What would I do if I had $100 billion?
These things can happen to a person… well, so far, to only one person – Jeff Bezos. But you know…
“Everything you can imagine, you can do,” I’m told. (Or, rather, my kids are told, ad infinitum, in their progressive, positive-learning-experience schools with 90% of classroom time spent teaching self-esteem.)
Years ago, I did do something. I wrote an article with a really great title, if I do say so myself – “How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink.” It was written for a humor magazine, and I was kidding. Sort of. (I was 29.)
Maybe “How to…” is made into a blockbuster movie, a best-selling video game, a hit song that stays at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for 52 weeks, a wildly successful brand of legalized pot, the go-to craft beer for millennials, a killer app, an Internet search engine, and the largest hedge fund on earth, “Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink, LLC.”
And I make $100 billion. After taxes.
What would I do?
Take a nap.
Making a lot of money is sort of like discovering a miracle diet. It’s an instant worry-loss program.
Why not? Making a lot of money is sort of like discovering a miracle diet. It’s an instant worry-loss program. Very relaxing. And when I’m very relaxed, I like to take a nap.
I’ll never worry about going broke again. (Which gives me more time to worry about dying. And my kids getting facial piercings, and full sleeves of tats, and marrying Louis C.K… But never mind.)
After my nap, I’ll buy some things I’ve always wanted.
But… hmm… I’m 70. I’ve kind of already done that.
I don’t want a new house. We’ve been in our place for 25 years. It’s nothing that would be featured in Architectural Digest, unless it does a special issue on “Run-Of-The-Mill Old Federal-Style Houses With Ugly Additions From the 1980s.” But I’ve almost figured out how the plumbing and septic systems work. I don’t want to go through that again. Also, the dogs like it here.
I certainly don’t want a new wife. I love mine. (What’s with “trophy wives”? What would I do with a trophy wife? Set her on the mantle next to my JV bowling team cup for “Most Improved”?) Also, I know for sure my present wife didn’t marry me for my money because I for sure didn’t have any when we got married.
(I should, however, check to see whether this is a “community property” state. My wife might not feel the same about getting a new me.)
I have plenty of golf clubs, skis, shotguns, and power tools – all of them better in quality than my ability to golf, ski, bird hunt, and… The shelves I built in the garage just came crashing down.
I have an ample supply of good scotch due to having turned 70. Nobody knows what to give a 70-year-old man for his birthday except a bottle of good scotch. (Right choice.)
I have a couple of old classic cars to tinker with. Well, they’re not classics, but they are old. I wouldn’t know how to tinker with an $8 million 1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa and its 12 cylinders, 4 overhead cams, and six two-barrel Weber carburetors. I wouldn’t even dare open the hood.
I’ll get a pickup for the farm – $40,000.
A beach shack to escape New England’s lousy winters, big enough for family, friends, dogs, friends’ dogs, etc.
(Jeez! When I first moved to the country, you could get a new pickup for five grand.)
I’ll ask my wife if she’d like an upgrade on her 2014 Volvo XC90. But I know what she’ll say. “A Porsche Cayenne is too flashy for New England.” (Bless her heart.) I’ll get her a 2018 Volvo XC90 – $50,000.
I’ll replace the 2004 Volvo XC70 station wagon that our teenagers bang up by backing into phone poles, colliding with other cars in mall parking lots, and driving into ditches…
On second thought, no I won’t.
I’ll buy a John Deere backhoe because… because I’ve always wanted one. (You can tell the age of the boy by the size of his toys.) It’ll make weeding the herbaceous borders a snap next spring – $100,000.
Okay, so far, I’ve spent $190,000.
I suppose my wife will want to go shopping. But, again, I know what she’ll say. “Prada’s too flashy for New England. I’ll stick to Target.”
(I won’t add in any shopping for my three teens. How much do ripped jeans cost? You can get them for free if you raid the Planet Aid donation box.)
Now I’ve spent $190,159.95. That leaves me $99,999,809,840.05 to go. I’d better get busy.
A private plane? A luxury yacht? I have an old friend who’s a pilot and a sailor (and who’s been divorced three times). He says, “If it flies, floats, or… [let’s not go there with what his third f-verb is] rent it!”
A pied-a-terre in the city. For Mrs. O’Rourke and I to go to town and have some fun! (A small place so we can’t bring the kids.)
The Pierre hotel, at 5th Avenue and 61st Street in New York, is selling a four-room condominium apartment on a high floor overlooking Central Park – so that’s $5,000,000.
A beach shack to escape New England’s lousy winters, big enough for family, friends, dogs, friends’ dogs, etc.
I like Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast – unspoiled “Old Florida.” And here’s just the thing on Zillow… 11,000 square feet with seven bathrooms and 700 feet of private beachfront for $22,000,000.
The problem with charity is that you have to be careful when you try to make the world a better place.
Oh yeah, college for my children. It’s not the tuition. That’s a drop in the bucket. It’s getting my kids into college. My kids are – like everybody’s kids – brilliant, of course. But, like their old man, they… um… to quote from a recent parent-teacher conference, “have tremendous potential but with room for considerable improvement in effort, concentration, and study habits…”
In other words, they ain’t getting into Harvard.
Unless… maybe… I match or exceed the largest-ever gift to Harvard – $400 million donated by hedge-fund billionaire (and Big Short beneficiary) John A. Paulson in 2015.
But who the hell wants kids who go to Harvard? As if they’re not smartasses enough already… I have no desire for children like Al Franken (Class of ‘73).
Instead, I’ll send them to a good state school such as Miami of Ohio, where I went. “Or,” my wife will say, “a better state school, such as Indiana University, where I went.”
(Hah! Ben Roethlisberger played for the Miami RedHawks. Who’s in the NFL Hoosiers “Who’s Who?” Babe Laufenberg… starting quarterback for the 1988 San Diego Chargers. He threw four touchdowns and five interceptions in six games before being sacked by the Saints and getting his ribs crushed.)
But I digress… The new gym at Miami cost $14 million. Title IX probably means they need another one. “The O’Rourke Family C-Students Sports Pavilion.” I can get my kids into Miami for 3.5% of what it cost
John Paulson to get his kids into Harvard.
Grand total of expenditures so far, in round numbers: only $41.2 million.
Naturally, I’ll give money to worthy causes. There are plenty of worthy causes. Such as my cousin Mikey-Mike. He spent Thanksgiving in jail after his seventh DUI arrest. It was just too cold to walk to the trailer park from the bar – half a block away. Maybe Mikey-Mike isn’t a very worthy cause. But he is my cousin. I’ll hire a designated driver for him. Or maybe just a big guy to carry him home.
I’ll also donate to the local EMS. They were Johnny-on-the-spot at the accident scenes during Mikey-Mike’s second, third, and fifth DUI arrests.
But I’m no “Give-It-Away Gates” or Warren “Leave-Air-to-the-Heirs” Buffett. The problem with charity is that people can be remarkably hard to help. My cousin Mikey-Mike, for instance.
The other problem with charity is that you have to be careful when you try to make the world a better place.
When you try to make the world a better place, you’re assuming that you know what the world needs, that you know what the world should be doing, and that you know what everyone in the world wants. I don’t even know what I want.
Furthermore, there’s a danger in “sharing and caring.” The danger is in the caring part. We’re told we should care... Care about climate change, care about endangered species, care about the poor and oppressed.
But being terribly concerned about great big issues is a way of elevating yourself to membership in a self-selecting elite.
You care about climate change. You really, really care about climate change. You care so much it keeps you awake at night. You can hardly eat. Meanwhile the rest of us just give $20 to the Sierra Club and forget about it.
You people who care so much are obviously superior to those of us who only care as much as we have to. And since you’re such superior people you have the right – nay, the duty – to tell all us inferior people what to do.
We inferior people may not buy that.
Nonetheless, I’ll give $9,958,800,000 to worthy causes. Which, in addition to the $41,200,000 I’ve already spent, will bring my fortune down to a more manageable $90 billion.
Then, utilizing the remaining $90 billion, I’ll do good with my money the old-fashioned way. By keeping it.
Let’s say I keep my $90 billion in the most conservative fashion… No, not that conservative… $90 billion in bullion = approximately 4.3 million pounds of gold = one damn big hole I’d have to dig in my yard.
And I’m not putting it into U.S. Treasury bonds, either. The last thing our fool government needs is somebody lending it $90 billion. Secretary Mnuchin would be skipping though the halls of the Treasury building singing…
The $82 billion deficit increase
Just got palmed with P.J. grease!
No, let’s say I put my money in 12-month bank CDs at 1.25% interest. (True, this would require 360,000 different banks in order to keep my $90 billion fully FDIC insured. That’s almost 356,000 more banks than there are in the U.S. But I guess I could start some new ones.)
An interest rate of 1.25%, paltry though it is, gives me an annual income of $1.125 billion. And even though I haven’t invested in a way that any real investor would call “investing,” my $90 billion is still out there in the world economy helping to increase global wealth.
An increase in global wealth is a good thing. Period. Even if you’re up all night being a worry wart about climate change, you’d better realize that stopping or reversing or coping with the effects of climate change will require more wealth than the globe has now.
An increase in global wealth is the only certain way out of poverty and the only likely way out of oppression. With wealth comes power over the world. Men and women are freed from drudgery and exploitation. Businesses can be started, communities empowered, educations pursued.
Keeping my money will do good, even if I don’t mean to.
And there’s another way my money will do good. And I really didn’t mean to do this. That is, paying taxes.
Gosh, will I be doing that. I’ll be in the top tax bracket – 39.6%. That means an annual income tax bill of $445.5 million. Yes, all the money in the world will hire some excellent attorneys and accountants. And let’s say I sail very close to the wind with the IRS. (I certainly intend to!) I’m still going to wind up being taxed a couple hundred million a year.
If I keep doing that for the rest of my natural lifespan, that will be more than $2 billion in taxes.
But let’s look on the bright side. Even assuming that half my tax dollars go to “waste, fraud, and abuse,” that’s still a billion dollars’ worth of paved roads and sewage treatment plants, of public education (with vouchers, I hope!), of benefits for veterans, the disabled, and my cousin Mikey-Mike, and of police and military protection for my fellow countrymen.
What if I simply give the $100 billion to the local chapter of Earth First! and then spend the next 10 or a dozen years chained to an ipê tree in the Amazon protesting illegal tropical-rainforest logging? How much good would that do?
For $100 billion, I could have bought the rainforest.