BD Viets, Public Domain
Source: BD Viets, Public Domain

This is the latest of my short-short stories that embed life lessons.

His years were so steady—Winter: Add fertilizer to the soil, turn over the soil to keep it friable and cut down on weeds, create new plants by grafting rootstock onto a piece of cabernet or chardonnay  cane. Spring: Tie new shoots to the wire trellis. Fix irrigation leaks. In the heat of summer, fortunately there’s little to do but in October, it’s harvest time and he picks and crushes grapes. (No, crushing is no longer done with feet. A machine removes seeds and stems and, for white wine, the skin.)

He worked without complaint although quietly he wondered if that was all there is for him.

His weeks were equally steady. For example, after work each Monday, he would trudge from the vineyard to the bus station, go into the nearby convenience store, and buy a lottery ticket. Occasionally he’d win $2, $5, even $50 once, but his lifetime record was a big, sad minus, particularly sad because his salary was just $17 an hour plus minimal benefits—He had to pay ¼ of the health insurance premium.

And then he won the lottery: $7,000,000.

No surprise, he was bombarded by wellwishers and money-wanters and he gave away bits but saw an accountant who reminded him that half the money would be taken from him in taxes. Nevertheless he bought his mother a home and himself a nice condo, and yes, he quit his job. He always admired jewelry and so bought himself and his mother a diamond ring . He donated $1,000,000 to the Catholic church, which left him with $1,500,000.

He thought about using it to finish college but had done poorly in his semester at community college and so decided against that. He thought about just investing the money in iShares Growth Index Fund and living off the likely returns, roughly $75,000 a year before taxes. But at age 29, he knew it was way too early to retire. He’d get bored.

So he simply returned to his old job. He didn’t mind it actually: He was good at it, it felt productive, and he had friends there. His boss and coworkers were shocked and flattered that he’d come back to his old job and so the boss soon made him the foreman at $25 an hour plus full benefits. He took an online course in management and did well in his new job. After work, without tapping into his savings, he had enough money to take friends and dates out for a modest dinner or to the movies. He thus became one of the lottery’s more contented winners.

The takeaway

There are millions of unhappy millionaires. At least in my experience, I find the most contented people are those who have reasonable jobs and enough money to live a modest but decent lifestyle. Are you too focused on prestige or on making money? Of course, some people focus too little on money. How about you?

To find more of my short-short stories, Google (Nemko short-short.)

Dr. Nemko’s nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at mnemko@comcast.net.

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