So You Want to Be a Millionaire!

(Where is Michael Anthony When You Really Need Him?)

If you’re under age 40, you know the TV show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”. We all like that idea. But, if you’re around my age you probably also remember the old TV show called “The Millionaire” which aired on CBS from 1955 to 1960. You can even watch old episodes on YouTube.

Becoming a millionaire is a dream for many of us. But are there dangers to having so much wealth? Today's post explores what could happen if you were to receive a million dollars.

The Millionaire was an anthology series that explored the ways that sudden and unexpected wealth changed someone’s life, for better or for worse, and it became a five-season hit during the Golden Age of Television.

Publicity shot from The Millionaire, 1956
Publicity shot from The Millionaire, 1956

The Millionaire told the stories of John Beresford Tipton, a deceased millionaire, who gave away a check each week for a million dollars to people he had never even met—just for fun. His executive secretary, Michael Anthony, tells the stories of how he had the responsibility to give out those checks and each episode began with Anthony behind his desk and looking directly into the camera, saying this:

My name is Michael Anthony, and until his death just a few years ago, I was the executive secretary to the late John Beresford Tipton, Jr. John Beresford Tipton, a fabulously wealthy and fascinating man, whose many hobbies included his habit of giving away one million dollars, tax free, each to persons he had never even met.

The fictional Tipton had spent the later years of his life pursuing his fascination with human nature and behavior. How would people react and what would they do with an anonymous gift of a million dollars?

What Would You Do?

What would you do if you suddenly had a million dollars? I’m not talking about a million in net worth. I mean a million dollars in cash, after taxes, sitting in the bank. This is no time for excuses or to say how implausible this may be. That isn’t the point here. The point is to get you thinking about what you would do if you woke up tomorrow and had that kind of cash just sitting in the bank.

I bet it makes you stop and think. A million bucks might not be the kind of money that buys you a private island that you travel to on your private jet, but it can no doubt be a potential life-changing sum. It’s really interesting to see the different priorities that vary from person to person.

In case you’re wondering what I’d do with a million dollars, I have been asked this question many times in my life and I have written previously about it too. You can read that post in its entirety here.

Is There a Downside to Being a Millionaire?

Not being a millionaire myself, and not even close, this is 90% speculation and 10% observation in my answer to the above question. Sure, it would be great to be able to buy whatever I wanted to satisfy my inner need to have something big, bright, gaudy…and possibly useless. That may be some kind of real flaw that I have, but I am inclined to think it may be a part of everyone’s nature. So, that feel-good moment of “spend” and “show off” is never really a permanent solution to problems. You need to learn to control that urge and keep it under control, no matter what the balance says in your bank account.

Even though having a million dollars in itself isn’t a bad thing, there are some dangers and drawbacks that that kind of money can have attached to it.

7 Dangers of Being a Millionaire

  1. When you suddenly have a million dollars, you may become a target of shady, dishonest people. Even “friends and family” may suddenly want a piece of your pie! Your feeling of security may start to slip away. Having a lot of money will bring those who need and want money crawling out of the woodwork!
  2. A bigger slice of your time will now be necessary to manage your new assets. You will probably think about money even more than when you didn’t have a lot of it. Like looking at your stock portfolio more often causes your anxiety to rise and fall like you are riding on the Twisted Colossus coaster at Disneyland’s Magic Mountain.
  3. Taxes. Being wealthy doesn’t in itself mean more taxes, but being wealthy and getting that million probably means you will use it to earn more money and it will eventually translate into paying more taxes. See the crazy thought and irony there? You hate paying taxes now because you know how stupid and wasteful government is, and yet now you’ll be forking even more over to them.
  4. Boredom. As the proverb goes, “idle hands do the devil’s work”. Once you no longer have to bust you a$$ to “make it” you may feel as if there may not be another mountain to climb!
  5. Money really can’t buy you happiness. There is actual scientific evidence that proves it. There’s even more to it in that the money brings problems along with it.
  6. You aren’t changing, but your environment is. You will always be you, and even a million bucks doesn’t change that. Your relationships, schedule, house, and car may change, but essentially you are still you with the same hang-ups, demons, and habits. Don’t expect money to change who you really are.
  7. Lifestyle inflation is for real and when your lifestyle starts involving buying fancy sports cars and penthouse apartments, you can be sure it won’t last for long. Ask most lottery winners, or even many actors or athletes. When you suddenly come into wealth, it can be difficult to manage.

My gut tells me that even when you get the first million bucks you probably won’t be satisfied. After the first million you will want a second million. Then, a third and fourth and well, there may be no real limit. That may explain why 80 year olds climb out of bed in the morning and even though they have difficulty getting dressed and putting on their shoes and socks, they still can’t wait to check the market results from the overnight trading. I don’t want to be in that kind of situation.

Final Thoughts

Money is part of life and wanting it doesn’t make you evil. I know that. It’s a matter of degree for me. What would you do to get it and what will you do when you have it? That seems for me to be the line between the “good and evil” when it comes to money. I think most of us understand that and the ones who don’t quite get it wind up as the infamous you hear about on the news and read about in the papers.

The journey getting to that million though can be way more fun than reaching the destination.

Do you ever think about being a millionaire? Do you always think about it? Are you depending on lottery tickets or do you have a real plan to how to achieve such a lofty goal? Are you working your way towards that goal right now? Do you believe you can achieve it? What would you do if Michael Anthony knocked on your door today with a check made out to you for a million dollars?


  1. I have over a 1/3 of it in investments today, so I’m working my way there. 🙂 I wouldn’t mind coming into a windfall now that I have a better understanding of how to handle money. I’d pay off my mortgage, fund the rest of college for my children, maybe take a trip with the family and invest the rest. Pretty straightforward.

  2. Right away, I would pay off all debt. That alone would be such a huge relief.

    The rest: I’d use it to buy a place outright and turn it into an Airbnb-type business I’d like to start.

    I’d set some of it aside to be used during those times when there’s a cause I really want to donate to.

  3. What do I think about being a millionaire? I’d like to be one, and that is our goal as a couple. Actually in net worth we aren’t that far away. For one thing, with inflation, $1,000,009 isn’t as much as it once was. For another, we are in the homestrech of our careers–highest earnings of our life, our house is paid for and our children are becoming independent.

    If you don’t care about leaving money to heirs but want to make sure you have money to last 30 years, that $1,000,000 nest egg will provide $70-80,000 per year to live off, more or less, which while not a bad living is a far cry from rich.

    1. That all sounds like a solid financial plan, RAnn. Having your house paid off now is certainly a great beginning for your retirement. Even if you don’t quite make the million dollars, my bet is that you and your husband will make your retirement finances work well. Thanks for contributing your thoughts.

  4. I didn’t know The Millionaire. I’m too young 😛

    If I had a million right now, I would take around 200’000 as a down payment on a house and invest the rest. At least that is what I think I would do. Once you are really in the situation, it may be different 😛

    1. All true, TPS. Circumstances remain unknown until the reality happens, but buying a home sounds like a very thoughtful and promising start to a million dollar spend. Even being a young person, you’re not penalized, you can always watch YouTube and catch up on some episodes of The Millionaire. 😛

  5. First of all, that sounds like a show I need to find reruns of. Second of all, I’m loving all of this:

    “Money is part of life and wanting it doesn’t make you evil. I know that. It’s a matter of degree for me. What would you do to get it and what will you do when you have it? That seems for me to be the line between the “good and evil” when it comes to money.”

  6. As a multi-millionaire, I don’t see a lot of downside.

    The risk is that someone will overestimate how much a million really is. Figuring that million will likely only provide about $40k/year of retirement income, that’s not a lot of money. For a family of two earners who bring in over $100k during working years, they’re likely going to need closer to $3m than $1m.

    Even with a seven figure investment balance my wife and I continue to budget and live well below our means.

    1. Excellent point about how far a million dollars will stretch in a long retirement period. Certainly you’ve done very well so far in your finances and living below your means is something that not everyone understands but it is a very essential part of making sure that you have a comfortable retirement plan.

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