Like you, I didn’t win the $587.5 million Powerball, though, as a pragmatic woman who has been knocked around by life, I would readily have settled for a fraction of the jackpot. The loss didn’t stop me from planning how I would distribute the windfall, however.
Over coffee, at the gym and on the phone, my friends and I not only spent money we would never get, but we debated whether we would continue on the 9-to-5 treadmill or tell the shocked boss, “Take this job and shove it.”
I’d have kept mine, with a couple of caveats: fewer hours and my choice of assignments. I call it the cafeteria employment plan. It’s my way of carving out time for both the work I love and the people I love — the age-old balancing act that seems to defy one-size-fits-all solution.
Most of us working stiffs believe that if we had more money, a couple extra Ks a month, say, life would be easier. Maybe. Certainly there’s a list of things I’d invest in if the cash came my way.
But what would I be willing to give up for that extra moolah? Money has to be earned, one way or another, and often at the expense of doing something more enjoyable. Which reminds me of that bumper sticker I see around Miami all the time: A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at the office. Might be true, but let’s keep in mind that you usually need the paycheck to do the fishing.
Around the time the rest of us realized we were among the unlucky millions who hadn’t purchased a winning Powerball ticket, a study of 2,000 Americans by New York Life revealed a not-so-well-kept secret about our priorities. Though seven out of 10 Americans claim they’d be happier if they had more money, few are willing to exchange that for time with family. Even the promise of a 50 percent pay increase isn’t enough for most Americans to give up time with their loved ones.
In a consumption-crazy society where status is measured by what you own and respect is awarded according to the make of your car and the size of your home, this is heartwarming news. It restores my faith that we haven’t lost our way, no matter how many ridiculous ads insist I’ll feel better, look sexier and be happier if I just buy-buy-buy.
As I grow older, time — time to do what I want with whom I want — has become vastly more important to me than money. It’s a recognition, I suppose, that time becomes a more finite and valuable asset with every turn of the calendar page.
Yet, that realization isn’t just a function of aging. More and more, I see my grown children and their friends weighing their career choices with the sacrifices these will exact. Some have declined promotions, rebuffed offers from bigger firms or turned down transfers that might afford them a more luxurious lifestyle. Like those in the survey, they prefer time with family over money. In my ledger, that understanding is the real jackpot.
Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.