“I have the same experience everyone watching the show at home has: You’re shouting the answer at the TV and thinking it’s ridiculous a contestant doesn’t know.”
–Julia Collins, women’s Jeopardy winnings record holder
“Is that your final answer?”
–Cedric “The Entertainer”
As many of you know, I recently appeared on the television show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I won $6,250, and pledged to give 50% of my winnings to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Financial independence allowed me to make that contribution.
There are many reasons why we want to get more money. We want to reduce the stress over having little or no money left over after we pay our bills. We want to pay for our kids’ college. We want to retire without having to worry whether or not we’ll be the bag lady or the dumpster diver living under a bridge. We want to take trips and be able to see the kids and grandkids more. We might just be sick of all of the hours we have to put into work.
For me, it was all of those (except the kids part, since we don’t have any), but it was also more. I wanted to give back. I am a veteran. While I served two tours in Bosnia, I got out of the Army before 9/11. I have friends and classmates and soldiers who went to Iraq and Afghanistan. Some didn’t come back. Some came back completely changed. This was how I could help.
I have to admit, when I first saw the tweet from my local Fort Worth television station that the game show was holding tryouts, I was motivated to go because I wanted to see if I could make it onto the show. I was decent at trivia, having been the co-founder of the West Point Quiz Bowl team, and occasionally helping win at trivia night at the Fort Worth Mellow Mushroom.
It wasn’t until after the written test, when they call out the numbers of those who passed, and my number was called, that I started to think about the impact I could potentially have.
If I won the million, I’d give half to charity. I figure about 40% would go to taxes (give or take), which would leave us with $300,000. Sure, $300,000 would affect our lives if I won it. Realistically, though, I didn’t expect to get that far. I figured I’d make somewhere around what I did – not enough to move the needle for us or for the Wounded Warrior Project, but an opportunity to give them some free publicity as well. While not as effective as a specific television ad, it was about 20 minutes of indirect exposure. I imagine that was the equivalent of a low-cost off-primetime television ad for them.
In short, I could get a little more awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project and the mission that they support if I appeared on the show. I had a different story, I figured, from the usual show applicant, if I could tie the appearance to charitable giving. Thus, the idea to give half of my winnings away came up while I was filling out the questionnaire about myself.
The expected value of what I could win wasn’t life-changing money because we were already financially independent. Thus, I had the freedom to make the choice. Of course, I shot a quick text to my wife telling her of my plan, because I’d never make such a large decision without consulting her first, and she immediately responded back with her support of it.