Monday, January 31, 2011

Would you retire if you won $2.1 million?

There was an interesting story in the Toronto Star last week: A group of seven construction workers claimed a $14.85 million lottery payout after nearly being cheated out of their prize by an unscrupulous ticket-seller. That's not what caught my interest, though: Several of the men who were interviewed said they would continue to work. "Maybe I'll retire at 45," one said. Five of them are in their mid-to-late 30s; one is 40.

Beyond the obvious "work ethic" argument - you know, to keep working for the sake of doing something useful, I'm not sure I understand. It would seem that $2.1 million would be enough money for anyone to retire on (unless you're in a million or more dollars of debt). Even if you have a family, you would still be able to make enough income off the interest to cover your expenses, plus some nice "extras" if you so desired. You would simply need to make smart financial decisions.

I don't know any of these men, so I can't say what's motivating them to continue working after such a massive, life-changing stroke of luck. They have stumbled into what many of us can only dream of: financial independence long before age 65. Perhaps they feel they need more than $2.1 million to sustain a particular kind of lifestyle? Or maybe it is difficult to see yourself not reporting to work every day? If it's a routine you have followed all your life you might not be able to picture yourself in a different scenario.

I'm all for work ethic. But I'd probably quit my job and use that time to do something I wasn't able to do before, like write, help other people or start a business. Maybe that's what the one fellow meant by "continue to work." I hope so.

Finally, and most worrisome, none of us knows how much time we have left. $2.1 million could be a great nest egg for the next thirty or forty years of your life, or a windfall that you'll only have a week to enjoy. I always think of *time* as actually outranking money in terms of its value to me, only because it's such a fragile asset. None of us know how much we have; all we can do is try to spend it wisely. Given the chance to spend it exactly as I wanted, a 9-5 job wouldn't likely be on the top of my list.

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