x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Winning £100m is fantastic, but then what?

What would you do with 113 million pounds? That was the pressing question that monopolised our coffee meeting this week, following news of the biggest lottery win ever in the UK.

What would you do if you suddenly acquired £113 million (Dh656m)? This was the pressing question that monopolised our coffee meeting this week, sparked by news of the biggest lottery win ever in the UK.
I slurped my cappuccino thoughtfully. This was an important discussion point, because even though I don't play the lottery, the odds of my winning are surely only very slightly worse than the one in 76 million of those who do play.
If you were to unexpectedly come by £100, you might smile in the knowledge that the universe was looking favourably upon you. With £1,000, you would start thinking about what special treat you might bestow upon yourself and your family.
Up that number to £100,000 and you enter the realm of what people call a "life-changing moment": paying off debts or ensuring your children got the best school and university education. With that kind of money, you could set off on a world tour, establish a charitable foundation or enjoy the full works for plastic surgery (hey, it's your money; I'm not judging).
But what would you do if your bank balance suddenly stood at a mind-boggling £100m? Instinctively, I'd hand in my resignation to my boss! But then what?
In our coffee group, we were surprised to find that this simple question is rather revealing about the aspirations and vision that lie at the very core of a person. After all, with £100m in the bank, one's life choices are no longer driven by necessity, but true inner desire.
First, we all wanted our own "essentials" sorted out: a home, a holiday home and some financial investments. There is something comforting about owning your own bricks and mortar and having some rainy-day back-up in case things go wrong. And add some dream cars and one-off holidays. Oh, and maybe a trip into space (£200,000).
Then, we all wanted to ensure that close family were properly taken care of. One challenging issue that remained unresolved was how to deal with other family members: how much (if anything) do you give relatives further away on the family tree? Could favourite relatives be given more than others, or would they discuss your largesse with each other and feud?
Then it gets interesting with your remaining £80 million or so. What do you do now? And what does it say about you?
I always envisaged my dream life on the stunning shoreline from the final scene of The Shawshank Redemption, where the azure sea and golden sand stretch into the horizon with nothing but a boat and you in the picture. That beauty and tranquility - with no financial worries - would be infinite, leaving time for sensual and paradisal pleasure along with time for inner contemplation.
Others shook their head in despair at my yearning for such sun-kissed, peaceful pleasures of heaven on earth. They said getting £100m was time to "get involved" and "make a difference". It was time to establish charities and schools, open think tanks, buy newspapers, reduce poverty, or offer university scholarships.
Financial freedom in this scenario was a means to do more work not less. The difference: this "work" had meaning and purpose that was bigger than ourselves. This "work" was the expression of what was important to our inner being.
Thinking about what to do with one's hypothetical wealth is an experiment to find out who we really are underneath the constraints of daily life and struggle. Ask your spouse, friends and family and see what they say. What you learn about them may surprise you.
Of course, if anyone wants to test this experiment and give me £100million, please don't be shy. It's a worthwhile cause.
Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and blogs at www.spirit21.co.uk