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Who wants to be a thousandaire?

January 1, 2012

Recently in church I heard a short story about someone who mastered her money. You may be thinking it came from a parable or an Old Testament story, but it was actually a story from 2008.

That summer,

Hauser's $50,000 mostly went to improve others

won $50,000 on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” That may seem like a lot of money, but after taxes, it is not exactly life changing.

Before you find out what Louise did with the money, think about what you might do if you won that kind of money. Would you pay off your debt or make a significant payment toward your mortgage? Maybe you would save or invest it for your retirement or your child or grandchild’s education.

After taxes, the winnings would be a good amount to buy a nice new car. It would be tempting to buy a car or something else with the money. It also would be tempting to take a luxury vacation, instead of staying at the Motel 6. For others, a new motorcycle or boat would be the object the winnings would purchase.

With all of these options, let’s look at what Hauser chose to do. She donated $10,000 to a Houston food bank; $5,000 to her church; and $5,000 to the West Houston Assistance Ministries. When taxes are figured in, she donated more than 50 percent of her winnings.

Now she did splurge a little with her winnings: she bought a new computer and a new pair of shoes at Walmart.

Hauser obviously had to be in decent financial shape to be able to be charitable with her winnings. She clearly did not have a lot of debt and was not living paycheck to paycheck. But do not assume that she was independently wealthy and that $50,000 was not a big deal. She actually was a supervisor of a food pantry. While I do not know her annual salary, I am pretty sure it does not fit in the “independently wealthy career” category.

Hauser discovered through her winnings what the purpose of her money was. She said, “I really could not think of a better thing to do with the money. It just gives me a good feeling.”

Money obviously does not cause her stress. Money is not used to measure success in her life. Money is not the end goal for the work she does on a daily basis.

Instead, money is an object to provide her a living. Money is something to be used to help others. Money can bring joy, not in receiving, but in giving.

There are many reasons it is important to become financially independent. The reduction in stress, the benefits for your family and heirs, and the ability to enjoy some of the finer things in life are pluses. But if you are trying to acquire a fortune for the sake of having a fortune, then it is going to be a race you will not win. People who measure their success with their wealth find that it is never enough. You cannot take your fortunes with you when you die.

The ones who do find unlimited wealth are those who do not need to worry from day to day and are able to give back. There are a wide variety of causes out there, and based on you and your experiences, there is the perfect charity to which you can donate. When you give away your treasures, it is easy to find joy and true satisfaction.

Louise Hauser has it figured out. An extra $50,000 does not change a thing about her day-to-day living, but it does give her the chance to make a different in the lives of many others. By giving from her blessings she is able to find more joy than what the initial gift provided.

I hope I can learn from Hauser and others like her on what money is and should be for all of us: a blessing.

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