New Castle News

April 9, 2012

Lisa Madras: We didn’t win the Megamillions, but we’re still pretty wealthy

Lisa Madras
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — So, say I lived in that fabulous house in Tuscany, with untold wealth, a gorgeous, adoring mate, and a full staff of servants ... then what?

I've always said that if I had all the money in the world, I'd still live in a modest house. The bigger the house you have, the more you have to clean. And hiring a maid? Forget it! My luck in the man department pretty much predetermines that he'd run off with the help, and then I'd be brokenhearted AND stuck with a gigantic house to clean.

But it's still a question that begs to be answered. Many of us had a taste of this just last week when the Megamillions jackpot hit a half a billion and we all ran out to buy as many tickets as we could afford. We'd done a group-buy at The News, and all we talked about for the two days before the drawing was what we'd do if we won.

I heard a lot of "I'd give some to charity" and "travel" and "pay off my bills." Maybe it's a testament to my convoluted monkey mind, but my plans were way more specific than anyone else's: I wanted to buy a home in Tennessee and get the horse I'd always dreamed of having. His name would be Trigger. I'd give a million bucks to each of my closest friends. I'd start an organization to end homelessness. I'd write my first novel. And I'd eat fillet until my pores stunk like a barbeque grill. (Sorry, but there's no amount of money in the world that will ever turn me into a "lady.")

The list goes on and on. I've given this a lot of thought over the years, even though I never play the lottery. I guess I keep hoping that someday, somewhere, somehow, somebody will recognize my potential and give me the six-figure job I'm certain I deserve. (Stop laughing! It's MY fantasy world!)

So, like pretty much everybody else I know, I feel like I have to secure my wealth first in order to enjoy what that wealth will bring. How can we not feel like that, when we're raised in a society that begins prepping us for success before we've even given up our pacifiers? Baby Einstein, pre-school, PSSAs, college prep!!! This childhood of cultivation is in place for one reason and one reason alone: to make sure we can earn enough money to ensure our happiness.

And like so much Western thinking, this couldn't be more backward if we tried. How about taking a different approach? What if we focused on what would make us happy first, and then concentrated on how much money we need to achieve that happiness? (Hint: You'll find that much of what you consider your "perfect life" is already attainable.)

I'm not going to try to pretend that I'd turn down a half a billion dollars if someone handed it to me. There's a lot about life that could be made easier with the right amount of money. Nor will I pretend that without the riches I'd be able to give money to my loved ones, or start that charity I dreamed of.

But how much of my perfect life is already right in front of me? I want to travel, and that's possible with some saving and budgeting. I might not be able to own a horse, but I can take riding lessons, or volunteer at a stable. The only thing stopping me from writing that novel is my own insecurity. And in the end, it doesn't really matter if I'm eating fillet or grilled cheese sandwiches ... if I'm across the table from the people I love, it always tastes like a four-star meal.  

Sure, it might feel great to buy a new wardrobe or a flat-screen TV, but those things pale in comparison to playing UNO with with kids on a Tuesday night, or laying my head on my boyfriend's chest when I've had a rough day. You can't buy the satisfaction of finishing a great book from the library, or the joy of a Nerf gun battle with every kid in the neighborhood.

Moments like these are what make us rich, even if we don't yet realize it. These types of riches can never be taken from us, even if we don't make the electric bill this month, or have to grill some hot dogs instead of fillet again.

So the real question is, what are you going to do now that you realize you're already filthy stinkin’ rich?