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The Contrarian

January 11, 2016

I called my mother yesterday to fill her in on her grandson’s status in the hospital (all good news) and when I’d finished reassuring her that CJ’s progress was slow but steady, the subject changed to the lottery, which as you probably know is now worth over a billion dollars.


“Why haven’t you bought me a lottery ticket?” she asked.


“They don’t sell them at the hospital, where I’ve been spending most of my time,” I answered. “Besides, you’re ninety-one years old and don’t need a billion dollars. You don’t spend the money you have.”


In spite of the fact that I often have fun at my mother’s expense, I admire her for working hard all her life and managing to turn my late father’s paychecks (along with her own) into a sizable portfolio. My mother takes enormous pride in what she and my father accomplished, so I was surprised at her response to a hypothetical question I put to her: “Would you rather end your days having earned and saved a few million dollars or would you give that up for winning a fifty million dollar lottery?”


For me the choice was a no brainer. I’d much rather earn a few million rather than be handed fifty million through a fluke of luck. Let me be clear—I’d never turn down fifty million bucks if offered to me, even though I have every reason to believe it would ruin my life. When you can have anything you desire, it seems to me that precious little would have any value. Yes, it would be a joy (and challenge) to dispose of the money by giving it away to needy causes, but at the end of my days when I’m rocking on a porch and reflecting back on my life, I’d rather bask in my accomplishments rather than attribute my wealth to a single stroke of luck--something I have no right to take pride in.


When I mentioned this to my mother, she responded like I was nuts. “Only a fool would turn down fifty million dollars in exchange for only a few million.”


“What about pride of achievement?” I asked. “There isn’t any if a machine spits out numbers for you and another plucks them from oblivion.”


I heard a tired sigh on the other end of the phone.


“What can you do with fifty million bucks that you can’t do with five million? Even now you can afford just about anything you want but you spend precious little. You buy day-old bread from the store and convince yourself it tastes better because it’s had time to rest, and by that I mean grow stale.”


“Where do you come up with these crazy ideas? No person in their right mind would exchange a few million for fifty million, under any circumstance!”


My goal had been to compliment my mother’s financial achievement, but like most things involving my mother, this, too, blew up in my face. “So you’re saying I’m not in my right mind?”


Another sigh on the phone.


So I ask you, dear readers, am I out of my mind? Would you rather earn five million dollars through sweat and sacrifice or be handed a much larger sum simply because you happened to be in possession of a winning ticket? Which would feel better at the end of your life, when your youth is gone and your energy spent, when you’re alone and rocking on a porch somewhere?


Of course if you pick the fifty million you could be rocking on a porch located on your own private island. Select pride of accomplishment and…and…the more I think about it the better fifty million sounds.


As Rosanne Roseannadanna once said, “Never mind.”




Note: Hopefully, CJ will be out of the hospital next week and I should be back to leaving comments on your blogs. Thanks for your patience, and take care. 




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It seems to me that your mother's favourite occupation is pushing your buttons. And for some reason you refuse to mollify her ... Besides from what you have written about her if you tried mollification she would probably eat you alive!
By: The Broad on January 11, 2016
You are out of your mind for arguing with your mother! I don;t think she quite understood what you were saying, since she already has the pride you speak of and only sees the math. I do however agree with you, the lottery winnings often (more than 50% go bankrupt) than not change a persons life in a negative way. Remember that old TV show with John Bairdsford Tipton, "The Millionaire?"
By: cranky on January 11, 2016
Honestly, I'd take the $50 mil. Here's why: Either way I'd have the bit of security I want. Beyond that, money matters little to me. But think of how much more good you could do with $50 million dollars vs $5 million dollars! I'd set up a trust with instructions to seek out and fund needy causes. I would in no way want control of the $50 mil, because as you say, it likely would change your life, and NOT for the better.
By: Scott Park on January 11, 2016
If I am ever in that position I may even get get back to you to let you know...... :)
By: John on January 11, 2016
Your mom struggles with your pious attitude towards the hypothetical scenario... given the choice. Afterall, it is what you do with the money that matters.
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 11, 2016
Let me think about that one. Sure, I'd take the cash. But yeah, earning it is something I could have pride in.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on January 11, 2016
If I had to choose, yeah, I'd choose fifty million dollars. But, since that has as much chance of happening as I have of having FIVE million, the point is moot. I've heard that people who become millionaires never end up happy. I doubt that, but if someone would give me a chance, I'd let them know. Promise. Good news about CJ!
By: Al Penwasser on January 11, 2016
I'll take the 50 million thank you very much. I'll give away most of it but keep enough so that I won't have to worry, a few million should do it. pride of accomplishment? what you create in your life is where your pride should rest. give me the 50 million and I will still have pride in all the art works I have created that will outlast me.
By: ellen abbott on January 11, 2016
I have absolutely no problem with getting a lot of money from a contest. You can accomplish just as much whether your earn the money or spend the money...really. Money is just a tool, don't think about turning it down. Good news about your young man. I am sure he wants to be out of that hospital.
By: Tabor on January 11, 2016
Well now- first I would have to buy a lottery ticket. That's not happening! If some one handed me the money I might take it BUT from what all I have heard about it negatively affecting people's lives I am not sure it would be wise. But it would be fun to donate to help others. That being said- your Mom sure can twist things around. We are all so happy about CJ's progress! He's one lucky guy to have the parents and friends he has. Give him our best wishes and a some BIG hugs from your fan club!
By: Kathe W. on January 11, 2016
I’m like your mother in that I have money because I saved, not because I earned a lot, and, again like she, trading what I now have for millions and millions more than I now have would be a no-brainer. For one thing, it wouldn’t take away my desire to work, it would just mean that I could work at what I wanted when I wanted because the need to earn money would be gone. Second, money doesn’t represent “buying what I want” but rather having choices and security. (For instance, I would replace my roof and gutters sooner, and I would have the driveway repaved.) I’m also like your mother in that if I won that big lottery, I wouldn’t anticipate living substantially different because I could already live substantially different if I wanted, but I don’t (for instance, I could afford to have the roof replaced and the driveway repaved, but it would be mean taking out of savings instead of living on Social Security alone. The way that I’m completely unlike your mother is that I can’t even being to imagine buying a lottery ticket, gambling being utterly abhorrent to me. I think lotteries make people look stupid, which means that those who win them profited from stupidity rather than intelligence.
By: Snowbrush on January 11, 2016
Do you ever suspect that, just maybe, your mother is quicker on her feet than you?
By: Snowbrush on January 11, 2016
Loved Snowbrush's answer above--great news about CJ!!
By: fishducky on January 11, 2016
good to get a dose of your mother here. :) definitely a sign that things are returning to more 'normal' in chatty's land...
By: TexWisGirl on January 11, 2016
I'd much rather be handed the money. I could blow through $50 million in no time at all. I'd buy a million dollar house, a couple of cars, then I'd get some kids through surrogates, I'd do a lot of traveling, blow money on hookers, probably buy a boat, maybe move to Portland, go to one of those fat farms to get my weight under control, buy a yacht (not a super yacht), buy a house in Santa Barbara so I could live down there and have access to my yacht. I'd need to hire a captain and crew because I don't know anything about sailing. Did I mention hookers? Yeah that.
By: Michael Offutt on January 11, 2016
I'm glad to hear CJ is recovering well. That's great news! Morally and ethically you're right about the 5 million. However, as time goes on and money's tight despite working my butt off for so many years, the 50 million starts looking pretty damn good.
By: Lexa Cain on January 11, 2016
I recently got caught up in the lotto mania and bought a ticket. Then as I thought about how that much money would corrupt the people I love, I prayed vehemently that I would not win. Seems my prayers were answered:)) What money can't buy is health and I am so glad CJ is regaining his. Hurry home CJ.
By: Arkansas Patti on January 11, 2016
If you were in your right mind, you'd take me to England and France. So there you go. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 11, 2016
There's satisfaction in living on your own money. sure I'd take the fifty million.
By: red on January 11, 2016
Great news concerning CJ! Was your mom around during the Depression? Mine was. Thus the washing and re-use of Styrofoam take-out containers, and ripping paper towels in half before they were called Select-A-Size.
By: Val on January 11, 2016
While i wouldn't mind earning it, i'd be glad to accept any amount that i won. It would be nice to be a philanthropist, it's what i always wanted to be when i grew up.
By: messymimi on January 11, 2016
Great to read that CJ is on his way to release. We continue sending good thoughts and prayers. Your conversations with your mom are hilarious and could make the stuff of a great book! Earning does something for self esteem to be sure. However I have convinced myself if I ever won a lottery and it was a big payout, I'd set up a foundation to seed research, charities and other organizations trying to make life better. I think giving away a fortune would feel wonderful. However, I think I've only purchased one lottery ticket in my life. Maybe I should get started huh?
By: Tom Cochrun on January 11, 2016
It took a lot for me to put my hand in my purse, take out the money to get the winning ticket...just saying:) I would never turn down 50 million but I have a hard time earning that even in Monopoly. I think many people have had a life filled with ups and downs and most have worked hard to attain what they have so if they win...good for them. On the other hand, it has been found that most winners lose all the money! I bought a People magazine once, a few years ago showing many people who won big and all lost it mainly due to overspending. They bought a luxury home and cars for themselves and their kids. They took trips around the world and continued to buy not thinking about the taxes on the home or the upkeep. Most lost the money within 5 yrs. When most people play the lotto and they win $5, do they save it? I bet most buy more tickets and then lose anyway. I am glad your son is doing better and will be home soon. It sounds like your mom and you are close because she knows how to push your buttons. reminds me of my mom and me
By: Birgit on January 11, 2016
I've worked really hard all my life and I'm good at what I do at work. I have the pride of accomplishment from that...sadly, without a single damn million. So yes, I'd take the money and my husband could quit his job that he hates, and I could quit my job that doesn't pay all that much and doesn't give me enough vacation time to see family. I'm honest enough to admit that it probably would be better to win a million or two, as opposed to hundreds of millions. With CJ getting close to being released from the hospital, I bet you feel like you already won a jackpot!
By: Pixel Peeper on January 11, 2016
Your Mom sounds fun, and I hope CJ returns home soon. His news is quite good!
By: Michael Manning on January 11, 2016
I'd pick door number 2 Bob. I've had my eyes on that Porscha Carrera. :)
By: Rick Watson on January 12, 2016
I'd rather have 50 million, but I'm lazy; you're not crazy. I admire you for taking pride in earning it on your own. (Conversations with my mother are exactly the same!)
By: Mitchell is Moving on January 12, 2016
I see that your mother is as feisty as ever. Interesting question...rather earn or win? Like you I am fine with having worked hard and feeling financially secure, I don't yearn for a windfall. BUT the volatility of the stock market always has me a bit on edge for the long term. If I had a chance for 50 million, I would treasure the "reduction of worry" It's hard to know with certainty if i would ever take anything for granted. I have been poor in my life so now I have an real appreciation for how blessed I am.
By: Cheryl P. on January 12, 2016
I bought a Powerball ticket today (just one) but I also added the Multiplier. So when I win, I won't have won 1.5 billion, I'll actually be into the lottery for 3 billion!
By: Catalyst on January 12, 2016
No idea what I'd do, but you have easily the most varied and interesting comments of any blog I've read recently. Or ever. Cheers
By: Mike M on January 12, 2016
One of things that most do not want to accept is that everything we have in this world is given to us by our Heavenly Father. Hence, the reason why pride is such a sin. For even when someone has worked hard to earn a good living, their ability and desire to work hard was given to them by our Heavenly Father. Oh, and it is good to hear that your son is still doing good.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on January 12, 2016
All I can say is I'd like to have the chance to compare the two choices..LOL. So glad CJ is doing well.
By: Bouncin Barb on January 13, 2016
I'm not allowed to enter the lottery as my partner works for Camelot, but I hear a great deal of fascinating stories about some of the big Jackpot winners.
By: LL Cool Joe on January 13, 2016
I think the chances of winning a lottery is very very bleak, but the expectations are very high.
By: Haddock on January 14, 2016
Well I am certainly not going to say to 50 million dollars, but I do see your point. If you earn something you probably will be a little more appreciative. Glad to hear CJ is doing better. Take care.
By: Mr. Shife on January 15, 2016

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