What Would You Do With a Million Dollars?

October 8, 2007

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and had a million dollars?  Do you think your answers to that hypothetical question might change if you actually won a million dollars?

As I mentioned on QuickCents recently, Problogger had a cash giveaway where you were entered to win a variety of cash prizes by simply finishing the sentence, If I had a million dollars…. I didn’t read through all 742 answers but below is a paraphrased list of some of the responses:

  • Give money to charity
  • Fund a 529 Plan
  • Research cancer
  • Retire early
  • Travel
  • Pay off mortgage
  • Tithe to church
  • Pay down student loans
  • Quit my job
  • Spoil my family
  • Pay off credit card
  • Buy a house
  • Invest in my business
  • Buy a car
  • Invest the money
  • Buy a computer
  • Go back to school
  • Buy an island
  • Go on vacation
  • Buy parents a house
  • Ski everyday
  • Buy stuff
  • Take care of my family
  • Hire a maid
  • Become a writer
  • Buy a boat

There were many recurring themes such as get out of debt, charitable giving, helping family members, investing, and travel but my favorite answer was:

“If I had a million dollars… I don’t have an idea what would I do.”

It’s hard to say exactly what you’d do with that much money. Making your own million dollar list is a good exercise because it can highlight what things may be holding you back in life (debt) and also what you’d really like to do with your life (travel/philanthropy/etc).  But I wonder once you actually had the cold hard cash in hand, minus taxes of course, would your plans change? 

Despite inflation and the falling dollar, $1 million is still a lot of money; the kind of money that can really change your life.  Is it possible to say now what you’d actually do if you had that big lump of money sitting in your bank account?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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34 Responses to What Would You Do With a Million Dollars?

  • Rebecca

    I would buy 40 acres of plow able land. I would build an organic farm that only relies on solar power and wind generators for electricity. The farm would have its own spring fed well for my future animals (chickens, goats, ducks, cows, pigs and fish) and my family to take care of ourselves while being off the grid. I would have a couple bee hives for honey, both for use in baking, and for retail. The bees will ensure steady pollination of my fields for a better harvest season. I will plant berry bushes (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries) a couple of apple trees for future use, and sell my goods at a local farmers market for income. I want to make my own cheese, bread, pies, canned goods, jellies, and some wine as well. I would teach my kids to appreciate life and all there is to offer without the social pressures of an unstable nation lurking over their heads. Sure its a lot of work, but I am sure the good food and company will be enough to sustain a lifetime of happiness!

  • Shane Brinegar

    I would hire a custody lawyer and get my baby girl back home where she belongs and wants to be. This would make me happier than any amount of money.

  • ManyaWilson

    If I won any amount of money I would greatfull, but if i won a million dollars at any time. I would buy a much needed home of my own, and then find my parents one, and then leave Alaska for good. My house would be five bedrooms, with nice size closets in them, along with a descent sized backyard with a fence around it.

  • Doretha d. allen

    If i won a million dollars I would open a family crisis center to provide adolescent and family counseling, to provide tutoring, structure and supervision and any other services needed to stablize the family unit. I would also like to help my daughter and my grandson who presently in college pay their tutition, pay my tutition for grad school. i would like to buy a house and realy decorate it the way i like. then with the remaingd money i would like to focus on helping the needy as i have always done to the best of my ability.

  • Amy

    …Or I could just buy a nice house!!! And I guess invest any leftovers O.o

  • Amy

    I have no idea what I would do if I got a million dollars so I might as well just either save it or invest it. =D

  • Patty

    My husband says every day ” I wish I had a million dollars!” If I did I would pay off our house & bills. Then buy a B&B on a lake with mountains and a sail boat for my husband. It is my dream to run a B&B and hopefully my hubby would help me too! I would buy some investment in for the youngest great nephew or niece that they could not use until they are 25.

  • Seth

    I would invest half (500K) in bonds or mutual funds. Live on the other half (500K) at 50k per year = 10 years of work free living. My invested money would be somewhere around 2 million dollars in 10 years; therefore, I would take the interest ,- taxes while re-investing the original 500k. This leaves me with around 1.5M . I would then buy a house (not a mansion!!) and consider settling down with someone. In 10 years, I’ll have another 2 M and probably up my re-investment amount to 1 million for “retirement”.

    This is how the rich stay rich without working!

  • carlos taveras

    if i had a million dollars, i’d be rich!!

  • Don Ramone

    I have $1 million dollars in cash sitting in at least 10 banks and don’t know what to do with it. Hey, at least it’s insured and safe.
    I live a very simple lifestyle and own my home.
    I can buy everything I could possibly ever want for about $100,000.
    Car, computers, TV’s, vacations.
    Then again I’m single, not married and no kids.
    DO NOT invest in the stock market-they are all liars and you can’t trust the company news or the CEO’s looting the company.
    If you like to gamble go for it maybe you’ll get lucky.
    Many people are stupid when it comes to money…and many other things for that matter.
    A million dollars IS a lot of money for anyone-don’t be greedy.
    Buy what you need and a few things you want and enjoy life and help others.

  • notsofast

    P.S. can anyone tell me what kind of tax ill pay on 2 million in Texas, ive figured by going to a investing website they had a calculator and for investable moneys which i dont think this is itll be about $287,000.00 does that sound right///

  • notsofast

    Well im about to get 2 million in a lawsuit and i have no clue what to do. i want to invest and double what i have in about three years does anyone now if thats possible. i would buy a second car for me and my wife and since i still have a job probably keep renting with my income and wait till i have alot more than what i originally got, i would try to go on a honeymoon i never got to go on one either and set up a college trust fund for my daughter she is 1 month and 2 days today…other than that probably not much else im 26 y/o and got alot of time left to make more money and buy midlife crisis cars and all that…oh by the way in 3 years i will be out of a job (related to the lawsuit) so definently fo back to college and get a masters in civil engineering …one catch though becasue of why lawsuit is going to get me 2 mil.. i am now deaf so maybe ill try to live off the intrest after i double it in the stock market, not the way i wanted to get rich with losing my hearing and all but ill take what i can get when i can

    If life throws you lemons make lemonade

  • candy

    well for me i would so have the meanest party
    buy myself a couple of businesses
    invest half of the family
    spoil my family
    id do so much…

  • Indy Samra

    Personally, I’d recommend diversifying in a well thought out portfolio of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Even in today’s economy, there are still investments such as Tax Free Municipal Bonds that pay 7%+. Laddering your investments in 7% bonds, you could successfully ensure to receive monthly income, totaling $70k per year. Best part is, your investment is liquid at the fair market price, any business day.

  • rama

    Million dollars is not that much is it? Well for someone like me from a foreign country it is quite handful…I would buy rental properties all over the place in my country, rent it and then arrange to have money rolling into my account (after the taxes are taken care of, so I know what is in bank is mine to spend) and then go on world tours.

    Do charity/helping/living/travelling/ everything out of this rolling money….not a bad thought πŸ™‚

  • John

    It is so true that life can throw you many curves and you really never know what may come next but I can tell you that it is more than possible to have a million dollars if you do it right. I begin saving when I was 40 years old. Not a penny before that.

    By retirement, because of a small inheritance my wife would get, and the money we had saved we would have been worth a million dollars. That was only 20 years of saving to a 401k and an IRA. It can be done but you must do it. I did not take big risks. My investments were conservative but at least part in the markets. I said would have because that is where life got in the way. She found someone else and we divorced.

    If you are in your 30’s right now you can be worth a million or more by retirement and that is the perfect time to have it. The trick is getting there and then keeping it.

  • Bill Hutson

    I already work over 100 hours per week so that I can sustain Table Talk Ministries, we make free home repairs for the elderly and the disabled.
    First, I would eliminate the waiting list, we currently have 36 on it.
    Then I would purchase a couple newer trucks with tool beds and trailers so we could be more effective in our work.
    Lastly, I would be able to start a proper ad campaign to bring in donations, (they’re tax deductible).
    I actually, might splurge on a vacation/honeymoon, I haven’t had a vacation since 1982, I got married in 2002 and we never got to go on a honeymoon.
    I would continue to work until I knew for sure that Table Talk could become self-sustaining.

  • Wyndm

    oh and also i would help others if I could cause i know what its like to not have well good luck to everyone on there journeys and GODBLESS.

  • Wyndm

    oh yea and eat everyday hehe

  • Wyndm

    well me if I had a million dollars I would get myself out of my truck ive been living in my truck for ever its not that I dont like to work its just that every job i get doesint pay enough to live in this city (lasvegas) but I would trick out my truck and buy a nice RV with a shower and a washer and dryer that way im always clean and have a place to cook and anywhere I go ill always have home with me and ill buy a building start my recording studio that would be great man i would love that. God would I love that.

  • Scott

    Well, I was terminated at a 6 figure job illegally. They fired me due to the fact that I made a workers comp claim. Due to the extreme behavior of the firm I will be rewarded 2.5 Million and my lawyer gets the other 2.5 Million. Moral of the story:
    Get fired by a very successful research firm with a crap legal staff. Then get ready for a 2 year battle in near poverty conditions. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, just make sure its not a f_n freight train. I will manage it very conservatively. I sure as hell wont let anyone know I am worth that much,
    until its very very necessary, for example, arriving at a highschool reunion in a Viet Nam Era Huey. Revenge of the geeks, how sweet it is.
    I also plan to return to lawschool. One day my hope is to have several 2.5 million dollar cases in my portfolio. Increase the number of patents I have and sue the poor bastards who try and steal them. I do love the courts. It is indeed a level playing field if you have the money or a good case.
    My sister, actually won the california lottery. Now shes divorced working as a airport gift shop trainer. Almost crippled, she holds her family together by keeping her nose to the grinder. If she would have divorced her husband at the onset of winning the cash, she would have been living like the princess she is.
    Her husband snorted half of it up his nose and drank the other half. He is broke as the toys of christmas past. Lessons learned. Stay cognitive. Dont let it go to your head, by any means. Stay as cheap as you already are and invest in a law degree.

  • Tiff

    I would totally build a mansion, then park a motor home/trailor inside of it so that I could be like “Yeah πŸ˜€ I live in a trailor.”

  • Maraluna

    Well, if I had that money, I would spend it to fullfil my dreams.
    -Travel around the world( or where I want to go)
    -Buy a nice small, comfortable house somewhere in England( cuz I love this country)
    -Open live music club
    -Buy books that I haven’t read

    …so , I would have club to make money, house to live, books to read…thats all πŸ™‚

  • Birgitta

    I would get a house near the sea; a house with a deck and a lovely view at the ocean. In summer time I would enjoy to go swimming on the beach right down the house or just to sit on the deck and paint or read a good book. That is what I would do with a million dollars.

  • Lisa

    If I had a million bucks I’d first pay off my house and then my credit card debts. Then I would buy myself and my mom a new car. I would buy my son a used but good car,(he’s 17). I would sit down with my mom and clear her of ALL of her debts,(they’re steep). Then I would take me and my mom out to shop for brand new clothes. Then I would pay taxes for our family cabin for the next 5 years and buy a brand new boat motor. Then I’d bank the rest and live sensibly.

  • Richard

    well i will put it to you this way i am on ssi i live in a trailer park i found out that the park i live in is closeing down june 30 2008 and the cily where i live tells me that my trailer is to old to move so it has to be destoyed i get $643 a month i cant get a house i have to find an appt i can afford appts rent for $550 i still have to pay for heat phone and food to last me the hole month and now that my home is being destored i found that i will get a bill for that $3000.00
    i dont see me here much longer all i have to say if i had a mill i would live for many more years
    but as it stands now i dont see it ………

  • Randy

    I trade options part-time, earning roughly ~$40K per annum, while maintaining a regular day job. I’m an relatively unaggressive swing trader and therefore, I use a conservative amount of my capital to maintain my positions. I’ve been in this part-time business for approximately 7 years.

    If I were to get an additional one million dollars, I could immediately increase my business to earning $250K/yr w/o any additional risk since I employ a strong money management regimen. That’s essentially what I’d do and then I’d quit my day job, attend graduate school part-time, engaged my other physical and intellectual hobbies with a greater deal of time during the normal week.

  • cthulhu

    I actually have this problem.

    I’ve been working for twelve years at a high-pressure job. I’m now less than fifty thousand dollars away from one million. Of that, half is in retirement accounts and half is cash. I have a passive income stream outside the retirement accouints of about seven thousand dollars per month (non-retirement). .

    I’m utterly at a loss as to what I should do next. Part of me wants to stop working so hard and enjoy the money. But part of me is too scared to do so.

    I’m thirty seven years old. To keep my million intact, I’d need to increase my capital by inflation each year (three percent of my million every year). That figures out to thirty thousand dollars next year out of about ninety thousand in cash income. I also need to pay taxes (about ten grand in all). So, out of ninety, I have a take home income of fifty g — which means four grand per month, after taxes and reinvestment.

    I’ve got rent of 2300 per month but no other debt and a one year old child.

    I’m terrified of what to do next. Anyone have any ideas?

  • Sean Epeprson

    It is an interesting thought, but the real thought is how much money do you really need? For some of us a million would set us up for the rest of our life, but it would be a meager one. If you really want a great life what does it take? Two million? Ten Million? It all depends on if you want to sit at home and grow a garden or travel the word seeking new play toys. After you figure out what you want, then you have to find out how to get the money.

  • abignobody

    I wondered this for years. I’ve been investing for about 14 years, steadily increasing our portfolio, but I didn’t think we would be in retirement territory for thirty years or so (we’re in our mid-thirties)

    However, I made a rather big stock purchase about five years ago and suddenly our portfolio is almost $300,000. It’s not a million, but we’re looking at passing into the seven figure territory within 12-14 years. Suddenly it looks like a million might actually happen.

    Now that the possibility is there, I find myself agreeing with Kimberly. It’s not an unlimited amount of money (it’s $1000 one thousand times), but it is significant. If we had it today I don’t think we would suddenly start spending like crazy. We’d probably travel a little more and make sure our health is in good shape, but otherwise my wife and I would keep our current jobs. As the bank balance has grown we’ve realized that life isn’t about money but about quality. A larger bank balance (and the passive income it generates) gives you the real treasure… TIME. Time to spend with family, time to do what interests you, and time NOT having to go to a job that you don’t enjoy in order to earn your way out of indentured servitude. I find that I value my time now much more than a dollar.
    One final thought: you don’t have to get lucky and hit a big 10X stock in order to do very well. If I were a college teacher I would tell every single student I worked with one thing- the very day you get your diploma, write a check for $250 and stick it in an index fund (no load). Continue making this modest car-payment-sized investment every month of your working life and never, never skip it or take the money out. Once that check is written spend the rest as you like

    Retirement solved.

    And if I was a parent I’d find a way to scrape together $5000 and put it in a fund for my child that would mature when he/she hit 65. 5K now will look paltry in 65 years, but the knowledge that I’d have given my kid a million to retire on would be priceless.

  • Jason

    Asking yourself this question should give some insight into what you truly want to do with your life (Office Space anyone πŸ™‚ )

    Sure 1 million dollars could last if lived frugally. But where’s the fun in that? I would certainly find ways to leverage that money to secure more income.

  • Ben

    Good ideas Kimberly! I agree, to me it’s worth it to spend less if you can spend your time doing something you enjoy, rather than working at a job you’re not crazy about.

    I will disagree with the comment, “In the whole scheme of things a million dollars isnÒ€ℒt a whole lot of money”. It’s a lot of money to me. Here in the midwest at least, a million dollars would be enough to pay off our mortgage and allow me to spend a lot more time at home with our son and much less time working.

  • Kimberly

    Love this question… I think it is possible to know what you would do with a million dollars. I think everyone should know ahead of time what they would do just in case. Life throws funny things at you and it may be far fetched but certainly not impossible that this could happen….

    A million dollars could last and could be gone quickly. In the whole scheme of things a million dollars isn’t a whole lot of money. Change your life, yes! But it could be gone with a few major purchases. ….. I would quit my job for sure, buy a condo and invest invest, invest. Learn everything I can about opening a small business and live happily ever after. I would stay frugal, buy cheap, probably even still use coupons. But having the opportunity to to allow my husband and myself to stop working for other people would be the best gift the million would give.


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