How would you spend $100k? Here’s what to do with $100,000

What happens when a half dozen money nerds spend 48 hours together in Clearwater, Florida? Do they romp on the beach? Swim in the ocean? Cook dinner together? Drink copious quantities of alcohol? Stay up until three in the morning, laughing and telling stories? Yes. Yes, they do all of these things.

But they also spend a lot of time talking about money. A lot of time talking about money. (That’s what makes them money nerds!)

For the past few days, I’ve been hanging out with some of my favorite fellow money nerds, including Mr. Money Mustache, Paula Pant (from Afford Anything), Joel (from FI 180), Marla (featured on this Mad Fientist podcast), Ben (who wrote this MMM article about how he gets his cars for free), and the effervescent Heather, who has no blog connections at all — but might someday.

Our little group has discussed many financial-related matters this week, some serious and some silly. One particular topic has occupied a great deal of our mindspace.

Joel and Ben, trying to decide how to spend $100,000

Four Questions About Money

I’m not sure how it came up, but during a conversation between Ben and Paula, he asked what she’d do if she were given $100,000 with no strings attached. She said that she’d buy another rental property. (Paula is building a burgeoning real-estate empire.) Paula asked Ben how he would spend a $100,000 windfall. He didn’t know.

Paula and Ben then dove deeper. They tried to attach conditions to this theoretical $100,000 to see how that altered their answers.

Ben liked this conversation so much that he decided to grill everybody else. He quizzed us one at a time so that we couldn’t hear what others had said unless we’d already been subjected to questioning. (This was an attempt to prevent our responses from being influenced by anybody else. Ben wanted gut reactions.)

Here are the four questions we’ve been exploring:

  1. Imagine you’re given $100,000 cash with no strings attached. Maybe you win the lottery or you find a pile of money in a barn. It’s a $100,000 windfall. How do you spend it?
  2. Now imagine you’re given $100,000 cash but with one condition. You must use the money to do something constructive that won’t produce a profit or financial return for at least one year. What do you do with it?
  3. Next, imagine you’re given $100,000 with a different catch. You have to spend it on something completely frivolous. You have to spend it on something fun. It has to be a splurge. What is that splurge?
  4. Finally, imagine you have $100,000 that must be used for philanthropic purposes. You have to use it to improve the lives of others. How do you do that?

The different answers to these questions are fascinating. (To us, anyhow.) There’s some overlap to our answers, but there are also plenty of differences, especially with regards to frivolous spending and charitable spending.

We like these questions so much, in fact, that we’ve started posing the to other people in our lives. When I return home to Portland, I want Kim to answer them. I’m curious what her answers will be. Last night, Ben asked a friend to answer the questions, and Joel managed to get his wife and one of her friends to share their responses.

I’ve been taking notes on people’s replies. In the next section, I’ll share the responses from the ten folks who have taken this “financial personality test”. Before you scroll down, however, I think it’d be fun if you took five or ten minutes to answer the questions yourself. Then you can compare your answers with ours.

Marla and Pete, making breakfast in Clearwater

Forty Answers About Money

I took notes as we worked through this, but I didn’t write down quotes. The responses below are not verbatim.

You’ll see, for instance, that three of us gave the same answer to the first question (and two others are really just a variation of that answer). In person, we sort of talked things through. In fact, it took Ben a l-o-n-g time to answer the first question. (He couldn’t do it until we threatened to burn his imaginary pile of money if he didn’t use it.) In the end, his answer was essentially the same as mine and Joel’s.

Also note that most (all?) of us are financially independent or well on the road to financial independence. (By this I mean that we have enough money saved that we never have to work again unless we really, really want to.) I think this is an important caveat for a couple of reasons. First, we have all of the money we actually need. Second, being FI has shifted our perspectives. (Or maybe having different perspectives has allowed us to become FI?) We suspect that our answers, similar as they are, might actually be edge cases.

  1. Imagine you’re given $100,000 cash with no strings attached. Maybe you win the lottery or you find a pile of money in a barn. It’s a $100,000 windfall. How do you spend it?
    • Paula would use the cash to buy another rental property.
    • Ben, Joel, and J.D. would all simply put the money into their investment accounts, all of which contain index funds.
    • Marcus (one of Ben’s friends) would invest the money too, but in “mutual funds” rather than index funds. (Splitting hairs, I know, but it’s still a subtle difference.)
    • Marla would put the cash in a high-yield savings account and sit on it until she could figure out what she really wanted to do with it. (It’s probable that the money would eventually end up invested in index funds.)
    • Heather would use the money to pay down her mortgage, which she characterized as “unsavory”.
    • Mr. Money Mustache would stick the money in a checking account, but only for a little while. He’s trying to accumulate enough money to buy the rest of the building that houses the co-working space he started. This would go to that. (Normally, he would invest in index funds.)
    • Alexis (Joel’s wife) would use $25,00 to make some home repairs, spend $10,000 on travel, stick $15,000 in her emergency fund, then invest the remaining $50,000 in index funds.
    • Sammi (a friend of Joel and Alexis) would pay off her boyfriend’s student loans.

    The bottom line is that given a $100,000 windfall, we’d all use the money to make investments of some sort. None of us said we’d spend the money on consumer comforts.

  2. Now imagine you’re given $100,000 cash but with one condition. You must use the money to do something constructive that won’t produce a profit or financial return for at least one year. What do you do with it?
    • Paula would pour the money into creating a top-class YouTube channel for Afford Anything.
    • Similarly, J.D. would use the money to build out the infrastructure here at Get Rich Slowly.
    • Joel would give the money to Alexis so that she could dabble in real-estate investing.
    • Believe it or not, Alexis said that she would use the money to dabble in real estate investing. (Remember, she didn’t know Joel’s answer when she responded.)
    • Marla would buy three cabooses — she already owns one — in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. She really, really wants to build out a destination for her friends so we can do gatherings like this more often.
    • Mr. Money Mustache gave the same answer as to the first question: Set the money aside to purchase more of the MMM HQ building.
    • Ben would use the money to make small business loans at terms favorable to the borrowers. Basically, he would try to seed small start-ups.
    • Heather would make some home improvements in order to increase the value of her house. She’d like to sell it in the next five years but it needs some work.
    • Sammi would start a business to teach people how to avoid and plan for pregnancies.
    • Marcus had an answer that is, well, perhaps R-rated. He runs a business that manufactures and sells artificial semen to the porn industry. (Not a joke, although the whole idea makes me and Joel titter like schoolboys.) He’d use the money to refine his product — and to do more marketing for his other business, SCUBA Schedules.

    Look how similar the answers are here. In nearly every case, given the conditions of the question, we’d use the money to start or enhance a business. That’s pretty crazy, I think. But who knows? Maybe that’s what most people would do.

  3. Next, imagine you’re given $100,000 with a different catch. You have to spend it on something completely frivolous. You have to spend it on something fun. It has to be a splurge. What is that splurge?
    • Joel would purchase a Tesla 3 and a charging station with about $65,000 of the money. He’d give the rest to his parents, who could easily find ways to spend it frivolously.
    • J.D. would use $40,000 to buy a John Cooper Works convertible Mini. He’d use the remaining $60,000 to buy a beach shack or timeshare in a warm location.
    • Paula would travel more. She’d travel business class (she wants to “lie flat on an airplane”) and stay in slightly nicer hotels.
    • Ben, who hates airports and spent a lot of time bitching and moaning about the inefficiency of the boarding process, would join a private jet program like NetJets so he could cut down on the hassle.
    • Marla would fly a bunch of friends to Hawaii so we could hang out until the money was gone. (“It’d be like a Marla-subsidized Camp Mustache in Hawaii!”)
    • Mr. Money Mustache would do almost the same thing as Marla. He would “rent a castle in Europe”, hire a private chef, then fly some of his favorite people there to hang out.
    • Alexis would travel the world first-class to sample Michelin-star restaurants.
    • Heather would pay herself to do nothing for a year. She’d give herself a $100,000 salary so that she didn’t have to work and could use her time however she wished.
    • Marcus gave the same answer as Heather. However, Marcus thinks $100,000 is a ton of money, so he’d only pay himself $50,000 during his year-long sabbatical. He’d use the rest for cosmetic surgery.
    • Sammi would buy an RV and travel the U.S. with her retired parents.

    Again, there was a lot of commonality to our answers. Those who are still working would take a career break. Joel and I would buy cars. But most folks would use the money to travel — and to share that travel with friends.

  4. Finally, imagine you have $100,000 that must be used for philanthropic purposes. You have to use it to improve the lives of others. How do you do that?
    • J.D. would make small, secret donations to individuals in need. (I already do this from time to time.) If I had to donate it to an organization, I’d give it to the Plutus Foundation, a financial literacy nonprofit for which I’m a board member.
    • Ben too would make small, secret donations to individuals. (I suspect that Ben is copying my answer here haha.)
    • Joel would donate $75,000 to Promise of Brevard, a local independent-living residence facility for folks with special needs. He’d use the other $25,000 to buy carbon offsets through Terrapass.
    • Paula has a friend who wants to launch a nonprofit cat café in Las Vegas. She’d give the money to this project.
    • Mr. Money Mustache would do what he does now: donate through GiveWell. He’d give the top three charities on the site $33,333 each.
    • Marla suspects that MMM is going to launch sort of foundation in the near future. She’d use the $100,000 as seed money to help that get started.
    • Heather would support Anselma House, a women’s crisis shelter run by the YWCA in her city.
    • Sammi would donate to The FACTS Group, an organization that brings fertility awareness to doctors in training.
    • Alexis would divide the money equally between three charities what work with people with special needs: Promise of Brevard, Bridges, and Special Olympics Florida.
    • Marcus would donate to the Joslin Diabetes Center.

    This question was interesting to discuss. When I was younger, my charitable contributions were rather random. I donated to good causes, but I didn’t have any personal connection to charities. Working through our answers here, it’s clear that most of us want to donate (and already do donate) to organizations that have personal meaning for us.

On the surface, these questions feel fairly simple. They don’t seem that deep. But from our experience pondering them in a group setting, they’re inspire quite a bit of introspection and self-reflection. Maybe that’s because we’re money nerds, but I don’t think so.

Silly J.D.

Final Thoughts

When I speak at various money camps, I often give my presentation on the power of purpose<. That presentation is built around a series of three thought-provoking questions designed to get audience members to ask themselves, “What’s your why?”

The four questions we’ve been discussing here in Clearwater over the past few days aren’t quite that deep. Because of this, they’re an excellent alternative to three questions I currently use.

I can envision asking these four questions during a breakout session at a money camp or a local budgeting workshop. After having attendees write down their responses quickly, I could break them into small groups where they’d share and discuss their individual responses. I’m dying to know how answers would vary from group to group. I can almost guarantee that the answers I get at Camp FI would be drastically different from the answers I’d get at a budgeting workshop for local migrant workers.

I’m also very curious to hear how Get Rich Slowly readers respond. My sense is that you all come from different backgrounds, that you’re at different places on your financial journey. If you’re up for it, share your answers in the comments! It’ll almost be like you’re here having fun with us in Florida.

Footnote: Here’s an additional discussion on these questions at /r/FIREyFemmes/, a Reddit board for women pursuing early retirement.

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There are 52 comments to "How would you spend $100k? Here’s what to do with $100,000".

  1. Jessica says 03 October 2018 at 10:51

    This is an honest question that’s not intended to be flippant or sarcastic at all. It’s just the first thing that popped into my head while reading this, and is philosophically interesting to me.
    The same person who runs a business supplying a product to the porn industry would prioritize spending money on cosmetic surgery. Is this a psychological effect of being immersed in that industry?

  2. Tim Kiser says 03 October 2018 at 11:28

    Harder than it looks to answer these truthfully. I found #3 to be especially challenging.

    • J.D. says 03 October 2018 at 11:46

      Yeah, these questions are tougher than they look. Many of us struggled with #3. It was interesting to see Ben struggle with #1, though. We had to give him an additional restriction — the money is going to be destroyed in 24 hours if you don’t use it — in order for him to be able to answer. We were a little worried that Mr. Money Mustache would give us Mr. Money Mustache answers, and that we’d have to pry more realistic responses from him. But he played along and gave us genuine responses.

  3. Jacob G says 03 October 2018 at 11:28

    Surprisingly, although I’m nowhere near FI, my responses to these are rather similar to the most part as those from you all. Perhaps I just read personal finance blogs too much, lol.

    1st case: My gut reaction is to invest the vast majority of the $100k (in index funds for now), though I’d probably spend up to $20k or so on home repairs and minor renovations that I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

    2nd case: I didn’t really have a reaction to this since I didn’t really understand what it meant. I certainly didn’t think of starting a business of some kind; perhaps that’s an effect of my not-yet-FI life and lack of knowledge in such things.

    3rd case: I’d splurge on travel, go around the world everywhere that interests me without skimping on cheap hotels or even coach travel (first class international is sooo nice).

    4th case: Since I’m so closely tied with my university (here as a student, stayed as an employee), my first instinct is to give back to it for perhaps a scholarship fund or something else pertinent to me that they could use a bit of money for, such as the department from which I graduated and still work with closely.

  4. Rebecca says 03 October 2018 at 11:45

    1. I would spend about $10k to hire out some final renovations to our current house and then use the rest (along with the equity in our current house after we sell it) to buy a new house in an area we love .

    2. If my answer to number 1 doesn’t qualify then I’d use it hire a baby sitter and build a lifestyle blog (including hiring a photographer to do pictures for said blog).

    3. I’d have my husband take a 6 month sabbatical and travel with (and without) our kids: Disneyworld, Europe, Hawaii, etc. We’d bring along family on some of our trips.

    4. I’d pay off the loans my sister’s taken out for PA school and then pay as much of the rest of her school as I could (she’s in her first semester).

  5. BenL says 03 October 2018 at 12:15

    Making “small, secret donations to individuals in need” sounds like a really interesting idea that presumably has a great impact not only on the individual in need but also on the person giving. (Since you get to see the money going to someone who could use it in a way that you can’t when giving to a giant philanthropical organization.)

    Could you maybe say a few more words about how you go about giving these secret donations?

    • J.D. says 03 October 2018 at 14:41

      Hey, Ben. I really should write an article on this. When I first started doing it a decade ago, I mentioned it in passing a few times (because GRS readers liked to give me a hard time about not contributing to charity), but I’ve never really written about why and how I do it. I should. The short answer is that since these are usually friends or acquaintances, I arrange the donations through a third party, a mutual acquaintance.

      • Donna Freedman says 09 October 2018 at 22:53

        If I had $100k, here are a few ways I’d consider spending it:

        — Underwrite a year’s worth of child care for struggling single parents, or for non-single parents who were having trouble making ends meet

        — Pay college application fees for teens whose parents are financially stressed

        — Find an honest mechanic and offer to cover auto repairs for the working poor

        — Make big donations to the local food bank in the summertime, when financially struggling parents have to come up with more meals because kids aren’t eating lunch (and maybe breakfast too) at school

        — Pay for money coaching for working-poor and financially struggling households, and match the goal-oriented savings of those households (e.g., if they save $1,000 for an emergency fund then I’ll kick in another $1,000)

        — Cover the cost of continuing education for people who wanted to improve their job prospects by improving their skills

        Okay, I’ll stop now.

    • Luke says 05 October 2018 at 08:09


    • Bethany D says 06 October 2018 at 15:47

      I’ve occasionally gotten to do that kind of thing, and oh it is so fun and heart-warming! One time my Bible Study group wanted to do something more personal for Christmas, not just the traditional charity donations, so we pooled cash in an envelope and I entrusted it to a friend to give it a struggling co-worker (young mom w/ two kids, medical issues, low wages but too little education/skills to earn better). During the Great Recession my husband had a steady assured job but a 3-kid family we are friends with had a really hard time alternating between unemployment and underemployment. During one of the worst patches my husband and I tucked a ($200? ish) gift card to their preferred grocery store into an anonymous note, and I arranged for it to be smuggled to her by a third party. Hilariously enough, because of the way it was delivered it looked like it came from yet another lady! – who is actually a dear old grandmotherly type who loves all our kids, so I’m quite happy to let them think she did it.

  6. Steveark says 03 October 2018 at 12:17

    It isn’t too hypothetical, in my working past at least twice I received an unexpected bonus or stock gifts worth over $100k and one time I inherited much more than that from my parents estate. So I know what I’d do for questions 1 and 2, I’d invest it with the rest of my money. I probably wouldn’t spend a penny right now because there is not a single need in my life to apply it to.

    Question 3 hurts, I don’t do frivolous so I’d want to game the issue and buy something ridiculous and then sell it back later to get around the rules. But if that isn’t allowed, then sure, I’d replace my $7,000 Infiniti with my dream car, a Porsche Cayenne SUV. Of course I’d have to get a basic version because $100k won’t touch a tricked out model. I can just imagine my fishing buddies reaction when I pull up at the boat ramp to launch my little bass boat in a 100K Porsche!

    Option 4, I’d put it in a donor advised fund and then every year my wife and I would review requests from worthy causes and pick winners to donate $4,000 to. We’d also put in our will that when we die it will all go to a charity of our choosing.

  7. Tina in NJ says 03 October 2018 at 12:34

    Q1, Q2, & Q4: I’dset up an education foundation for my heirs. My brother went to school with a guy whose grandfather did this.
    Q3: Travel. We’re near retirement and plan to travel anyway.

    This scenario isn’t really all that far fetched. We’re baby boomer who have taken retirement savings to heart. So did our parents. My mom has her pension and survivor benefits on my dad’s pension and her northern NJ house is paid off. I expect a decent inheritance when she passes (although she’s in fine health so far). (JD, hope your mom’s doing well).

  8. Kevin says 03 October 2018 at 13:02

    Great questions and really though provoking answers! I did the exercise before scrolling down as requested, and here’s how I answered.

    1. 80k Invested in bonds ( I already have the index side taken care of, but would like to increase the bond percentage) the remaining 20k on travel.
    2. I would start the process of building a coworking space in my area.
    3. Tesla Model 3
    4. 2ok to the following 4 charities: RAINN, Feed More, NAMI, St. Jude. The remaining 20k I would use to secretly pay off loans and obligations for friends and co-workers.

  9. LuckyLiving says 03 October 2018 at 15:01

    I had #1 happen to me over the summer, more or less (unexpected 50k bonus after taxes). I ended up splitting it in thirds towards short, medium, and long term goals. Short term, I have a renovation I need to do to my home; medium term, I anticipate needing to buy a car; and long term I invested in VTSAX (minus $600 for two shares of Tesla stock for fun). Short and medium term goals are just Ally savings accounts. Definitely a good sort of problem to have, but the splitting in thirds happened because I couldn’t figure out how to prioritize one goal over another (already max out tax advantaged accounts, no debt other than mortgage).

  10. Frogdancer Jones says 03 October 2018 at 15:46

    Strangely, I often think about this with varying amounts of money. Ok – 100K.
    Q1. Finish every possible renovation to The Best House in Melbourne. Landscaping, new fences, painting, Miele appliances… 100K should get the house totally finished. Then I can focus every spare dollar into investing to get to my ‘number’.
    Q2. As it happened – the same answer as Q1!!
    Q3. International travel without having to scrimp on anything. Heaven!
    Q4. I’d give the whole lot to the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. I already donate enough each year to pay for an operation. This hospital literally changes women’s lives with a simple operation that we don’t even think of in the West. Who knows how many women they could look after with 100K?

  11. Jake Jones says 03 October 2018 at 16:08

    1. Pay off my car, sell my house, then use the proceeds and remaining 90k as down payment for a modest home (likely under 200k) in a better area. Then pay it off as fast as I can!

    2. The same as #1.

    3. Probably a Tesla (would have to talk to the wife about which one). Then possibly home automation. I would love to have my house just “happen” after I wake up instead of having to think or flip switches.

    4. Work with my pastor friend in inner-city Baltimore to see what good we could do with the money.

  12. Paula T says 03 October 2018 at 16:12

    1. I would use 1/2 the money for down payment on a house (we live in a mobile home) and the other half to pay off my husband’s student loans (art school).
    2. This one was the toughest question for me because I wasn’t sure how to answer. I probably would use 1.2 the money to invest and 1/2 to fix up my mobile home.
    3. I would take the money and travel outside the US with my husband and teenage son who has special needs. I would love to visit the countries our ancestors came from a few centuries ago: Africa, France, England, and Italy.
    4. I would donate to charity. We live in Southern Maine and The Barbara Bush Hospital does outstanding work with children who have cancer.

  13. Sarah says 03 October 2018 at 16:15

    My family used to frequently play the, “what would you do with a million dollars?” game but the $100k question is intriguing because it doesn’t go as far as a million and requires some real prioritization!

    1. $100k with no strings attached: I would give $10k to my church (I’m a Christian who tithes so I give 10% of all income to charity, pay $50k towards my mortgage, hold $20k to replace my car in the next two years, and spend $20k to visit family in Canada, Ireland, and Australia.
    2. $100k that can’t profit or financial return for at least one year: get a PhD.
    3. $100k for something frivolous: get a PhD.
    4. $100k for philanthropic purposes: So many incredible charities to support! I would increase my giving to my local church ($25k), give to a local non-profit whose mission is to end homelessness ($20k), give to a local non-profit who provides groceries to people in need($20k), give to all the sources of scholarship I got in undergrad and graduate school ($25k), and give to Together Rising ( to help women in need all around the world ($10k).

    Fun questions to consider! Now…where is that bag of gold buried?

  14. JanBo says 03 October 2018 at 18:06

    100K would go faster then expected.
    Saying that.
    1) One half would go to redoing my current house making it totally accessible (currently being saved for). The other half would go to my children’s mortgages.
    2) Six grandchildren college funds.
    3) Take the 12 of us to all the places we served in the military especially Europe, Asia and Middle East. Forget first class, that eats the money WAY too fast. Actually, that is way too ambitious. The twelve of us to Europe would eat the entire amount.
    4) Redo my small local food bank so it is open after regular working hours with a side gig at the local high school. Set up a fund with the rest of the money so there can be healthy proteins and fats until the money ran out. (Veggies and Breads are easier for food banks).

  15. S.G. says 03 October 2018 at 22:22

    I play this game all the time.

    1) 50/50 to debt/investment, with a little off the top for some purchases we’ve been stretching out (new phones, new w/d, etc)

    2) improvements on my house. If it can’t actually make my house worth more within that year, then i could still spend a large chunk on tools abd materials (like an earth mover and flooring).

    3) epic vacay, baby. I’m thinking first class and private island with staff.

    4) charities I already care about is the easy answer, but if I had the time I would like to start a high school financial literacy program.

    I’ll ask you the question that gets me: how much money would change your life, and how? The easy one for a lot of people is their FI number. But it could mean enough for a different house or other lifestyle change. It’s what it means to you.

    • S.G. says 03 October 2018 at 22:30

      Okay, I was thinking of spending money as SPENDING. Id take a nice vacay, but upgrade the house and car.

      I think it’s interesting that as much as yall bemoan the lack of financial literacy NO ONE has a financial literacy charity that is near and dear to your heart.

  16. Megan says 03 October 2018 at 23:00

    My answers: (Novwhere near financially independent, run my own business)

    1. I’d spend $10k on some necessities (money has been really tight for the last year) and shove the rest in my index funds. Would feel so good to push the needle on those investment goals a bit!

    2. I’d fund our business rebrand and the development of the new website. Extra cash would make it a way better quality rebrand! If there’s money left over I’d hire an admin assistant.

    3. I’d put it towards getting a beautiful place to live where I can host people often.

    4. I’d donate to The Justice Conference. South Africa has a lot of injustice and inequality issues to work on!

  17. Chris says 04 October 2018 at 04:36

    I will bite. In all cases, I would first tithe 10%. Otherwise:

    1. Pay off our mortgage and invest the rest
    2. Buy one of the annuities that pays out when you turn 85.
    3. Would take a big trip with extended family to some place fun.
    4. Would give to my husband’s college alma mater for scholarships.

    Assuming the $100,000 is after taxes. 😉

  18. Sean @ Frugal Money Man says 04 October 2018 at 05:11

    Here is how I would handle each scenario:

    1st scenario: Put $50,000 into my brokerage account, and invest it all into VTSAX. Put the other $50,000 into my House Down Payment Fund (wife and I are aggressively saving for our first home together)

    2nd scenario: Probably put the entire $100,00o into our savings account for our eventual home purchase. Mrs. FMM is getting more eager by the day to buy this house!

    3rd scenario: Use $30,000 and buy Mrs. FMM a brand new car. She has been driving crappy cars all her life. Spend the rest of the $70,000 on as many court side seats for the Washington Wizards (favorite basketball team) during their season so that I could see as many NBA stars up close as I could!

    4th scenario: Go to my former high school and see if they could tell me which neighborhoods in their zoning district are the poorest. I would then ask the school to give me the names of all the senior students from those neighborhoods who plan / want to go to college. I would then take all those names, and somehow equally divide the $100,000 between them so that they could at least have some financial help to go to college.

  19. El Nerdo says 04 October 2018 at 07:01

    No strings: no spending! all goes into the index fund
    Constructive: same
    Frivolous: how many years can I live in Thailand without working?
    Philantropic: all proceedings go to the animal shelter.

  20. Tricia says 04 October 2018 at 07:06

    1. I’d pay down my mortgage. I really hate my mortgage.
    2. I would do some home improvements.
    3. Definitely travel.
    4. I would set up trust funds for my kids.

  21. Laura says 04 October 2018 at 07:14

    Fun questions!

    1. No strings attached – I’d spend maybe $5k on a nice trip and buy myself a fancy pair of shoes. I’d invest the rest.
    2. Something constructive – I have some friends who are heavily involved in some type of clean-energy investment in Madagascar, so perhaps I’d see if I could get in on that.
    3. Purely frivolous – For a minute I thought I didn’t have any frivolous wants, but after I spent more than 30 seconds thinking about, I’m pretyt sure I could blow through that $100k quite handily: Wardrobe overhaul (get a personal shopper and make it rain), rent out a room at a restaurant or bar and throw a big party for my friends, eating at all the fancy restaurants in town that I haven’t been able to try yet, nice trip (like Paula, I’d like to lie flat on an airplane), and hiking the AT.
    4. Charitable – I’d probably set aside $5k or so for causes that I’m personally passionate about, and donate the rest to GiveWell’s top charities.

  22. Carrie says 04 October 2018 at 07:59

    #1 through #3 look really similar to me.
    My #1 would be build a barn, hire landscaping to be redone at my house, take any leftover money and put into an account that could pay off my mortgage if I needed it to. #2 is Build a barn, redo landscaping but instead of savings I would donate the money to my local library to help build a makers space. #3 Barn, landscaping, and a Mustang Convertible or truck. #4 Donate to my local public library for a new makers space, STEM programming or music in their park. I would need to talk to them about what would make the most impact. I am donating to the library because it is one of the last free spaces my community has that people visit from cradle to grave that disseminates knowledge for free.

  23. Evan Bertonazzi says 04 October 2018 at 08:28

    As a 20 year old college student, I would like to think that I offer a different perspective to these questions, but the answers are still similar. (Also, all answers are assuming this money doesn’t impact my financial aid)

    1. For no strings attached, I would definitely START investing (I should definitely start this without the 100k, regardless), but first I would have to pay off student debts, which would be about $25,000 after four years of school.

    2. I would invest in my mom’s photography business, and look into starting a business of my own (a friend said he owns a laundry mat and that it’s very minimal work, so I might start there). My town needs a bowling alley (the old one was burned down), I would start small and add on when I can.

    3. To splurge, I would definitely buy some lab equipment and chemicals to run some cool reactions I find online. If you couldn’t tell, I’m a chemistry nerd trying to become a money nerd! Also, I might start a YouTube channel to showcase these reactions. And I’d also take my family on vacation, maybe a cruise. And a puppy, can’t forget that!

    4. I would still invest in my mom’s business and I’d pay for my best friend’s community college to help him out. The rest I would donate to lung cancer research.

  24. Anne says 04 October 2018 at 08:37

    I don’t know much about the people you gathered with but I was quite surprised that nobody said anything about their children. No college funds, no help with house down payments? And only one mentioned elderly parents. Do none of you have children or elderly parents?

    • J.D. says 04 October 2018 at 08:55

      Anne, plenty of the people in the group have kids. Others want kids. And one person was actively handling an issue with her elderly father throughout the weekend. I think that most of us understand that if we need to help family members, we can pull the money from our investment accounts to do so.

      Also — and I don’t want to put words into people’s mouths — we’ve all seen the research about how giving children “economic outpatient care” tends to damage their ability to be financially self-sufficient. I would argue that parents should never help kids with down payments for homes. Anecdotally, I’ve seen several cases where this has backfired. And, as I said, the research shows it cripples their ability to learn to live on their own.

      (Because I am an ogre, I hold the unpopular view that parents shouldn’t help kids with college either. But I think that’s simply because my parents couldn’t help me with college, so I had to take care of it myself. Most of the folks I know had to take care of it themselves too. Plus, as I said, I’m an ogre.)

      • Jody says 04 October 2018 at 10:37

        Oh, good, I thought I was the only ogre around nowadays….I completely agree with you!

      • JanBo says 04 October 2018 at 15:28

        Anne, you might read both Tina and my replies.
        JD- This might be a case where you may have a different reply if you were a parent (maybe not). It is easy to be on the outside looking in. Saying that, we have helped both of our kids (35/33) with down payments. Several of my friends have done the same, and it has worked out fine. I don’t know what happened to your friends.
        My college was paid for in the 70’s. My husband took nine years and worked his way through (one semester on-one off). We both value our education. Our son went through scholarship (and still went through all we saved). Our daughter joined the military after going through her fund and has returned to finish. No loans.
        We ALL know that college is significantly more expensive then it was, even ten years ago. The current plan is to save for expenses, but know that the grands will have to work as well. What we can save is almost insignificant to the inflated costs. We have no desire to see their lives curtailed by debt.
        Like the market, It is a crap shoot. We have saved, they are worth the shot. Rose colored glasses here.

        • J.D. says 04 October 2018 at 15:34

          Yep yep. Fully understand that my view on this is probably skewed. That’s why I like it when readers offer other perspectives. 😉

          • zzzzzz says 09 October 2018 at 15:46

            I’ll break from most of the other respondents. My #1 and #2 would both be to put the money toward my kids’ college educations.

            #3 would be on experiences with family and friends to bring us closer and create lifetime memories.

            #4 would be some combination of microloans to help people start businesses, or loans to help people install solar water heaters and PV panels to improve their economic conditions while also reducing their carbon footprints, and help leave the world better for my kids.

      • Anne says 04 October 2018 at 20:56

        J.D., you’re not an ogre. You come across as a sensitive and caring man. However, you are on the outside looking in when it comes to children. Even those of us who are parents are quick to tell other parents, “Don’t indulge that kid, make him/her earn everything.” But when it is YOUR OWN kid, one usually sees it differently.

        You love them with all your heart and you rarely want them to have the struggles that you had as a young person. Many of us would never have gotten a home of our own if we had not been loaned/gifted a down payment from parents. Sure, there are plenty of ungrateful young adults out there, but the anecdotes run both ways.

        • J.D. says 04 October 2018 at 21:17

          Fair enough.

          • Josh says 06 October 2018 at 17:31

            As a parent of three kids under no circumstances would I assist them with a home down payment. And I’m very grateful my parents never did for me.

            I go both ways on helping with college but at this point lean towards having them be fully responsible. At most we will pay for half.

  25. rosarugosa says 04 October 2018 at 09:43

    JD: I can’t believe you would consider buying a timeshare! That is such a basic PF no-no!

    • J.D. says 04 October 2018 at 10:24

      Well, ideally I’d buy a beach shack outright. But with a budget of $60,000 after buying my new Mini, I thought I’d have to compromise and just buy a timeshare. I guess I could pool money with friends to have a jointly-owned beach house somewhere…

  26. Sequentialkady says 04 October 2018 at 11:24

    1) Imagine you’re given $100,000 cash with no strings attached. Maybe you win the lottery or you find a pile of money in a barn. It’s a $100,000 windfall. How do you spend it?

    It says “spend”, not invest, so I suppose buying etfs/stocks is out of the question. Let’s see … I’ll recarpet my house, and get some new couches, and then I’ll put the rest on to a gift card at Amazon.

    2) Now imagine you’re given $100,000 cash but with one condition. You must use the money to do something constructive that won’t produce a profit or financial return for at least one year. What do you do with it?

    I would build a small 800sq/ft house on the land I inherited. This will be my summer home when I retire. It will take it about a year to get built. Until such time as I retire, I’ll rent it out.

    3) Next, imagine you’re given $100,000 with a different catch. You have to spend it on something completely frivolous. You have to spend it on something fun. It has to be a splurge. What is that splurge?

    I would get my dream car. A Tesla Model X 100D

    4) Finally, imagine you have $100,000 that must be used for philanthropic purposes. You have to use it to improve the lives of others. How do you do that?

    After a one time gift of money to clear debts of a dear friend ….

    Equal divisions between: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (, Native Seeds Search (, Hero Initiative (, Sierra Leone Rising (, Lava Mae ( and Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (

  27. Sean Oswald says 05 October 2018 at 09:08

    1.) I’d start by paying off the rest of my student loans and then use 10k to deck out our mother in law suite for an air bnb. Then I’d take 12k and build a studio space on our property for my small business office. Then invest 45k in mutual funds.

    2.) My parents worked their entire life and have had successful careers, but my Dad has secretly wanted to start his own business for years. He’s close to retirement, but decided to buy into a business that was closely related to my Grandfather’s “fine European grocery store.” He’s moonlighting it right now in addition to his full time job. So I’d invest the money in his business so he could go full time and really give it the shot he deserves!

    3.) For the frivilous, I’d purchase a red, 1998-1999 Porsche 911, Carrera convertible + the insurance for the year. With the rest I’d take my family to Europe starting in Germany, then doing France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Great Britain.

    4.) This one, I’d probably give it to the group “Creative Waco” who specializes in helping artists learn how to make a living doing what they love. They invest money into the community like murals that employ high school students, and they teach workshops on entrepreneurship and other cool things!

  28. TJ says 05 October 2018 at 10:45

    Hi JD,
    My answers would be similar to the ones you’ve already listed.
    1. Pay down my mortgage. $100K would eliminate around 5 years of payments.
    2. Pay down mortgage. I won’t see the benefits of this until mortgage is paid off, in 11 years.
    3. Purchase something for RVing. Not sure if I want truck with trailer, bumper or 5th wheel hitch, or self contained. Still fine tuning this one and it would be fun to research.
    4. Give to my city, probably the under-represented political party, that I belong to.

  29. Millionaire Dojo says 05 October 2018 at 17:46

    1. Put in index funds.

    2. Live off the 401k and quit my job to pursue my side hustles full time.

    3. Travel the world with my wife until the 100k runs out.

    4. Invest the money in a separate index fund and give all of the investment returns to various causes over the course of my life. (It would probably be a lot more than 100k that I’d give over the years)

    • Millionaire Dojo says 05 October 2018 at 17:47

      Live off the 100k not 401k.

  30. Neel Vasant Kumar says 05 October 2018 at 22:47

    #1 – Split it 3 ways – Kids’ 529 accounts, mortgage and savings (index ETFs)
    #2 – Put up an addition on the house to create a mother-in-law unit to rent out
    #3 – A series of vacations, hopefully in parts of Europe. If I can swing it, I would rent a personal train and go everywhere.
    #4 – This is a no-brainer. Donate it to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They are pretty smart about how to use it with maximum impact.

  31. DAVID says 06 October 2018 at 08:05

    1)Pay off house, pave driveway, build a deck and invest the rest in mutual funds.
    2)Buy a rental duplex fixer upper
    3)Buy new car and truck for my wife and I, buy land for hunting/fishing/camping, travel.
    4) Donate toward church based counseling center, shelters and missions.

  32. Mid America Mom says 06 October 2018 at 12:17

    How interesting!

    I was most curious to read the comments as I assume most have not yet achieved financial independence as yes the overwhelming majority of people are not.

    I really wonder if #1 was the ONLY choice would it include things from 2-4?

    Those of you who have FI – have freedom;
    I assume some of you DO donate already and then being FI, unlike most of us, CAN be frivolous without it taking away from something else. Debt does not rule your lives.

    If I ran your workshop I would at first pose #1 and after all of those responses pose additional. These folks have to juggle needs and wants.

    JD I assume if your parents did this back in the day it would probably be frivolous spending?

    My husband is in a job that pays bonus and it does so each year. The amount tends to be the low thousands to even over 10. We are not financially independent nor big spenders. Number one is not hard as we go through something like this each year.

    1. A bit of everything. This is a nice amount! Pay down some debt 20k . Some to kids college funds 10k. Vacation 10k. Put more money in our charitable gift fund that we donate from each year (set up when we were more flush)5k. Update clothes and home items for our family of 4- 5k. If I was ready- start my own used goods business and if not probably mutual funds for retirement 50k.

    2. Invest smaller amounts in small businesses – micro finance. We have thought about this before so it might be something we would do in #1.

    3. This was really hard as the amount is so large. Some material things like SOME new shoes / clothes and the sofa we need to replace. A vacation. At least 2 cars (one would replace a 14 year old high mileage car) but what I would buy would probably be no more than 60 combined. And thinking through the amount we would spend on all of that.. there would still be money left ARGH!

    4. Mostly donate to local charities in our community.

  33. Kate Campion says 07 October 2018 at 19:12

    This was such a fun exercise – as I was reading the article I was thinking my own answer so great to share. Obviously I can see why I am not anywhere near FI when I look at my responses compared to others.
    No 1: I would buy a spa pool and finish as much of our landscaping as I could up to 50k. Not as much as you might think as we have a large undeveloped rural property. The rest would go on the mortgage.
    No. 2. I didn’t 100% understand this but realized I was on the right track when I read the responses. I would invest this money into my blogging business, including podcasting and video equipment, maybe a studio / home office to work in, and potentially even a physical product.
    No 3. Travel fund for the rest of my life.
    No 4. Donate to a reputable well-researched organization that helps families when there are mentally ill parents. I was a child in such a family and I made it through, not without scars – but I was more fortunate than many.

  34. Kay says 08 October 2018 at 13:25

    At age 70 I would love to buy a small house and a new car ( mine is 20 yrs) pay bills and new pair of shoes the last time I bought shoes was 1999.donate to homeless shelters I’ve never won anything my whole life and go to dentist to have my teeth fixed this disent sound like much but I would really appreciate this have a blessed day thank you

  35. Anj. Gunter says 11 October 2018 at 14:26

    This is awesome! I just discovered your blog.

    1. I’d use all of it for my student loans. Sadly, there’d still be more loans than money.
    2. I’d give half to my sister and her family and use the other half for my boyfriend’s student loan debt.
    3. Every year for the next 10 years I’d use $10,000 for a trip overseas, with a new destination each year.
    4. I’d donate it all to Flint, Michigan’s water crisis recovery efforts.

    Do you mind if I copy these same questions and create a post for my own blog? 🙂

  36. RichardP says 12 October 2018 at 20:44

    I’m reading this late, but want to reply anyway!
    1. I’d put the money in my brokerage account and wait for the next market crash.
    2. Same as #1, since the crash plus recovery would be years out.
    3. My answer matches Joel’s – I’d buy a Tesla 3. (Plus a new computer and some travel). And yes, I came up with my answer before reading any of the others.
    4. I’d split it between organizations trying to fix societal problems and educational institutions.

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