What Would You Do for Friends and Family If You Won a Windfall?

kobe-bryant-435Let’s say that you get a $20 million phone call tomorrow. Maybe you win the lottery or sign a huge contract or sell your company–whatever matches with your life. The point is, you’re getting a huge sum of money.

Do you spend any of it on friends and family? If so, how do you spend it?

A few minutes ago I read an article written by recently retired NBA player Kobe Bryant. It’s a letter to his 17-year-old self, and it includes a really interesting message.

It starts off with Kobe saying what he did in those early days. He gave money to friends and family in the form of cars, houses, bills paid, etc.

But then he says this: “While you were feeling satisfied with yourself, you were slowly eating away at their own dreams and ambitions. You were adding material things to their lives, but subtracting the most precious gifts of all: independence and growth.”

He continues with an alternative to simply giving away money and things to family and friends: “Use your success, wealth and influence to put them in the best position to realize their own dreams and find their true purpose.”

I think I can understand the temptation he mentions–it would feel really good to use a windfall to give things to the people I love. But I think Kobe is right: Even though that would feel good for me and those people in the short term, in the long term the most loving thing to do would be to use the windfall to help people grow and achieve their own special kind of success (if they even wanted help).

What do you think about this message? Is that how you’d use part of your windfall?

6 thoughts on “What Would You Do for Friends and Family If You Won a Windfall?”

  1. Due to the occasional wistful daydream I have thought about this from time to time and it always comes down to one answer. I would give them a solid portion of the winnings up front. Rather than do the ridiculous gift approach etc. I would give each of them a sum of money that they could use as they wished- enough to become totally debt free so they are not tied down to that machine, plus extra, enough to buy a house, become the full time writer, board game designer etc. It is not for me to manage someone’s destiny but I would like to enable them to achieve their dreams, easier

    • Bill: Thanks for sharing! I like that method, especially since it seems to come with the caveat of, “This is all that you’re getting, so spend it wisely, because you’re not getting more.”

  2. I like the philosophy of effective altriusm:

    It means giving back in a smart way, namely where the impact is highest. I live in Germany and giving to charities in developing countries is so much more effective than any action in Germany (due to much higher prices in Germany and much more poverty in developing countries). So I would pick 2-3 very effective charities in a developing country and donate a good sum to it. There is a website that analyzes the effectiveness of charities: http://www.givewell.org/

    Most of my friends might want more money but don’t really need more. I would explain them that I think others are much more in need and I think they would actually understand.

    • I think this is a really smart way to contribute to the greater good. I applaud that. Thanks for the link to the video and givewell.org.

      I would add, though, that there are numerous charities and non-profits in first world countries – like the one I work for here in the US – that struggle financially, not because of mismanagement or trying to fulfill a need that doesn’t exist, but because it can be very difficult to convince others that the need in first world countries is real, too.

      • Cory: Well said. “it can be very difficult to convince others that the need in first world countries is real”. I’m glad you said that, as it’s an important reminder to me.


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