GtDA poll:What would you do if you had 10 million dollars?

When I was a grad student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, the state of Arizona came up with the $1 dollar lottery ticket, promising the chance at the big money.

I admit to buying a few of those tickets (I recall our annual stipend was a whopping $8K, and that was in Reagan dollars). I would fantasize about what I would do when I won–start an ecological institute, and hire the coolest post docs to do cool stuff, and meet once a week to talk about the cool stuff they were doing.

Funny thing, my answer would be pretty much the same today. I think. (I would like to perform the experiment). Of course, I would throw in lots of travel to experience unique things near and dear to my heart. I would love, for example, to hear great orchestras play the Beethoven Symphonies.

It’s not a bad question, really. Since you can’t have more time, what would you do with more money? If you’re in grad school, and your answer has little to do with “finding things out”, or “teaching”, then…fer cryin’ out loud, get yerself on a path that get’s you closer to what you want to be.

Regardless, what would you with your life if you suddenly to didn’t have to worry about the next paycheck?


9 Responses to GtDA poll:What would you do if you had 10 million dollars?

  1. Rebecca says:

    The amount of thought I’ve put into this one is scary.

    1) pay off all bills
    2) quit day job
    3) focus on academic research in areas that, frankly, aren’t economically viable. I’m particularly enamored of several types of history. Finish at least one PhD.
    4) Take courses in EVERYTHING without concern for getting a degree, graduating and getting a job (History, Philosophy, Psychology, Economics and Sociology come immediately to mind)
    5) Study at lots of different universities around the globe; that means perhaps history at Oxford, Philosophy at the Sorbonne; heck, I might even do economics at the london school of economics. Not easy schools, but ones really steeped in the area.

  2. Tad Suiter says:

    If you’re in grad school, and your answer has little to do with “finding things out”, or “teaching”, then…fer cryin’ out loud, get yerself on a path that get’s you closer to what you want to be.

    I’m a grad student, and honestly, I’m not sure why answering “buying a condo and paying off my student loans” makes me a bad student or implies that I’m not working toward a career that suits me.

    Please explain this to me.

  3. Mark says:

    Like Rebecca, I’ve thought probably more than I should have about just such a situation in recent months and even bought the odd lottery ticket or three. While I love my work I tend to think about leaving my program, because of increasing financial hardship, and looking for something else in a related field on a pretty regular basis. Were I to suddenly be flush I think it’d be easier both to finish and imagine working in academia.

    I think what the question implies is that it’d be nice to have a sense of multiple possibilities and outlets for our skills as researchers and teachers. Yes, the fluidity of thinking in terms of institutes and creating structures for intellectual exchange is nice, indeed.

  4. Would $10 million really stretch to an institute? Where I’m currently based we currently burn through $3 million plus per year and I wouldn’t have said it was that large a centre. I guess the mileage will vary depending on the field.

    I would probably focus on a little independent research and carefully targeted grants. There are certainly a few under-appreciated areas I would be willing to pay to see advancements in. Funding pilot studies which might enable researchers to approach the main funding bodies for further development would probably be a fairly efficient use of funds.

  5. What about grad students who say they’d “help others”? or “invest in improving global health”?

    For $10M, I’d endow 10 full 4 year scholarships at an excellent private high school, to be awarded each year to driven students who excel at math and are interested in science but whose academic options are limited by money. (For $21M, I’d endow 20 scholarships– 10 for science, 2 for music, 2 for visual arts, 2 for true scholar-athletes no matter what their field of interest, and 4 for the humanities– and 1 spacious classroom, to be set aside as a lounge for the “FGS Scholars”, with the requirement that the lounge contain at least 6 sofas, no fewer than 4 la-z-boys, a foosball table, and a well-tuned piano. What’s the fun of being rich if you can’t require a foosball table as a condition of your philanthropy?)

  6. Dreamer says:

    I would do exactly what I’m doing now just with better funding. Ok – well I would also start taking at least two of the Smithsonian trips every year. Their ads always make me wish I was where ever they are going.

  7. Julia says:

    I agree with Dreamer: I’d continue doing what I do right now (finishing off my thesis, continuing with my well-prepared post-doc).
    But: i’d never have to worry about finances any longer, which is more important to me since I have a my two kids.
    Actually, if it would be a bit more, I’d set up a foundation with part of the money in a bank account and would grant the annual interest to cool EvolEcol project proposals (my own and my boyfriends, too). Saves taxes, too 😉

  8. Martin says:

    I’m a multidisciplinary artist and writer. With 10 Million dollars, I’d finally be able to focus on my art full time instead of working odd jobs so to pay the rent and bills. Art is not something that pays well up here, and I really love my artwork. I’d probably go back to study Literature for my own pleasure, maybe at the Sorbonne or anywhere else I might want to discover around the globe. I love travelling, so I’d certainly spend a lot of my time living in my suitcase, discovering other cultures, live instead of on TV. But everything I’d do, if I had that money, would be done in the name of my art. I don’t need much for a living, seeing as I’m single with no children to feed, I am living of voluntary simplicity, second hand furniture and clothes: I’m an ecolo, and I don’t think I’d change that part of me. So no big car for me, community transportation is enough for me; no need for a big house, a couple of rooms and a studio would be enough.

  9. painting says:


    […]GtDA poll:What would you do if you had 10 million dollars? « Getting Things Done in Academia[…]…

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