Thursday, December 2, 2010

Time Is On My Side (At Least That's What the Stones Say!)

It’s been fairly hectic in our household that past few weeks, hence the lack of posting.  The end of a very long little league football season, a family vacation, startup of intramural basketball, home improvements, beginning of a new workout program, Thanksgiving and an upcoming holiday party have consumed the majority of any free time I have had for posting.  In the midst of all this, I try and keep the Pareto Principles in the back of my mind, and emphasize the 20% of life that is truly important.  Focusing on the things that make our family healthy and happy, and pushing the negativity and chaos as far away as possible.  It is a daunting task in today’s society, overwhelmed with constant connectivity and over scheduling.  And this time of the season obviously doesn’t help.
I fully plan to continue exploring other potential ways of funding this endeavor, including corporate sponsorship and media outlets in the next few posts.
In the meantime, check out this link to an article about an elderly couple that gave away their $11,000,000 lottery winning, claiming the money was “A big headache.”  Wow!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Weighty Issue

After a week-long family vacation at Disney, I want to explore the issue of money and health.  While visiting their four amusement parks, I got the opportunity to observe thousands of families.  Some of these families live as close as Orlando and some from as far away as Australia.  The majority of these have one thing in common, they’re FAT!
Yeah, we know, our society is overweight.  Childhood obesity has reached epic proportions, and our aging demographic is riddled with weight related health issues.  The media report daily about the evils of trans fats, salt intake, and calorie consumption, to name a few.  But what I want to explore is the connection between wealth and health.
Now I am not saying that every family I saw at Disney is wealthy.  But give me the latitude of a few assumptions here.  First of all, the households that are spending money on family vacations during tough economic times are not living at the sustenance levels.  They obviously have some expendable income, and thus the means to spend more money on health related items.  Second, good, healthy food is expensive.  Junk food is cheap and readily available.  (Yes, I understand families can grow their own vegetables and farmer’s markets are an excellent source of affordable healthy food, bet we are talking about mainstream America here!)  Anyone who eats regular meals outside of the home, and tries to eat healthy can attest to this. I always laugh when eating lunch at a restaurant and I’m told substituting broccoli for french fries costs extra.  Or, when ordering water, being told by the waiter that the soda is included.  Seems quite counterintuitive to a society trying to get “healthier.”
So why is it that the exact people in our society who can afford healthy, clean food, cram their faces with hamburgers, french fries, and cokes.  Is it laziness? Good Marketing?  (those who have seen Supersize Me, can attest to the juggernaut that is Mcdonald’s marketing.)  Does the fact that people have the means to eat better mean that they actually will?  Obviously not.  A perfect example of this is Oprah Winfrey.  With access to the countries best personal trainers, and the private chef of her choice, she’s back up to 200 pounds! Check out this link to a recent blog at Mark’s Daily Apple.
This is obviously not a new phenomenon.  As families shifted from a traditional nuclear family makeup to a dual working parent, kids playing every sport, cram in everything you can each day, whirlwind, the major fast food chains responded.  Starting in 1998 Burger King, Mcdonalds and Taco Bell began selling “Value Meals” and created “Dollar Menus” reducing the prices of hamburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries to pocket change.  In August of this year, Taco Bell introduced an entire meal for $1.99.  Yet head to a local O’Charley’s and order a chicken salad and it will cost you $9.99!
As I ponder the potential future of this experiment, I think this is an area I would like to explore further.  I have become enthralled by the concepts of food and health.  Lately, books like Good Calories, Bad Calories, The Paleo Solution, and The Primal Blueprint are questioning the last forty years of food recommendations.  The food pyramid, as we have come to know it, may be the exact reason why our society is obese.  Add with government subsidies in certain food industries and rising health care costs, the connection of money and health may be one of the most important issues in the next 20 years.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Question

The question for each man to settle is not what he would do if he had means, time, influence and educational advantages; the question is what he will do with the things he has. The moment a young man ceases to dream or to bemoan his lack of opportunities and resolutely looks his conditions in the face, and resolves to change them, he lays the corner-stone of a solid and honorable success.
Hamilton Wright Mabie

I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes. I think it is so applicable in all parts of one's life.  Whenever times are getting tough, I always take time to really think about what it means.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lottery Winners?

Found an interesting link to a MSN article this morning that chronicles recent lottery winners.  When I see "Filing for Bankruptcy" listed as the answer to a "Last Seen:" tag, I always wonder what series of unforeseen events brought them to that point.  Do brand new millionaires get caught up in trying to keep up with multi-millionaires?  Does the "keeping up with the Joneses" syndrome affect the nouveau riche more than old money, or the middle class in general? 

When listening to the media discuss average American debt, one has to wonder if the current economical times have forced people to use credit cards for everyday items like groceries and gas, or flat screen TVs and blu ray players. 

Is the marketing juggernaut that is American advertising so advanced and persuasive,  that once a product is labeled New and Improved, given commercial spots during our favorite TV shows and sporting events, we enter into a hypnotic spending trance?  Looking at the number of our friends with ipads, ipods, Droids, Kindles, Garmins, etc, it's not hard to imagine how replacing these items every year or so becomes the norm.  And it's easy to see how quickly one's disposable income is depleted through this cycle.  

Anyway, check out the link here:
Lottery Winners or Losers

Friday, September 24, 2010


After typing yesterday’s post, I couldn’t help but segue to today’s post.  The connection is definitive and it is bacon!  Huh, Bacon?  Yes, Kevin Bacon to be exact.  And what does Kevin Bacon have to do with any of this?  Specifically, the parlor game known as Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
For those of you familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, he illustrates this concept in his chapter called The Law of the Few.  He believes that word of mouth epidemics are the product of connectors, mavens and salesmen.  I want to focus specifically on connectors.  Connectors represent the people you know in your life that seem to know everyone.  They have acquaintances that span socio-economic classes, professions, and age groups.  I consider my wife a connector.  It seems each time we go out to a dinner, or a picnic, or any other social event; she spends the majority of her time mingling. (Probably one of the reasons she is one of the top sales reps in the nation for her company) These are the people who get you into the black tie gala, the front row seats to the game, reservations at the hip new restaurant, or opening night tickets to the show.
According to Gladwell, an equally important function of connectors lies within the kinds of people they know.  We all can think of people in our daily lives that function as connectors.  But there are a rare few that seem to connect with endless numbers of groups.   They even connect the connectors. They are the people who make the leaps that allow the six degrees to work.
As I ponder how to make this idea a reality, I wonder who the connectors are in our life.  Who are the people who could make this a reality?  I actually have a few acquaintances who are multi-millionaires.  Not close friends, but friends of friends.  The question is, how to get them, or someone like them interested in this.  The answer is obvious…..connectors!
If this idea is to ever take flight via an individual donor, connectors will likely be the key.  Unlike corporate America, there is no ad campaign to bank on.  But it could be one heck of a story.  With me and you, we are only four steps away!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hey Buddy, Got an Extra Million?

As I mentioned in my last post, I think I will explore possible funding options in the next few posts, starting with an individual donor.  While scanning headlines this morning, I see that Forbes released its 10 Richest Americans List today.  Many of the usual suspects show up; Gates, Buffet, Bloomberg, and a whole slew of Waltons.    I dug a little deeper, and expanded the list to the top 100.  Again, familiar names, but even more familiar companies with which they have made their fortunes.  Names like Google, Dell, Nike, Mars, Fidelity, Facebook, Apple, Enterprise, Ebay, Estee Lauder, and Intel to name a few. 
So you ask, how much money are we talking about?  Topping the list is Bill Gates at an estimated net worth of 54 Billion.  Yes, with a “B”.  Rounding out the top 100 is Ron Burkle at a paltry 3.2 Billion. Ron Burkle?  That’s right, Ron Burkle.  Who?  Ron Burkle made his fortune in supermarkets and investments.  His education is listed as a high school diploma.  He is a part owner of the Pittsburg Penguins, and was the largest shareholder of Wild Oats, prior to their purchase by Whole Foods.  On the celebrity front, he was one of many investors scammed by Rafaello Follieri, Anne Hathaway’s ex boyfriend.  He is most recently in the news for his interest in one of three Board of Director seats with Barnes and Noble Booksellers. 
What does my family have in common with Bill Gates, Ron Burkle, or anyone else on this list?  Zilch. Other than using their products or services, like everyone else, we have no personal connections to these individuals.  And I wonder if these are really the types of individuals that would be interested in this endeavor.  Most likely, they have already personally answered the questions we look to explore.  I also wonder if this group of individuals is so removed from the reality of the average American working family that our day to day activities would bore them to tears.
I think a more likely chance would come from someone in the celebrity world, an Oprah or an Ellen? After all, giving your sponsors money away is a lot more palatable than giving away your own.  Not to mention the story that could come out of it.  The business magnates don’t make their money on self interest stories coming on at four in the afternoon.
Maybe some reclusive millionaire will pick up our story from a media outlet?  A philanthropist who likes the social concept and sees the potential good that could come out of this story?  I could see partnering with someone willing to donate the money, and using our passion and energy to do something very special in the future.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Search

So it's been two weeks since I put this crazy idea into blog form.  And guess what?  Not one offer for the million.  Shocking, I know!  Not that I expected a donor/sponsor to show up out of thin air and drop a load of cash.  In reality, I didn't know what to think then and I don't really know what to expect going forward.

As some of our friends and family have started to hear about the blog, asking who is actually going to read this, much less pony up the money, our response is always the same.  It is definitely a crazy idea, but is it one that is actually crazy enough to work?  After all, The Situation is projected to make $5,000,000 this year for tanning, drinking and fighting at a beach house on the Jersey Shore! (pitching that concept would seem even more ludicrous than this!)

Which leads me to the million dollar question (literally). How to find the money to make this experience happen?  Who will step up?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Will it be a billionaire tycoon?  A corporation seeing this as a unique advertising tool?  An institutional entity performing social research? I have no idea. 

Just as important maybe how to find them.  Will it come from a friend who knows a friend? An anonymous reader?  A local or national news story?   A social network?  What or who will be the link?

I think I will take some time over the next week to explore some funding sources.  I will be posting why I think each of the above mentioned sources should participate.  And as I work through those, new links may become apparent. 

As I work through this, I wonder if the story within the story is the quest to find the sponsor?  If you happen to know someone with an extra million sitting around, or know someone who knows someone who might know someone who thinks this is just crazy enough to work, send them my way.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Concept

What is the Million Dollar Experience?

First of all let me describe what it is not.  It is not a get rich quick scheme.  It is not a cash and dash idea to get easy money via the Internet and disappear. It is a simple idea that I believe will make for good reading over the next year.

The concept is basic.  Give our typical, Midwest family a million dollars and see how it changes our lives over the course of a year.  (Sounds like a pitch for a reality TV show, except I don't want cameras following me around for a year!)  I know what you are thinking, heck yeah, give my family a million dollars!  But my vision is to answer the questions that people ask each other when discussing scenarios like what they would do if they won the lottery.

 I will blog our daily activities for one year, detailing how the money affects our decision making process and daily experiences.  I will attempt to answer all the questions I have listed below, and any others that my readers come up with through the course of the year. I will look to answer the question, does money make people happy?  And is a million dollars a blessing or a curse?

Let me say that I am not a professional blogger.  I have never written a blog or created a web page.  I do not have a facebook, myspace, or any other social networking account.   I am computer literate and will work very diligently on my posts.  Blogging will definitely be a learning experience.  I will answer as many questions as possible each day and respond to as many comments as I can.

How do I plan to get someone to just give me a million dollars?  Good question.  I don't really know.  I guess I will try to sell it as an investment.  An investment into a year long "What would you do?" story.  A way to be a part of the journey of our family as we figure out what unexpected money means to us and how important it actually is or should be.

I will provide more information about our family as time goes by, but for now I would like to list some of the questions that we will be attempting to answer over the course of the next year.

What are the tax ramifications of receiving a million dollar gift?

Would you or your spouse quit your job?

Would you spend more time volunteering?

Would you buy your parents a new car, house, etc?

Would you buy a new house or fix up the one you have?

What is the first thing you would buy?

How would the money change the relationship between you and your spouse?

What would a financial advisor recommend doing with the money?

How much should you invest?

Should you set aside college funds first and foremost?

Would you/should you pay off your mortgage?

Would you exercise more?

Would you eat healthier foods?

Would you pursue graduate degrees?

How much would you donate to charity?

How would you go about choosing charities to donate to?

Would you set up trust funds for your children?

Would your attitude towards paying taxes change?

How does this change the way you teach your children the value of money?

Would you spend more time with your spouse/children/extended family?

Would you travel more?

What luxury items would you indulge?

How would relationships with friends change?

Would acquaintances you haven’t heard from in years show up and ask for money?

Would you become more politically active?

Would a blog experiment become an eventual invasion of your privacy and a really bad idea?

So there it is, the basic plan.  I know it sounds crazy, expecting someone to just offer up a million dollars.  But there are companies and individuals out there that have so much money, one million would not make a blip on the radar.  If you know of someone who may be interested in this concept, send me a note and I will contact them.

Thanks for stopping by,