100,000,000 ...
... I would do all the above, and quit my day job. Instead of tithing to the Church, I would set up an endowment with the amount in question, to disperse the interest off the principle, accepting only membership in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (because there's something about being "sovereign" ...). In addition, instead of buying an estate, I would buy property, either in the Blue Ridge, western Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, or southern Ohio, and build a village. It would follow the “cohousing” model, and would hold between twenty-four and thirty-six residences, or up to about three hundred people. Solicitations would be sent out to Catholic homeschooling families, for whom would be secured low-interest loans to begin their new lives. We would establish a corporation to oversee the planning, design, and construction, and later govern it as a homeowners association (only we'd call it a "board of selectmen" presided over by a "mayor" and "vice-mayor"). There would be a common house to function as a "village hall", a chapel, a cooperative-owned workshop managed by a guild, a cooperative-owned general store, something resembling a post office, and an adjoining working farm with a produce stand.
In the second, third, and fourth scenario, I would hire an accountant to manage the fortune.
In the third and fourth scenario, I would hire an accountant to manage the fortune, and a lawyer to protect it from the riff-raff.
In the fourth scenario, I would be designated the village idiot, as “all day long I'd biddy biddy bum.”