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On Privilege, Resentment, and Lottery Winners

Think of a person you knew in high school that you just didn’t like. The reason why you didn’t like them isn’t important. They’re just someone you don’t care for and would prefer not to think about them in any capacity.

Now, imagine that same person won the lottery.

Suddenly, this person you seriously resent has been gifted a glut of random, unfeeling luck. They now have access to wealth, resources, and opportunities that you can only dream of.

From afar, they look happy and thrilled. Their life seems destined to be one of excitement, leisure, and fulfillment. They did nothing to deserve it. They didn’t work for it or earn it. They just got lucky.

Would that make you resent them even more? Before you answer that question, ask yourself another.

Is it even right to resent a person who just got lucky?

Most reasonable people might have a problem despising someone, just because they got lucky. It’s petty, resenting someone for their good fortune. It implies that you don’t think they deserve it.

It also implies that you think you deserve it more. There’s something inherently wrong with a system that allows someone like that to get lucky while you are stuck in your current circumstances.

I bring this up because it helps illustrate the hot-button debates surrounding privilege. It has become somewhat of a dirty word in recent years. In many discussions surrounding race, politics, religion, and gender, the topic of which group has which privileges tends to come up. These discussions can get downright ugly, especially when they’re racially charged.

Now, I’m going to be very careful with my words here. I want to make a valid point, but I don’t want it to inspire even more ugly discussions. I also don’t want to give the impression that every side of the issue is equally substantive. Some arguments are more absurd than others. That’s an unavoidable pitfall when discussing sensitive issues. That’s where you’ll get argumentative equivalent of flat-earthers.

With that context in mind, I want to try and deconstruct the rhetoric surrounding which group has privilege, what it implies, and why it matters. The concept of social privilege is pretty simple. In a diverse, multi-cultural society, like the one we’ve established over the past few centuries, certain groups have inherent advantages over others. However, not all of those advantages are the same.

If you’re a straight, cis-gendered man, you have certain advantages.

If you’re a straight, cis-gendered woman, you have certain advantages.

If you’re white in a society that’s predominantly white, you have certain advantages.

The same concept applies to disadvantages. Being a minority in most societies, regardless of development, will incur some disadvantages. If you’re black, gay, Muslim, Jewish, transgender, bisexual, or disabled in a society where the majority is none of those things, you will face challenges that others won’t. For anyone who values fairness, justice, and equality, that’s an issue.

It can be even subtler than that. If you’re born with natural beauty, you’ll have advantages as well. Like it or not, people tend to help someone who’s physically attractive. The same applies if they happen to have a special talent, such as throwing a football or playing an instrument. People without those skills are at a disadvantage, if only with respect to attention.

As a social species, humans already have an innate sense of fairness. These disparities don’t go unnoticed by both the majority and minority. Like playing a game where someone is using cheat codes, people are going to strive for greater fairness.

Some will be more aggressive than others in that pursuit. At the same time, those who have those advantages will try to maintain them. They may not even see them as advantages.

While that seems simple in the context of a game, it gets exceedingly complex when you apply it to society at large. It also gets contentious, as both historic and contemporary protests have shown.

It has even become popular to tell people to “check their privilege” at the door when entering a conversation. Even if it’s done in the spirit of fairness, it can still come off as downright resentful.

That may be understandable, to some extent. It may even be acceptable for some because achieving perfect fairness and perfect equality just isn’t realistic. There’s always going to be someone who gets lucky or is just naturally more talented or beautiful. It’s the nature of reality. It still doesn’t answer the same question I posed earlier.

Is it right to resent a person who just got lucky?

For anyone attempting to answer it, there’s probably a short and long version of that answer. It may depend on the nature of the luck involved. Someone who wins the lottery is easy to envy, but difficult to resent. If you don’t know the person, then chances are you’re not going to resent them. You’ll just be jealous of their luck.

However, the random luck of a lottery winner isn’t that different from the random luck that makes someone straight, white, Christian, and male at a certain point in history within a certain society in which they have advantages. When we’re born, we don’t have a choice in the circumstances. We simply grow, develop, and react within them along the way.

Those circumstances can include some very distressing facts. There’s no getting around the fact that certain groups have brutally oppressed others and effected the system to preserve their advantages while disadvantaging others. Even if it happened centuries ago, the effects of those injustices are still felt today.

Most reasonable, decent people are in favor of righting such injustices. However, the right way to go about it is where a lot of resentment starts to emerge. Some of that is unavoidable, given how easy it is to derail an argument, but there’s another component to discussions about privilege that goes beyond lottery winners.

Whenever someone protests the privileges of any group, be they white men, affluent middle-class women, or people born with natural beauty, there’s often an angry backlash and not just from those seeking to protect their privilege. In fact, most of that backlash comes from people who fit the generalization, but are not privileged.

There are straight white men who, despite their demographics and circumstance, have no advantages whatsoever. They’re poor, destitute, and miserable. They work every bit as hard as those in minority groups, but still struggle.

Then, despite their dire circumstances, they hear rhetoric that claims they’re somehow the most privileged people in the world. Chances are, they’re going to feel resentful too.

That’s because, statistically speaking, only a handful of people who fit the stereotype of “privileged” individuals really enjoy those advantages. These are individuals in positions of power and authority, both politically and economically. Some are identifiable by name. Others are just indirectly influential, due to their wealth, status, and resources.

The vast majority of men don’t have a say in how patriarchal or egalitarian society is.

The vast majority of white people don’t have a say in how racially segregated society is.

The vast majority of women don’t have a say in how men are disadvantaged men are in divorce court, child custody, or alimony.

The vast majority of straight people don’t have a way in how the law handles issues LGBTQ discrimination.

The vast majority of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus have no say in how their religion conducts itself as an organization.

However, since there’s rarely a single, mustache-twirling villain who exists solely to oppress on certain issues, our only choice is to generalize. We’re already a tribal species, by nature. It’s depressingly easy to channel that into what we perceive as the source of an injustice.

It’s also easy to resent people who are clearly privileged and go out of their way to abuse it. Those individuals deserve that kind of resentment. Like a lottery winner who becomes an insufferable asshole because of his luck, the resentment is both understandable and justified.

The problem with resenting the privilege of entire groups is that it’s difficult to see the forest from the trees. The existence of one asshole lottery winner doesn’t mean that every lottery winner is an asshole by default. By that same token, the existence of one group of people who enjoy egregious advantages doesn’t mean everyone like them enjoys them as well.

There are all sorts of complexities and nuances that go into what gives certain people advantages over others. Sometimes, it’s objectively unfair how certain people exploit their advantages and we should all work for a more fair and just system.

However, it’s a simple matter of removing the privileges to level the playing field. It’s also not realistic to yell at people until they purposefully disadvantage themselves for the sake of others. That’s akin to demanding that lottery winners give up their winnings in the spirit of fairness. It doesn’t just defeat the purpose. It makes us the resentful assholes.

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Personal Thoughts On Retirees, Lottery Winners, And Work

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A lot of people like to dream about what they’d do if they suddenly won the lottery and never had to work again. Only a select few are ever that lucky and a not-insignificant portion of those winners don’t end up happy when that dream is realized. As someone who plays and contemplates the lottery, I’m just as guilty of entertaining that dream.

A less audacious dream involves retiring comfortably. For that, there’s less luck is required. If you work hard for years, saving money and planning responsibly, you can eventually stop working altogether and just live out the rest of your days in comfort. Not everyone gets to that point, but for those that do, it’s worth celebrating. I know this because more than a few friends and family members have retired.

I bring this up because I found myself contemplating this recently. Over the holidays, there were significant stretches in which I didn’t have to work, travel, or do much of anything. I don’t deny that it was relaxing. I definitely enjoyed it. However, after a few days, I found myself feeling restless.

Some of that has to do with me being a morning person. In general, I’m always up early. I’ve been that way since high school. I don’t know if I can ever condition myself otherwise, but during this stint of time, it was somewhat jarring. I woke up. I checked my email. I did a little writing. Then, the sun rose and the day began, but I didn’t know what to do with myself.

While I did find things to do, I realized that I’m not very good at managing long stretches of unstructured time. If I don’t have something to do or a place to be, I get a little anxious and not in a productive way.

During this time, I found myself feeling tired at one in the afternoon. I found myself starting random things, but not finishing them. I tried to relax, but I think I might have tried too hard. By trying so hard, I just stressed myself out and achieved the exact opposite of relaxation.

It leads me to wonder whether I could actually handle a scenario in which I didn’t have to work or anything. If I won the lottery tomorrow, would I even want to just stay home all day? If I retired tomorrow and didn’t have to worry about money for some reason, what would I do with myself?

I know more than a few retirees who occupy their time with many things, but I’m not sure those things are for me. Some of that might just be due to generation gaps. Other reasons might be more personal.

For one, I’m still single. I have no wife or kids to look after. If I did, then I might feel differently about having too much time to myself. Right now, all I know is that I don’t do well when I don’t have some sort of job, task, or goal ahead of me. It can’t just be writing novels and sexy short stories. I need other things to occupy myself.

It was a strange revelation, but one I’m glad I experienced. It gives me a reason to contemplate how I’ll manage myself in the future if I retire or become successful enough that I don’t have to work. Luckily, I’m still relatively young and I have plenty of time to plan that out.

Some people can be happy lying around the house all day doing nothing. There’s nothing wrong with those people. I hope they achieve their dreams, as well. I just don’t think I’m that kind of person. One day, I hope I have a chance to see what I can do with that kind of time. Until then, I feel lucky that I have the life I have.

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How I Would Spend A Million Dollars (And NOT Go Broke)

We’ve all dreamed about it. We’ve all fantasized about it. In fact, other than having an army of naked bikini models or an army of Ryan Gosling clones, it’s probably one of our most frequent fantasies. What would we do if we suddenly became rich?

I know I’ve fantasized about it. Then again, I fantasize about a lot of things. It’s kind of necessary when you’re trying to be an erotica/romance writer. You need to be able to conjure the kinds of potent fantasies that make women need to change their panties and men wish they hadn’t worn such tight jeans. It’s a skill I’m developing and one from which I hope to gain greater success in the future.

Now I know the odds aren’t exactly in my favor right now. The odds of any writer of any genre, regardless of sex appeal, becoming as wealthy as Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer is right up there with scoring a date with Taylor Swift. However, with the recent interest I’ve attracted from publishers, those odds are improving. It’s not much, but any improvement is better than no improvement at this stage of my publishing career.

Even with the odds still not in my favor, I often find myself entertaining various scenarios on what I would do if one of my books became a best seller. Specifically, I often wonder what I would do with the money I make.

First off, I would not immediately get on the first flight to Las Vegas and spend three nights in a hot tub with five strippers, a keg of beer, a buffet of deep-fried Twinkies. Unless you’re a billionaire, that sort of thing is best left to pornos and low-budget skin flicks on Cinemax.

Second, it’s worth pointing out that a whopping 70 percent of lottery winners end up going bankrupt. On top of that, according to Sports Illustrated, over 60 percent of professional athletes go bankrupt after their careers are over. Even if you suck at math, you should know that those are not trivial figures.

Here’s a good way to illustrate that point: imagine you ordered your favorite pizza, but over two-thirds of it was eaten before it got delivered. That’s a lot of pizza you’re missing out on. Now imagine you were supposed to live off of that pizza. Losing over half of it now feels a lot more serious, doesn’t it?

So why does this happen? Who do people who strike it rich go broke? Well, it isn’t just a matter of owning pet Tigers, owing child support to multiple women for multiple children, investing in failed business ventures, or buying one too many cars, although that’s part of it. There’s a psychological component to it.

Unless you’re born rich or become rich through skilled business savvy, which only applies to a fraction of the population, you don’t know how to be rich. Yes, there is a certain amount of skill to being rich. Like any great talent, not everyone has it. As such, not everyone knows how to deal with it.

There’s even a psychological term for it. It’s called Sudden Wealth Syndrome and it’s pretty prevalent among lotto winners and professional athletes. When someone gets a sudden influx of wealth, it causes a great deal of stress because their brains aren’t wired to handle it. They’re so used to being not rich that it just feels off.

This is why it’s so easy for lotto winners and professional athletes to go broke. Their brains aren’t wired to see all this money the same way Bill Gates of Warren Buffet sees it. In some respects, they look at money the same way they look at milk. They need to spend it or it’ll expire.

That’s what leads them to just throw it away, giving it to friends or investing it in businesses that have the organization of a 6th grade science fair project. They don’t realize until it’s too late that money doesn’t go bad. It’s okay to actually save it and it’s possible to invest it in a way that’ll ensure you don’t need to dine on Ramen noodles and hot pockets.

Now to be fair, most people don’t know squat about finance or investing. It’s not a class public school teaches to kids at a young age. I get the sense that administrators understand that most kids in public schools aren’t going to strike it rich so it’s not worth the effort. It’s cynical, but understandable.

Given these odds and the tendency for non-rich people to piss their money away like an incontinent monkey, I’ve already crafted a plan on how I would invest a million dollars if I ever achieved that kind of success. This isn’t a fantasy. This is a plan. I may never get a chance to implement this plan, but like a condom, it’s better to have one and not need one rather than need one and not have one.

For this plan, I start with about a million ($1,000,000) dollars. I know Bill Gates can probably find that much money in his couch cushion, but it’s a nice even amount to work with. Since the human brain is terrible at dealing with large numbers, it helps to keep things even.

With this million, here are the simple steps of my plan. Any future lotto winners or professional athletes who want to follow this plan are welcome to do so. It’s free, it’s easy, and anyone who knows how to work a cell phone can do it.

Step 1: Pay off ALL the taxes first, if possible

This is, by far, the most important step anyone with money can take. The IRS is, in many respects, the ultimate dominatrix in that she’ll hurt you in ways you didn’t know were possible. You do not want to defy her.

Step 2: Set up an investing account with a reputable bank and pick one with the lowest fees

This is fairly easy for someone with money. If you have a million dollars, most banks will roll out the red carpet for you. Some will even waive certain fees if you have a lot of money in the account. Depositing a million dollars will usually get you a lot of leeway in that respect.

Step 3: Buy either an index fund (VFINX) or buy a blue-chip stock with a healthy dividend like Verizon, Exxon, or GE

The key here is not to buy a stock you’re going to sell for a quick turn around. The key here is to buy the stock and just basically forget about it. From here, you focus entirely on the dividends. They’re basically Wall Street’s version of masturbation. They’re the gift that keeps on giving.

Step 4: Build a budget around the dividends

From here on out, I focus on the monthly or quarterly dividends that the stock or index fund pays. With a million dollars, it’s usually not enough to just live in a mansion and never have to work again. You usually need several million for that. However, it’s still pretty considerable.

For example, let’s look at how $1,000,000 pays with buying Verizon. As of this posting, the dividend yield is %4.49. Do a little basic math and that comes out to $44,900 a year, which is paid out quarterly with four payments of $11,225 over the course of a year.

Take a breath now. That’s the most math you’ll need to do with this strategy. With this means is that you’ll have a yearly income of over $40,000 for doing absolutely nothing. It’s basically a slacker’s wet dream.

Now unless you want to dine on caviar and snort cocaine off a supermodel’s ass every week, you can budget $44,900 a year to live fairly comfortably. For me, this means taking that $11,225 quarterly dividend and budgeting it for three months at a time.

In most areas that aren’t New York City or San Francisco, you can find a decent home with decent amenities for that sum, plus utilities. That’s the ultimate endgame for this plan of mine. I invest the money in a way that gives me a passive income I can use to pay for the essentials, ensuring that any money I make beyond that is just icing on the cake.

There is one more step though and it’s also quite essential. If you followed the first step, then it should be easy to figure out.

Step 5: Pay all the necessary taxes associated with your investment and dividends

Again, it’s worth re-emphasizing how much you do not want to mess with the IRS. They don’t care if you take your money and throw it at a flock of pigeons. If you don’t give them their cut, they’re going to come after you and you will be in a world of legal trouble that no amount of money can make easier.

There you have it. That’s my plan if and when I ever become rich from either my publishing efforts, by winning the lottery, or by marrying Jennifer Lawrence, whichever comes first. I hope I get a chance to implement it one day. Until then, I hope others take the wise advice of Warren Buffet.

When it comes to money and investing, nobody can beat the market. The best you can do is not lose to it, but unlike gambling or sports, not losing can still be pretty damn profitable.

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