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The lottery fantasy: How much money do you need to say 'buzz off, world'?

Jun 24, 2012, 8:52 am

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Editorial / Opinion

By Peter McKay

We don't play the lottery very often. So I always get a little aggravated when I'm standing in line to buy Junior Mints and some clown in front of me has an inch-thick stack of "lucky" numbers he's going to play. But every once in a while, when the jackpot gets into ludicrously high levels, so high that it makes the 6 o'clock news, we break down and get a ticket.

And even though we don't actually play the lottery very often, my wife and I spend an inordinate amount of time planning for the day when we hit the jackpot.

There are a lot of considerations. First you have to make sure your family doesn't find out. I know, I know, you have a great family, but admit it, there's one or two of them you're kind of shaky on — the ones where the minute they find out you're a multimillionaire, they'll be at the door, telling you about a great chance to invest in a franchise for a fast-food clam restaurant and asking if you could just see your way to loan them a few hundred thou.

You also have to worry about friends and neighbors. You have only a couple of options here. One, you could move to a rich neighborhood, but as we all know, millionaires are really unlikable. They try to be nice, but then they'll say something like, "The fellow who details my car each week is such a nice chap, but he missed a spot last week and I had to fire him." Or "Why are all these people worried about that 'recession' business?" and you'll just want to pop them one in the nose. Popping someone in the nose is unseemly and will quickly lose you friends in the millionaire community.

If you stay in your own barely acceptable neighborhood (don't be offended — you know it's true), you'll have to make sure nobody knows you hit the jackpot. Within days, you'll be having people slip and fall on that cracked sidewalk you've been meaning to fix, or just happening to be out for a "walk" when you're backing out of the drive in the morning so you could carelessly run over their toes, while they keep their personal injury lawyer on speed dial. (That's just my personal plan if one of my neighbors wins the lottery. You come up with your own.)

Everybody has their own personal "bite me!" number. That's the level of money you'd need to win that would cause you to walk into work, empty out your pencil can, pull the pictures of your kids off the wall, grab your potted philodendron, and when they ask you where you're going, cheerfully call out, "Bite me!"

Within days, you'd be on some South Seas island where your biggest complaint was that the Brangelina tots next door were straying onto your private beach. You'd ask the head butler to shoo them away so they didn't get hit with any of the solid gold golf balls you were driving off your practice tee into the ocean.

Each person, in fantasizing about the lottery, has to pick his "bite me!" number. It has to be enough so that no matter how many stupid decisions you make (even investments in fast food clam restaurants or a personal injury lawsuit from the Jolie-Pitts), you'll still have enough left over that you won't be forced to go back to the office, philodendron in hand, and beg for your job back.

All this is pure speculation, of course. As I sit here writing, I'm eating a ham sandwich. That wouldn't be relevant to this story except for the fact that when I was making the sandwich a few minutes ago, I noticed that the ham from the supermarket deli had kind of a funny, "off" smell to it. I was going to throw the whole package away when I realized that a) the little printout on the label said we still had two days to go before the sell-by date, and b) this pound of ham cost us six bucks. When I asked my wife if she thought it was still good, she didn't even smell it or check the sell-by date. She just looked at the price tag on the baggie, and then at me, and said, "Eat it!"

Everyone has a different approach. I spend my days wondering about my future net worth, which I fantasize will be around $10 million (after taxes, of course). My wife, on the other hand, is more concerned with my current net value, which seems to be somewhere south of that — right around six bucks.

If you'll excuse me, I have a sandwich to finish.

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