Would Money Change You?

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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6 years ago

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… Read more »

JC @ Passive-Income-Pursuit

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… Read more »

FI Pilgrim
6 years ago

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 years ago

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.

Life In Center
6 years ago

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! 😛

Dividend Mantra
6 years ago

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… Read more »


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.

jefferson @See Debt Run

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.

Dividend Growth Stock Investing

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!