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The £1m thought experiment: What would you do if you won the lottery?

For someone without a full-time job, I spend a fair bit of time thinking about FIRE, or Financial Independence Retire Early. I'm not planning to jack in my (non-existent) job any time soon -- I'd have to get one first -- but I want to get to a place where my bank balance can help me support a decent work life balance. I know, I know, I have no job and thousands in student debt, but a human can dream, right?!

Even jobless debt-ridden students need to start somewhere, so I love reading FIRE blogs for ideas about how I can bring that FIRE dream a little closer. Happily, there are loads of great FIRE blogs out there to help me find my way -- Firehub.eu is a really good place to start and has a diverse spread of FIRE writers (some whom I love, some less so). One of my favourite FIREists is Ms Ziyou, who writes about FIRE from a feminist perspective, which I love.

She recently posed the question of 'what would you do if you won a million pounds?' I couldn't resist a good thought experiment, so here's what I'd do with my surprise winnings (not least surprising because I don't play the lottery.)

First things first...
I'm a really boring spender: I wouldn't be rushing out to buy a flash car or a top of the range, well, anything.  My top priority would be settling those debts. I'm seriously debt adverse and I'd love to just get rid of those vampire squid of money that I have to keep chucking money into their maws. On a side note, there are many good reasons why you shouldn't rush to pay off your student debt, but if I'm now a millionaire, I could pay off the student debt without too much trouble. I'd clear off any credit card debt, and then the mortgage too. I'm on a glorious debt free roll. I can't imagine how good I'd feel right now, bathing in the feeling of owing precisely no pounds and no pence to anyone.

Friends and family next...
Most of my friends and family are fairly solvent, but if anyone needed a bit of help with anything, I'd get my hand in my pocket, no questions asked. What's the point of getting a load of cash if you can't share the love a bit? In this glorious millionaire parallel universe, I'd also like to think I'd throw a massive party somewhere exotic and take all my friends and fam away. In reality, I'd probably just take everyone down my favourite local and stick a few quid behind the bar, but maybe my new millionaire status will make me a bit more creative.

I'd put my money where my mouth is...
I don't know how much I'd have left at this point, but I'm hoping I'd still have enough that I could afford to spend a bit more. I'd like to invest in vegan and ethical businesses, giving money to people trying to affect some positive change. If anyone fancied starting up a chain of affordable zero waste shops up and down the country, I'd be waving wads of cash at them. Charities too - I'd love to be able to share the wealth in a literal sense. I'd be getting wrist ache from all the cheques I'd be signing!

Won't someone think of the donkeys...
Mr Flicking the Vs has always harboured dreams of setting up a donkey sanctuary, so I'd use my newfound wealth to build one in his name. It'd be nearby, so he could go and hang out with the donkeys and share a carrot or two. Only thing is, it's not just donkeys he has a soft spot for - it's owls, and otters, and seals, and... you get the idea. Maybe I'd just have an animal sanctuary with a door that was wide open for whoever needed it.

Working through my travel bucket list...
Now I've done scratched the itch of trying to spend my money in the least morally bankrupt way possible, I'd have a selfish moment and take myself (and Mr Flicking the Vs too, obviously) on a great big slow travel trip. I'd spend months taking trains across the world, from Europe to Asia to India. If I could get to the Antarctic somehow, I'd love to do that too. And you can bet that I'd be eating in the best vegan restaurants wherever my train pulled in! And I wouldn't skimp on desserts either. And coffee, with those tiny biscuits. That's the million pounds going to my head right there.

When I'm 64...
I'd like to actual put something in the bank so I could ease off working a bit - you know, getting back to the whole Financial Independence Retire Early thing that started off my million pound thought experiment. Whatever's left is going straight into my pension fund, so one day when I've jacked in my job for good, I can have gold plated dentures and a diamond encrusted bus pass. I want to be living the dream even when I'm living off my pension!

I asked Mr Flicking the Vs what he'd do if he won £1m. He gave me a one word answer: "Move". So maybe I better set a few pounds aside for paying for estate agents and a removals van...

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  1. It's always great to dream. However I get a little depressed that a unit (not a house) at the end of our street went for a $1million recently - and we don't even live in a particularly fancy part of Melbourne. Real estate prices are crazy so winning the lottery is the only way I will buy a decent house around here. A holiday house would be great and nice to share with family and friends. I like your idea of train journeys too. But wouldn't it be fun to go down the high street and make lots of impulse buys, have a fancy high tea and put a $50 note in a few busker or beggars' hats.

  2. I love reading FIRE blogs, I haven't heard of some of those, thank you for the new blogs to check out. My favorite is mrmoneymustache.com and I like retireby40 too. I have similar ideas if I ever won the lottery, pay off debt, take care of family and animals, travel... :-)

  3. I often ponder this question...and I have to admit, your thought experiments are so similar to mine. like you I hate debts and last year both myself and my husband finally paid off our student loans (we both graduated around 2001), but now its the mortgage in a house that is not even a forever home, but its home for now - so up on my list is a semi detached home. But like Johanna I could see myself sharing and putting a few notes in homeless peoples cups and investing in ethical businesses and charities, seeing that most of my life I have worked for charities.


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