Would Money Change You?

by FI Fighter on November 29, 2013

in Thoughts

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Here’s an interesting story about a Seattle man who recently passed away and left behind $188 million to charity. Even though Jack MacDonald was immensely wealthy, he carried himself like a commoner poor person. Despite having more money than he knew what to do with, he still cut coupons and wore faded clothes with holes in them. His hobbies? Watching the stock market…

“Our family has lived with the ‘secret’ of Jack’s generous fortune for more than 40 years, all while being amazed at his frugal lifestyle and modest demeanor. He was quirky and eccentric in many ways, and always stayed true to himself by acting on his convictions to do the most good with his wealth,” said the stepdaughter, Regen Dennis.

What Would I Do?

Honestly, I don’t think my life would change that much. Right now, I sort of feel like living frugally, or below my means has been ingrained into the fabric of my very being. At this point, I doubt it would be so easy to change… and I’m not sure I would even want to. I kind of like the perspective I have on life now — focus on the experiences and memories, not the frivolous spending.

If I had more funds, of course I would retire early so that I could begin focusing on the things that really mattered to me. Money would simply be my ticket out and buy me my freedom. However, I wouldn’t start off the next chapter by needlessly indulging in fancy cars, yachts, McMansions, etc… No, there’s more to life than that in my eyes.

The most obvious thing I could see myself indulging on would be food and travel. Again, this has more to do with experiences, but I definitely see expenses rising in this area. Also, if I started engaging in new hobbies, I could see how spending would easily rise here. For instance, if I was to start training for a tri-athlon, or in martial arts, I would use the extra money to invest in quality equipment, instruction, nutrition, etc. The mentality wouldn’t change — I wouldn’t be spending more just for the sake of spending more, but in hopes of being able to maximize performance/progress/results.

What about the rest of the surplus? I would set aside a LARGE portion of it and keep it invested in stocks, bonds, savings, etc. (wouldn’t want to end up like one of those famous celebrities/athletes who crashed and burned).  I would be tempted to take out a smaller portion (at some point) to help me launch/build my own real estate company. Even without a surplus, this is something I still want to do someday…

Like Jack, I wouldn’t feel the need to flaunt my riches, or success. I can still see myself going out in public wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. 🙂 On occasions, I’m sure I’d dress up a little, but for the most part, I wouldn’t want to look the part. I’d rather keep it discrete and not draw unwanted attention.

When all is said and done, I’d also give away most of it to charity, or to a good cause. It’s not like I can take it with me anyway…

What About You?

For those who are on the quest to early financial independence, tell us, what would you do if you just so happened to stumble upon a windfall such as this? How would your lifestyle change? Right now, a lot of us on this journey are forced to be extra frugal (savings ratio over 50%) because we need the extra capital to invest. Supposed for a moment that you didn’t, though. If you were able to reach the end game today (financial independence), and had all this surplus of cash ($188 million), would you go on a shopping spree? Would you say, “screw it” with living frugally and make up for lost time, instead? Or, would you continue going on your merry way (like Jack did), and STILL have an interest in monitoring the stock market on a daily basis?

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 writing2realityNo Gravatar November 29, 2013 at 10:49 am

This line of thinking is very similar to the scenario everyone goes through when the water cooler buzz at work is about a large jackpot from some lottery. For me, I’d be very similar to you in that my expenditures on travel and food would certainly increase, but otherwise I’d invest heavily and live off the resulting income, while finding ways to productively impact those around me.

Given something as large as $188 million there would be absolutely tons of ways to put that money to effective use for the benefit of the greater good. A nice dividend portfolio to fund various charities in perpetuity wouldn’t be such a bad idea with a large piece of it.


2 FI FighterNo Gravatar December 1, 2013 at 10:14 am


I like your idea of focusing on the greater good. It’s reassuring to know there are other people out there who want to help others, even after they’ve escaped the cave themselves.

When I was younger, I didn’t believe that money was all that important. I didn’t believe it could buy happiness or make a difference in the world… I only looked at it from the simple point of view that someone who focused on attaining lots of wealth was a selfish person.

Now, I see how powerful a force money really is. If you want to do good, it can help amplify your efforts to get you results beyond your wildest dreams… If every rich person who had $188 million laying around wanted to change the world, they easily could.



3 JC @ Passive-Income-PursuitNo Gravatar November 29, 2013 at 11:02 am

Travel expenses would definitely go up as well as hobby expenses like you mentioned. I think whether one is effected by a large sum of money really stems from how that money was obtained. If you win a lottery or end up getting an inheritance then the likelihood of being frivolous with it would go up. However if you had to work hard to save up the money or at least started down that journey then I think most of us would end up staying about the same, although expenses would definitely go up. I do have to admit that I would go on a bit of a splurge and go buy a lot of property and some 4-wheelers. After that’s taken care of the rest would be invested across DG stocks and real estate, plus some play money left for VC fun. I really want to get a scholarship funded with DG stocks as well so that would be high on the priority list.


4 FI FighterNo Gravatar December 1, 2013 at 10:19 am


Good point, and that will make for a good follow up post. Yes, how a person comes into money has a huge influence on how they will end up managing it.

I feel like only those who struggled, or worked to attain their wealth are capable of truly appreciating money. In that sense, also less likely to squander it away.

The VC investments sound like a lot of fun too. Once everything else was squared away, I would probably want to get in on that action as well. Silicon Valley is the perfect location for that! 😉



5 FI PilgrimNo Gravatar November 29, 2013 at 11:17 am

Boy, that’s tough to say. While I would like to think that not much would change, I can’t help but think that my wife/kids/family would want a say in that decision. I’m sure there would be some sort of lifestyle inflation but it’s hard to predict how much!


6 FI FighterNo Gravatar December 1, 2013 at 10:22 am

FI Pilgrim,

With a spouse and kids involved, I’m sure lifestyle inflation would be inevitable, which is not a bad thing. Of course, you want to give the best life has to offer to your family. Seems like that would be a wonderful problem to have! 😉

The important thing would just be to find a way to sustain it indefinitely. Though anyone who’s already been managing money before, and investing should have no problem with this.

Take care!


7 PaulineNo Gravatar November 29, 2013 at 11:43 am

I would keep living pretty much like I do, probably upgrade to first class flights and direct ones too!
Otherwise not much. I know an 83 year old lady who is 3-4 times richer than Jack and is really living like a pauper and I don’t see the point, working so much and not enjoying your money… but I wouldn’t throw it on fire either.


8 FI FighterNo Gravatar December 1, 2013 at 10:24 am


Wow, that lady must be worth close to $1 billion then! Yeah, I can’t understand that either… You don’t have to go overboard and be wasteful, but if you had that much money, you should enjoy and live very comfortably. The extra expenses wouldn’t make even a small dent in the underlying principal…

Like you, I would like to indulge in travel. First class would be a good way to accomplish that!

Best wishes!


9 Life In CenterNo Gravatar November 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm

With that kinda money I think I would “retire” instantly. I’d think I’d start studying something and learning alot of new skills. I would surely also set up a charitable div. portfolio from which to draw funds to support different things in my home country.

Ps. I’d also buy bacon for breakfast! 😛


10 FI FighterNo Gravatar December 1, 2013 at 10:28 am

Life In Center,

Sounds great! I like the idea of a charitable dividend portfolio. It’s awesome how so many people want to continue to help others, even after they’ve secured their own freedom.

p.s. Costco signature bacon… cheap price, and great taste even a millionaire could love!


11 Dividend MantraNo Gravatar November 29, 2013 at 6:30 pm

FI Fighter,

That’s a great story. Very inspirational. I was actually just reading it not long ago on Yahoo.

As for me, I would only actually need a very small portion of that money to live a life I’d consider well worth living. It just doesn’t take much money to make me happy. I’ve lived on far more than I do now and I was no more happy; in fact, you could make the argument that I was less happy – which is why I’m seeking FI in such an aggressive manner.

To be sure, it’s hard to say exactly what I’d do with the rest. However, setting up some kind of long-term giving plan would be a priority. I couldn’t enjoy spending any of it if I didn’t share that wealth with others. Rather, I’d feel inhumane. I’d love to travel. There’s so many places in the world I’d love to see. The world is just so big. I’d love to have more time to write and inspire. Everything I did would take more time – my meals would be longer, conversations would be deeper, sleep would be filled with ever more dreams.

I’d also love to build some kind of small compound that my family and I could all share. It’d be great to have a place that all of us could call home.

To dream…

Best wishes.


12 FI FighterNo Gravatar December 1, 2013 at 10:37 am


That’s great that you’ve had the self-discovery and realized at a very young age what matters and what’s important to you. Like yourself, I did go through a phase of my life when I “lived it up” and spent recklessly. It didn’t buy any extra happiness! I’ve learned that the simple life is the best, and most suitable lifestyle for me. There is elegance and beauty in simplicity, I believe. By requiring less, I find myself having more since I now free myself up to actually enjoy/appreciate what I already have.

Giving back is very noble, and something (unfortunately) not everyone wants to do. I am very hopeful that each one of us on the path to early FI will be able to make a huge difference in the world! In many ways, people like you already are. Your blog gives you a platform to reach and inspire many others who are considering, or are already on the path to freedom.

I know my journey is just beginning, and one day I would love to give back, and do more on a much grander scale. Just gotta take care of my own situation first. Once I’m out of this cave, I’m going to send back reinforcements to try and drag more people outta there.

All the best!


13 Charles@gettingarichlifeNo Gravatar November 30, 2013 at 12:47 am

I would have lifestyle inflation of nice watches, cars and travel. I would live in a home near honolulu if I had that kind of money. I would still follow the stock market. Just being honest here.


14 FI FighterNo Gravatar December 1, 2013 at 10:41 am


Appreciate the honesty. Life is so short, so if you did come across such massive wealth, you should enjoy yourself!

Take care!


15 jefferson @See Debt RunNo Gravatar November 30, 2013 at 7:32 pm

My wife and I have always said that if we win the lottery, we would spend the rest of our days figuring out how to best use that money to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.

I still hope to make my fortune one day, but I don’t think it will change me.


16 FI FighterNo Gravatar December 1, 2013 at 11:27 am


That’s awesome! I hope you do win the lottery someday so that you and your wife can execute your plan. Unfortunately, too many of the people who actually do win the lottery don’t have any plans to make a difference in the world. They just waste it away on silly indulgences that don’t even make themselves any happier.

Thanks for stopping by!


17 Dividend Growth Stock InvestingNo Gravatar December 2, 2013 at 8:12 am

I am more along the same thinking as you. If I had that much wealth I would definately try and enjoy more travel with my wife and family. I might also try to golf a little more as I’d have more money and free time.

I think since investing in dividend growth stocks and personal finance are my hobbies, I’d continue to be very interested in them. I would just be managing a much larger nest egg but still trying to achieve the same results!


18 FI FighterNo Gravatar December 2, 2013 at 9:46 pm


Traveling is wonderful, and a great way to enrich one’s life. I’m looking forward to doing this in abundance once I reach early FI. I hope you take advantage of all the opportunities you get as well!

Investing is an interesting thing… I can see how it can become a hobby and passion for someone. I imagine I’m similar to you, and would still keep tabs on the market, and keep investing… even if I was already wealthy and set for life.

Best wishes!


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