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If You Suddenly Came into More Than One Million Dollars and Have Exactly 10 Years Left to Live?

If You Suddenly Came into More Than One Million Dollars and Have Exactly 10 Years Left to Live?

“If you suddenly came into $20,000,000 and the same day you found out you have exactly 10 years left to live, how would you begin living your life?”

This is called the “20/10 question” and it’s one of my all-time favorites when working with clients.

Most people say things like “I’d quit my job and go traveling,” or “I would take my family around the world” and one very amusing response “I would buy my own cruise ship.”  Unfortunately for the last girl, we ran the numbers and found that $20 Million was NOT enough for her to enjoy a private cruise ship, though for the next ten years she could cruise almost non-stop and be okay.

What’s odd is what people who find themselves in this situation ACTUALLY do.

When someone gets this kind of money, they are far more likely to KEEP working than QUIT working.  The reason is quite simple: sitting around on vacation all the time is boring.  Very, VERY boring.

Sure, enjoying a drink on the beach for a couple of days is nice, but there’s only so much sun, swimming, and Anne Rice novels you can read.  After a while, you need something to DO.

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The second part of the question “10 years to live” provides a sense of urgency to the equation.  This helps us get rid of safe answers like “I’d invest in real estate/gold/tulips” or “pay off my house and put it away for retirement.”

If we know that our life is short, we choose to live a little more recklessly because we understand we can’t take that money with us.

Now, you may be wondering “Trent, what does this question actually DO for people?”

Why Should I Ask Myself This?

The answer is simple: it’s the way truly successful people approach life.

The vast majority of us will go to work with the plan to earn a steady pay check every week for the next forty years so we can retire and enjoy our grand-kids for the last 25 years we’re alive.  We might retire in Florida with other people in their “young 60s” and relax, but that’s usually the most exciting decision we’ve made in a long time.

We operate on the premise of “save now, play later.”

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This is a broken idea because it’s based on two flawed assumptions:

1) it is difficult to amass enough income early in our working years to enjoy ourselves without working constantly

2) we will have a “later” to enjoy

Let’s tackle the first assumption: earning enough income to enjoy your life early is difficult.  This isn’t really true, depending on what you consider a comfortable life.  Many times, we associate material possessions with happiness, so we work to buy “stuff.”

John goes to work at a job he doesn’t really like but which pays $70k/year.  With that money, he, his wife, and their three boys share a nice 3400 sq/ft brick home in a nice neighborhood.  He drives a nice car and his wife has the SUV.  After all the bills for said house, cars, kids, and other various bills add up, John can put back $7,000 year into investments for retirement (10%).

Does John sound like someone you know?  Maybe someone you see every day?  He should: he represents 60% of the American population.

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The problem with John is that there will never be enough money or “stuff” to provide the happiness he wants.  There will always be a new car or some nice addition to the house to purchase, which keeps him working at his less-than-satisfying-though-well-paying job.

The sad fact is, research has shown John would be just as happy living in a much cheaper 1800 sq/ft home with much cheaper vehicles.  People aren’t happier based on what they own; they are happier based on what they DO.

The second assumption: when we retire we will enjoy the benefits of a lifetime of hard work.

This is also false: depression is one of the major issues facing retirees.  When you’ve spent 30 years in a routine, even one you hate, finding yourself with nothing to do will leave you feeling useless.  No amount of Bridge can make up for a lack of purpose.  If you wait until retirement to enjoy the “fruits of your labor” you will miss out on life’s most enjoyable moments.

What’s the Solution to Life Enjoyment?

Do what successful people do: find something you would do for free and get so good at it people will pay you for it.

I have two friends which are stark examples of the effects of these philosophies.

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James is a very successful salesman.  He works for a company he doesn’t really like, dealing with issues he doesn’t really care about, and makes a very lucrative income doing it.  He diligently goes to work every day and his first thought is about when he will get to leave.  He has a very large house and nice cars, and his kids are taken care of.  He feels he’s “doing what he should.” If a company offers him better pay and benefits, he will probably take it to make some upgrades to his house and cars.

Kevin is on the opposite end of the spectrum.  After graduating college, he couldn’t find a job easily.  He started building furniture and signs in his shop as a way to pass the time.  He sold a few to friends and neighbors, eventually deciding to create a business out of his hobby.  He wakes up every day with ideas on what he will make and goes to work with excitement.  His wife is a schoolteacher who loves her job as well.  They live in a modest house with their little dog.  They love cooking together and hanging out with friends.  They don’t have a lot of extra money, but they can afford to live comfortable and take vacations during the summer.

Who do you think is happier?  Who stays awake at night stressed about work and dreading the alarm clock?

Now, here’s the million-dollar-question: which one sounds more like you?

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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