What Would You Do?: I Won One Million Dollars!!!

Welcome to the third edition of “What Would You Do?”! If you have a question and would like to know what others would do please contact me and I’ll keep it in mind for future editions of “What Would You Do?”. In the first edition I asked Should I Buy a Smartphone… and I ended up getting it! In the second edition I asked Should I Buy the NeatDesk or NeatReceipts Scanner and I got some great feedback that I am still considering! Now on to today’s What Would You Do…

I Just Won One Million Dollars!!!

Two words. I WISH! But it is fun to dream so let’s continue with this theoretical situation… We have to make assumptions so everyone is on the same page when they share what they will do!

  • You just won One Million United States Dollars so convert to your own currency if necessary to find out its buying power.
  • The taxes have already been paid so you can spend every penny of it if you wish.
  • You are in the financial situation you are currently in, not in my financial position.

So What Would You Do with One Million Dollars?

While I can’t say what you’ll do (that is for you to determine in the comments below) I can tell you what I would do  so here it goes.

Starting Amount: $1,000,000

I’d Put Aside Enough to Pay Off My Girlfriend’s Student Loans

I’d do this so that when we get married we could pay them off. Amount Spent $64,000 Remaining Amount $936,000

Finish Remodeling Our Townhouse the Way We’d Like It.

This involves remodeling our kitchen ($15,000), a full bathroom ($2,500), a half bathroom ($600), replacing the carpet upstairs ($1,500), replacing the tile downstairs ($3,000), replacing the windows (no clue but I’m going to guesstimate $2,500 for three windows), replacing a sliding glass door (also a guesstimate, $1,500) and painting the outside of the townhouse (guessing again, $600). Amount spent on remodeling $27,200. Remaining Amount $908,800.

I Would Buy Our Next House!

Wait a second, I thought you were remodeling your current house. We currently live in a two bedroom one and a half bath townhouse which will be the perfect size for us for the next 10 years. Problem is once we have a kid or two our townhouse will be feeling a bit tight. Kids are a ways off but we still are planning ahead for our next place.

We’d like to be more in town rather than at the beach and there are some great deals right now. We’d likely buy an affordable 4 bedroom 3 bath house for around $150,000. I’d still take out a mortgage so we’d pay 20% down plus closing costs.

We plan on renting it out until we decide we need the extra room. At that point we will rent out the townhouse so that we can return to it many years later after the kids move out. Amount spent $40,000 (just to be safe, any extra above closing costs would be put toward down payment). Remaining Amount $868,800.

I’d Take $68,000 for Our Fun Money.

We could use this on whatever we want to prevent us from making some huge purchase that we really shouldn’t do. Chances are we would go take a few vacations to places we’ve wanted to go and buy some gifts for our close family but we wouldn’t do anything extravagant that would raise our current standard of living.

We don’t want any lifestyle inflation sneaking in so this amount definitely would not be spent all at once. I imagine it would last us a couple years but we would definitely want to enjoy it. Amount Spent $68,000. Remaining Amount $800,800.

I Would Invest the Rest!

However, first we would go talk to a fee only financial planner and make sure we have all of our bases covered. I’d like to think this wouldn’t cost more than $800 as we would go into it very organized so they didn’t have to do a ton of digging to get the answers they would need. Amount spent $800. Remaining Amount $800,000, all invested!

So there you have it! That is what I’d do if I won a million dollars. If you were paying attention there were a few things I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t quit my job, I wouldn’t pay my mortgage off and I wouldn’t buy a new car.

I don’t have any recommendations for what you should do if you do end up with one million dollars and you shouldn’t take my ideas as a recommendation or advice for what you should do.

So, what would you do if you won one million dollars? I’m interested to hear both what you would and what you wouldn’t do with the money!

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. Good mix! It’s kinda sad in this day and age that paying off student loans has to rank so high on our list of priorities to-do if we won a million bucks. I like that you don’t plan to quit working. A million dollars is a lot of money, but as young as we are and as much potential as we have, we’ve got a much longer road to go!

  2. I would upgrade our housing and invest/save the rest!!!

    I never think to play the lottery though so I doubt I’ll ever win!

  3. That’s a lot of investing, man!

    I’d pay off our mortgage first. I’d fill our daughters college savings accounts. I’d help my sister pay off her car. Hmm. And then I’d start my own business. Been wanting to do that for awhile, and with a million, well, that would make it a lot easier!

    • It would indeed help with a business. Just make sure you have a solid realistic plan so the million doesn’t disappear into a black hole business.

  4. I would start looking for a hedge fund manager that could multiply my winnings significantly, but safely! Then I would invest all of it. I don’t need it so I want to guarantee my future.

  5. I would pay off all of our debt. Then I would take a nice vacation, and invest the rest.

  6. People always say they would invest most of it and not change their lifestyle much, but I really think their mind would change when really faced with that kind of money. Like how do you not start going to all the fancy restaurants, go on regular vacations, buy nicer clothes, get a sweet car, etc? I’d probably go the same route as TB and start my own business. Of course I’d also blow a lot of the money and put a bunch into investments.

    • Investing can be done in a business… I’d probably spend part of my $68,000 on my blog as well. For me it wouldn’t be too hard to continue my normal lifestyle because I do it today even though I have money in the bank/invested even though it isn’t anywhere near that scale.

    • I think it really depends on the person though. I know a family who have more than a million dollar and making probably around a quarter million annually. They are living like a family making 75k a year and invest most of their assets in mutual funds and properties. As far as I know, they’re far happier than most people I know. Especially since they know they can retire any time they want.

  7. I’d pay off all of our debts and house, give money to charity and try to limit the amount we’d give to friends/family (but we’d certainly do something for a lot of them). We’d travel a bit and then certainly invest whatever is leftover.

    • I’d do something small (relative to the $1,000,000) but if everyone expects large hand outs I’d have nothing left for me to invest!

  8. I love reading posts like this and hearing what people would do. I like your plan. We have always said that if we won some money we would use it to look after our parents and then eliminate any debt we had (mortgage) etc, and invest in the future of our kids. We would also donate some to causes that were important to us.

  9. Nell @ Housewife Empire says:

    Ooh fun game! I’d set aside $100,000 to live on (fun money, etc. – I spend next to nothing per month so this would last me a few years), then I’d put $50,000 into my Internet biz, and then the remaining $850,000 – I’d prob give $100,000 to church and charity and invest the remaining $750,000 primarily in real estate, but I’d also max out a Roth and open a couple of investment accounts.

    • Maxing out a Roth will only take $5,000! Do you want to max out a roth for 20 years instead? 🙂 Just have to make sure you have earned income I believe.

      • Nell @ Housewife Empire says:

        I know about the $5,000 limit… the bulk of that last amount was for real estate and maxing out the Roth – the lion’s share going to real estate. I really want to own rental properties.

  10. I’d set some aside as an emergency fund, buy a couple rental properties and put some money into those (as well as set aside a reserve for months the houses are left vacant, repairs/upgrades, etc.). I’d buy two new cars, bring my entire family on an awesome vacation, and invest the rest.

  11. My spouse and I talk about this sometimes, although it’s highly unlikely as we don’t play the lottery or the publishers clearing house. I guess I’d get a tablet computer. Other than that, I might get a new car, but I’m quite content as is. Been at it a long time to get to this point!

    • Congrats Barbara! That is great. I agree that it is highly unlikely I’ll win either because I generally don’t play. Everyone once in a while I’ll get a ticket but it is only maybe once or twice a year for fun.

  12. So wait, you’d remodel your existing place instead of buying a new one? You, sir, rock at impulse control.

    • Yup! Even though sometimes it seems a bit small we know it is the right size for us. On top of that it is a few blocks from the beach so I can’t complain at all!

  13. I love these! But the first thing people NEED to do before ANYTHING is to learn how to keep the fact that you won private and then how to protect your winnings. So, first find a good attorney with experience in this area and shelter yourself. THEN proceed….

    • Very true. If I ever won the lottery I would totally do this first. No sense in letting everyone know you won if you can avoid it!

  14. Did you include taxes in your total or did I miss it? I wrote what I do with Millions when the Lottery was huge a few months back http://www.ontargetcoach.com/how-to-spend-lottery-winnings/

  15. I will divide the money into 5 parts, two for myself and hubby, one each for my 3 children. The kids can keep theirs on their own accounts, while we are left with $400,000. I will keep half of this for my investment account and the other on my savings account, the latter to draw from if we need to spend for some necessities or leisure.

  16. If I won a million dollards-I would donate $125,000 to three charities of my choice(breast cancer center-Devos hospital for children-and St,judes hospital for children.I would pay my $80,000 Debt off. I would remodel and it would cost $50,000-I would have to finish our basement put natural gas in-flooring through out the whole house and make a master bathroom-and put dry wall up because I still have paneling in the living room.I would use 200,000 for pleasure money to travel and helping family out. I would furthre my education and in my field of work. I work with Traumatic Brain injuried but there is more education I need to furthre in this career- Then invest the rest.

  17. I would fund kid’s 529’s. It’s an area we haven’t spent much effort on to data. Then I’d buy a larger home so my elderly mom can move in with us. I would pay back my scholarship donations to the orgs that gave me money all those years ago. I’d like a way to pay it forward, or if that’s too hard, I’d start my own small scholarship fund. I’d probably invest 1/2 of it and keep working towards hitting our retirement goals. Sadly, $1MM doesn’t get us all the way there. I guess if there weren’t college costs, we’d be a lot closer to our goal.

  18. I’d travel and i certainly wouldn’t quite. Unfortunately, my first thing to also pay off is the student loan.

  19. Half I would donate to cancer and stop the pain. Other half put in my investment.

  20. I’d pay off the mortgage and I’d stop working for a year to go travelling. Hopefully with some clever investing and frugal living I could retire permanently as well.

    • I am disabled and live on a fixed income. I had just got my settlement and my now ex-wife took it and divorced me and left me with nothing. I would use the money to hire a good lawyer and get my son back from her, she already had 4 and this last one was adopted from my brother since I had no children of my own. I would move back to where he is so i could see him more than once a year.

  21. If I won a million dollars, I would first pay off all our bills including my husbands, and our 2 oldest kids school loans and then I would put some back for our 2 youngest to go to college. Then lastly buy us a house we could all live in comforablly, all 4 of our kids are at home right know 2 in college and one high shcool and one jr. high, in a 3 bedroom, a little cramped lol. The very last thing is a dream I have to open an animal shelter for our area here in TN, there are so many strays it makes me sad, and a bowling/video game center that anyone could come to but most of all a safe and affordible place for the youth to come and hang out.

  22. Oh man. It would be pretty sweet to have $1M. I would travel, pay off mortgage and invest. It also wouldn’t hurt to spend some cash without feeling guilty about it

  23. Nooo!!! please quit your job! PLEASE!!!
    I would definately. And probably do some stupid things. I know its stupid but the idea of going grazy is so good ! 😀
    Really cool thread btw.

  24. I would be one million dollars richer… and enjoy spending that but.. that said, I’d still be doing the same thing. I love my job and my life as it is. Fortunate there.

    Like a lot of the other commenters, I think I’d be rather generous in sharing with my family and friends. Life is too short not to make others happy when you can.

  25. I would buy 40 acres of plow able land. I would build an organic farm that only relies on solar power and wind generators for electricity. The farm would have its own spring fed well for my future animals (chickens, goats, ducks, cows, pigs and fish) and my family to take care of ourselves while being off the grid. I would have a couple bee hives for honey, both for use in baking, and for retail. The bees will ensure steady pollination of my fields for a better harvest season. I will plant berry bushes (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries) a couple of apple trees for future use, and sell my goods at a local farmers market for income. I want to make my own cheese, bread, pies, canned goods, jellies, and some wine as well. I would teach my kids to appreciate life and all there is to offer without the social pressures of an unstable nation lurking over their heads. Sure its a lot of work, but I am sure the good food and company will be enough to sustain a lifetime of happiness!

  26. If I won a million dollars, I would probably divide them into segments as well. First on my list would be my goal of buying 2 houses that could generate rental income in the coming years. I would probably take out a smallish amount for having fun and equally divide the left over cash to be invested equally in equity and debt instruments.

  27. LINDA MACK says:

    I’d keep on working.

  28. Stephen says:

    Apply undeniable: “Can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

    Save every dollar completely liquid.

    Then, do a very long and thorough vetting of my own priorities before I even began the thought of doing anything else. And I mean anything. A million in the bank! That security alone is reward enough for a very long time. Maybe even forever.

  29. At first nothing. Yea that’s right, i wouldn’t touch it in the beginning. The best thing to do is to spend little and worry even less. Maintaining a large sum of money gives confidence, but it’s a bit of getting used to. Maybe invest in shares or funds or realestate or anything profitable on the given time. Let noone know and give some time for a few great ideas to come up. I’ve always been interested in architecture and the concept of environment. So i’d probably study something new (including business management) and end up running a few simultaneous businesses. All the cars and boats will come after that.

  30. Antoinette Smith says:

    Make sure I set aside money for my kids to go to college, upgrade house, take some trips, and SHOP!

  31. well its a much wondered thought whenever I play the state lottery ~ what if I won? Having lost a house, lived in an RV and been almost homeless ~ Id pay off a house in full , put enough away to cover the yearly taxes for years to come and then work on making the homestead self reliant (ie solar panels, wind turbine power etc) As much as I could have the homestead on its own water source, sewer basically eliminating any reliance on outside utilities or bills. Why would I care when I have a million bucks? Because again Ive been there where the power was shut off , lost my home etc ~ I wouldn’t want to leave anything to chance. Once established above, then I could garden, install a real greenhouse, small livestock and basically live in the moment. I could finish my little travel trailer (in luxury) and travel the nation, meet new people and share in good points of life (cuz no more worries of bills, job etc) I think it’d be a real ease of mind. Ok those are my thoughts. Au Revoir

  32. What WOULDN’T I do…that’s the better question. It’s fun to imagine, but instead of dreaming about winning the lottery, your time can be better used figuring out how to reach your financial goals yourself. 🙂

  33. bob hawila says:

    Am gonna work hard to get the second million and continue to the next million. …

  34. First off, I have to convert to $AU, which is about $1.14 million. I’d pay off my loan ($26,000) and my credit card ($6,000). I’d also buy a small house as I’ve always rented – maybe spend up to $250,000. I already own my car outright, and it’s perfect for me (small, great fuel consumption and easy to park!) so I wouldn’t change it unless it became necessary. This leaves me with $858,000. That’s a lot of money. I agree with the idea of setting aside some “fun money” to use for holidays etc, so I’d take $58K for that.
    Not sure what I’d do with the remaining $800,000. Maybe buy an investment property (depending on the market – at the moment the rental market in my town isn’t so great). I’m not a big fan of the stock market (mainly because I don’t understand it) so I wouldn’t invest in stocks. I’d probably stick it in an interest bearing account for 6-12 months while I figured out the best thing to do.

    • It sounds like you have this well thought out! I really like the idea of putting it in an interest bearing account while you figure things out. This is definitely a great idea so you don’t make a mistake you’ll later regret, like investing in a bad company. Take some time to figure it out, no rush!

  35. JavyKnutz says:

    I would give 10% to a good cause (like Church, homeless etc.)
    I would buy a house for around $200,000 cash. Then I would invest $600,000 to open up a business. I would spend 100k on a nice car and maybe other things for my house.

    • Nice! Sounds like you have a plan if you ever win $1,000,000 which is half of the battle. Let me know if you ever find a way to win the money though 🙂 Many of us would like to know!

  36. I’d divide it into 5 categories:
    ~Firstly, buy the book “Tax Evasion for Dummies” 😉
    ~Then investing some of the money into my new start-up business Hollow Leg Store, which means a lot to me and I hope develops into something that can make a meaningful contribution to the world.
    ~Thirdly, giving to other causes and companies that I respect the morals of and want to support.
    ~Fourthly, I would travel. Exploring new spaces and cultures always keeps my perspective fresh.
    ~And lastly, I would put the rest away– you never know when you might need it, and I tend to squirrel away savings for the unexpected. (and the occasional rainy day) 😉

    • Sounds like you have a plan! Best of luck to you. I would avoid tax evasion though and just call it paying the correct amount of taxes. There are wonders you can do without breaking the law, which evasion is.

  37. Buy a house (350,000), buy a car (25,000) go on a big trip (7,000), pay my debts (50,000),help family and set the kids reaps up ($15,000) and invest the rest, pulling a specific amount out each year for living expenses (including a basic vacation yearly). Yes I intend to make this last until I’m gone. My only working income will be from a hobby that makes me money, and when the kids are grown and gone I will sell my amazing house and downgrade to a smaller one. I’m single now, and want to make sure I never need a second income to make ends meet.

    • Sounds like a well thought out plan. Just keep in mind, after all of your spending you will only have $553,000 left which isn’t a lot to live on for the rest of your life unless you’re well into retirement already. Good luck!

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