If I Had a Million Dollars, I’d Spend It Like This

How many times have you thought about how you’d spend a million dollars if it were suddenly yours? Like a zillion times? And that was probably just this past week, right? So here’s my problem. I really want a million dollars and I’m tired of just wishing for it.

Have you ever wondered what you'd do with a million dollars? I've given it a thought or two (or more) and here's how I would spend it.

Getting a Million Dollars

Back in the 1990’s, one of the biggest hit songs was The Barenaked Ladies singing “If I Had a Million Dollars”. Imagine, they probably made a million dollars just singing about that. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? So simple and yet why didn’t any of us do it?

For most of the people who have walked the face the earth, that’s all it has really been, just a sigh, and a wishful dream. Today, while the number of millionaires in the USA is at an all-time high, for the average person, their best hope for a million dollars is probably hoping that their numbers will come up this week in the lottery. And I’m talking Pick 6 and not the Pick 3 here.  Speaking of the lottery, there would be plenty of taxes to be paid on any winning lottery ticket. The state and the feds would probably be looking at about 40% right off the top of that winning total. For a million dollars, you’d probably walk away with only about $600,000.  Why does that sound so damned disappointing?

Money Makes the World Go Round

It’s a fact: we live in a world that puts a huge emphasis on money. It’s really nothing new. Just look back as far as you’d like into history and there has always been the societal drive to have more and more money. Ok, to be fair, before we started using paper and coins, we used jewels, gold, silver, and all of that kind of stuff and people would do pretty much anything to get that. I’m pretty sure that back in the Stone Age, the guy who had the most rocks was the guy who lived in the biggest cave. Not too much different today, just check out the homes along the Pacific Coast Highway in California and see if what I just said translates into today’s money equations.

Why do I want a million dollars? If you have to ask me that question you are either the new Mother Teresa or you already have a million dollars and just don’t understand that not everyone has every creature comfort they could ever want. I mean, Jay Leno for example, has over 50 antique classic cars to play with whenever he feels like it. The garages alone he uses probably cost a million dollars.

Now you might think this is one of those personal finance posts telling you to increase your earnings and save your money from a young age, sock it away in retirement accounts, and soon you’ll be a millionaire without playing the lottery. That’s all true, but that’s not this post at all. Well, then you might think this is one of those personal finance posts telling you how to invest a million dollars if it suddenly came your way. Great idea, but again, not what this post is about. If I were a younger man, I might go the investment route, but honestly, if I got that million dollars tomorrow, I just might spend it. Having already accounted for the taxes, I’m already down to $600,000. So here are my priorities:

Reasons Why I Want a Million Dollars

Teeth don’t last forever

I need to fix my entire body. If you remember, both my wife Suzanne and I have medical issues. Besides my diabetes and heart condition, and her rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, there’s the latest tragedy, the dentist. I need dental work and although I still have (almost) all my teeth, I see what’s coming and it’s not a pretty sight. I’m 67, and I guess teeth just don’t last forever. OK, I could have taken better care of them, but that was 1978 and it’s a little late to pine.

Oh and yes, my wife is in a similar boat. In fact, she was at the dentist this week and was told that she needs a root canal and a replacement crown that will run about $2,700.91 to fix. It would be nice not to have to worry about that. I could fix her teeth, pay for a complete set for myself (let’s say $10,000.00) and still have $587,299.09 left.

My laptop is on the fritz and I might need a new desktop too

It seems like I’m buying a new computer much too often these days, and I can’t tell you why except to say this, the technical team here at Super Saving Tips, aka Suzanne thinks our CPU is about to explode. It seems to be rebooting anytime it feels like it and making noises that I’ve only heard before when watching “Chiller Theater”. To go with it, I tripped over the recharger for the laptop and somehow broke the connector so I can’t recharge it.  A part of it jammed into the laptop and I can’t get it removed so that will be making a trip to Mr. Fix-it this week. Total cost estimated between the two: $1,500.00. Balance on my million: $585,799.09.

Then, there’s the mortgage

Yes, Wells Fargo Bank owns my soul to the tune of $133,000. Nice people, Wells Fargo. You remember them, the folks who brought you “account openings for those who didn’t want them or even know they existed!” It would be so nice having that paid off right about now since I am retired. Hmm, that won’t happen until 2042 and I will be 92 then. Are the lottery tickets still available for tonight’s drawing? Balance after paying off the mortgage on my million: $452,799.09.

Cars and boats and planes

Ok, boats and planes I actually can do without. It’s the car thing that’s a bit annoying. Three years ago we downsized to just one car. It was a noble attempt to cut our cost of living and of course be kind to Mother Earth. But, truth be told, I am so conditioned to having my own car and going out whenever I want to go on a whim, that it is frustrating not having that second car. Slap me on the wrist, but I miss it. My wife does almost all of the driving these days. I was actually thinking of giving up my license and just resigning myself to being chauffeured around all the time. A million dollars would change all that. I can see it now, a beautiful brand new Kia Sportage with all the trimmings for just $19,840.77!  Balance left on my million dollars: $432,958.32.

Then, there’s the kids

I have two grown children. My daughter is kind of a financial disaster. Her career choice was all about being a useful, caring, loving person who works with handicapped kids. Unfortunately, the earning power from that and the lack of some good common sense and judgment in her everyday management of her money and her life is pretty lousy. Paying off her debts and freeing herself of it might lead to buying a new car and a nicer place to live and sure I’d be willing to be her ATM machine and help her out. I’m guessing she’d need at least $75,000.00 to get out from under her current conditions. I say guess because there are certain rules of secrecy involved here. Technically as her dad, I’m not allowed to know anything more than what she wants to tell me about her finances since she turned 9 years of age. She’s 35 now so you can see where that is going.

My son, 24, is down in Florida trying desperately to open his own business. He’s going to school part-time and trying to work while managing his startup in men’s cosmetics. A check for about $50,000.00 probably gets him over the hump and I might even invest some of that million in his idea. He’s a pretty smart, albeit poor kid.

Balance left in million dollars now $307,958.32 (less another $50,000.00 for investing in it, why not?) and that leaves $257,958.32.

Fun and travel

That would be a YES! Cancun, Paris and why not Tahiti too. That takes care of this year but where to next year? Oh, of course, London and Liverpool to check out all of the Beatles stuff. As long as I can physically handle it all…I’m there. Worst case scenario, I’ll cruise to Britain on The Queen Mary 2. Total: $28,500.00. Million dollar balance left: $229,458.32.


Of course I’d have to allot some money for charity. I have a few favorites and so does my wife. As I have gotten older I have been giving more than I ever used to do. Just yesterday, I wrote a small check out to a human rights charitable organization. That check would be much larger when I hit that million. I have several gifts in mind and totally I think that a $50,000.00 gift would be significant from us to a few different places. I’d definitely do that. Balance left in my million after a bunch of donations totaling $50,000.00 is now $179, 458.32.

Beefing up the emergency funds and making investments for my wife’s retirement

Last on my list are a fully-stocked emergency fund and then a retirement program for Suzanne. I want to make sure she has the funds she’ll need in her “golden years” especially if she is unable to return to work in the future. We have already started the plan but this money would ensure her comfort in the future.  I figure put $70,458.32 into the emergency funds and the remainder, $109,000.00 invested in a really good bunch of Vanguard mutual funds. Balance: $0.00.

When it comes to the rest, like clothes and electronics stuff, I’m good. I have enough clothes to wardrobe an army of me’s since I still have a huge bunch of things that I have just never thrown out or donated from the past 30 years. Anyone who needs a sports-related T-shirt, just drop me a line. I seem to have a few hundred extra ones of those for some deserving person.

Here’s an interesting little fun fact to chew on. I started working when I was 16, I mean the kind of work that gets you a W-2 and makes you file a tax return. So from 1965 to 2012 when I retired, I worked a total of 47 years. Would you believe during that period of time I earned in salary almost $1,400,000.00. So, I guess I am a millionaire in some sense of the word.

The problem, of course, is that I spent way over that amount during the past 47 years. Oh if only I would have had the common sense to put that money in a big piggy bank. Imagine what I would have written about in my blog today if I had done just that!

Moral of the story: don’t play the lottery. Real winners take their money and put it into savings and investments.

Do you think about being a millionaire? Are you working your way towards that goal right now and do you think you can achieve it? What would you do with a million dollars if you had it right now?


  1. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    I’m pretty sure PowerBall is over $300 Million right now, Gary…

    But those are some pretty modest responsible wishes. We’d pay off the two mortgages and probably pick up a couple more local rentals, put more in Little Bit’s college fund, and maybe pick Jon up a new used car. Plus make a solid church donation for our church’s capital campaign. The $100K or so left would go into investments and reserves.

  2. A great breakdown Gary. Good luck with the dentist. My least favorite of the medical profession. If I came into a windfall of 1 million or $600k as you so clearly state after taxes. I would fully fund college for my three children, bump my emergency fund and invest the balance.

  3. James

    Nice perspective on how you spend a million dollars. I think I’d have to prioritize or secure my kids’ education, get a bigger house, and have a food business. Then, I’d have some less expensive travel to enjoy the money.

  4. Hmm…$1,000,000 was just deposited into my account…hmmm…

    Like you said, only figure on spending $600,000 because the IRS will want the rest.

    $100,000 house renovations. Probably wouldn’t cost that much but I need new flooring, I want to get rid of the paneling in the den and the whole house could use painting. We are getting close to the point that we will need a new roof my driveway and sidewalk need to be redone. Ok, maybe it will cost that much to do it all.

    $60,000 for high school tuition for my youngest–she starts in the fall and between the tuition, fees and donations I suspect I won’t have any trouble dropping that much in the next five years.

    $100,000 for travel. I want to go lots of places and taking the family would be nice.

    $300,000 in trust for my autistic son, to supplement his income/lifestyle when we are gone.

    $40,000 college fund for my youngest.

    Wow, hard to believe I’ve spent it all already, and I still have to do go work Monday.

    1. Well if I were to get several million, I could certainly help you out! 😉 You have a worthy list of things to spend your million ($600k) on. It’s nice to dream, but I guess we just have to be grateful for what we do have, and as I like to say, at least I don’t have to live in a cardboard box. Thanks for taking the time to share your daydream.

  5. Jax

    This is one of my favorite games to play while falling asleep at night!

    If I came into a windfall of $1 million, or $600k, I would set aside maybe 10k for travel. The destinations change each time I play this game. I would put another 50k in investable, but easily liquidate-able funds. The rest of it I would spend on rental properties. Hopefully, with the income from the rental properties I’d be able to quit my job and start pursuing other interests-including traveling-full time. Or be able to find a more fulfilling job regardless of the salary.

    As it is, I don’t have that much money liquid. I am still trying to purchase enough investment properties to replace my day job income so that I can live the life I just described.

  6. Jen Pattison

    It’s evident that we’ve all learned from experience and would combine a few treats with a lot of prudence! My two bucket list destinations are Toronto to see a cousin and Iceland, then I would hope never to fly again. I’d get a modest home outright and sufficient investments for the future. I’d also help out a couple of friends who are struggling, provided they turn over a new leaf and live to their means in the future. Finally, some charitable donations, especially the cat rescue who saved my cat from cruelty when he was a kitten.

  7. Go Finance Yourself!

    I think about money a lot but more in the context of the control it will provide me rather than what I can buy with it. I’m currently tracking to hit $1 million in net worth in 4-5 years, with $1 million in cash and investments to follow soon after that. We would like to move into a slightly bigger house than our current 3 bed 1 bath built in the 50s. I’m not really a car guy, but I do think Teslas are really cool. I do think about spending on stuff like that from time to time, but that’s way down the road when I have more money than I know what to do with 🙂

  8. Tyler Philbrook

    Can’t count the times I’ve considered what I would do if I was handed a million dollars. It really helps that my expenses are really low and living off 4% of far less then a million dollars.

    1. Tyler, one thing for sure is that living frugally and saving money now can lead to good habits that will eventually pay off for you. Getting out of debt is so important, and gives you a lot more freedom to use the money you do have. You’re sending a positive message and you should be proud of that. I wish I had done that when I was young. Thanks for your comments.

  9. Once I asked my dentist in NY if I won the lottery, could he put me under with amnesia and do my entire mouth at once. “Sure” he said. So I’m with you on the teeth but I’d save a little too for Cancun (or Australia or Ecuador). It’s fun to think about it.

  10. Daniel Palmer

    It’s funny how fast a million could disappear if you’re not careful. So yes, let’s just settle for 300 million. Wasn’t there some rich guy who said it would always take one more dollar to make him happy?

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