If you won the lottery, would you keep your job?

An interpretation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom. (Source: J. Finkelstein for Wikipedia)

An interpretation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom. (Source: Wikipedia,  J. Finkelstein, Creative Commons, some rights reserved)

My husband participates in a casual office lottery pool. You know the set-up: a small group coughs up a couple of bucks each to buy a set number of tickets.

They won $100, once. Rather than divvy that up into what amounted to one beer each, the group opted to buy more tickets. Which produced…nothing!

Well, a similar Ottawa office pool of eight years duration came up lucky this month. According to media reports, 26 coworkers at Canada Revenue Agency (the Canadian equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service) are dividing a $32.6 million prize.

The Ottawa Citizen says that comes out to $1.6 million per person, making each of them:

….the comfortably wealthy, with cash enough to retire, if desired, from their jobs in the Ottawa human resources offices of the Canada Revenue Agency.

Though none will admit to any such thought.

“I enjoy going to work every day,” Suzie Vajcovec told reporters Wednesday.

New cars and trips, however, are real possibilities.

According to the same article:

The win is the second major lottery prize in Ottawa in the past two months. In April, Tina Ferrone and Liam McGee of Kanata collected a $48-million prize.

And in 2008, four Nav Canada employees shared a $40-million jackpot. Unlike the CRA winners, they immediately announced plans to quit their jobs.

Of course this raises the very fantasy that keeps lotteries alive: if you won big, would you keep your current job? Maybe that query should be even bigger, would you keep your current life?

The answer might say as much about your present situation as it would about wealth. A recent New York Times article looked at the many ways jobs can fail to satisfy in “Why you hate work“. The article cites statistics from Gallop that suggest only 30 percent of us “feel engaged at work”, and lists reasons for discontent:

Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

It can’t all be about money. (Indeed, there comes a point where time and good health matter most of all.) Not to mention that some of the busiest people around are retired. Some of these individuals latched onto something they liked enough to stick with on their own. Others found hobbies or causes worthy of deep engagement.

Way back when I was a meandering student at Maui Community College, one of my instructors included a section about Abraham Manslow’s hierarchy of human needs. (I can’t even remember what course that was, and I never took psych 100, so it wasn’t that.) But Manslow’s model struck me as true and insightful. Indeed, it was of the more useful concepts I’ve encountered.

Manslow stacks human needs as a pyramid, theorizing it is unlikely to get to the higher levels until foundational needs for physical and emotional safety are met.

To belabor the obvious then, if you say piles of money wouldn’t make you quit, that means at least two things.

1) Your employer has a good grasp of what keeps workers happy

2) The work you do helps you feel fulfilled in ways that have nothing to do with money

Don’t get me wrong. As anyone on the tight end of that spectrum knows, money is a basic necessity. Quite often any paycheck that puts food on the table has to be good enough for now.

But once basic needs are met, more money is just one tool among many in the life-long task of making it all matter.

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4 Comments on “If you won the lottery, would you keep your job?”

  1. Jim Bullard says:

    I’ve played the LOTTO for years and, at this point, if I won of course I’d not quit. I’m happily retired. 🙂

  2. Keith says:

    The lottery is basically another tax on poor people. They waste their money on the hope of riches….Everyone needs hope but don”t throw your money away on lottery tickets. One in a million makes anything on this atrocity…..

  3. Local Lottery History says:

    People should keep their job, because chances are they will end up with nothing if they win the lottery. In the 1990’s a guy who had previously won the lottery (I think one or two million) was arrested trying to steal the ATM from SUNY Potsdam’s Union because he had blown through his winnings in just a couple years. The guy who won the ‘thousand a week for life’ from Saranac Lake a few years ago sold his annuity for pennies on the dollar.

  4. Pete Klein says:

    There is no chance I would ever have to answer that questions because the last lottery ticket I ever bought was in 1968 and I have no intention of ever again buying a lottery ticket.
    It is not a tax on poor people. It is a tax on stupid people.

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