1 year left to live: How would you spend?
Readers explain what they'd do with their time and money if they knew their life would end in 12 months.
MSN Money asked a provocative question on Facebook: "If you knew you had just one year to live, how would you spend your money?"
This is akin to asking people what they'd do if they won the lottery, except there's that somber and sad note at the end.
The responses were, as you'd expect, all over the map, but we can make some observations based on the 100 or so replies (some of which are quoted here, lightly edited for clarity).
Travel. A great number of people obviously haven't traveled as much as they'd like. About 30 people said they'd spend their money going places -- whether it be Disneyland or a trip around the world. (Those of you with paid vacation, start using it. Americans are notorious for not taking all of their paid leave each year, sometimes allowing it to expire.)
"Cash out the largest 401k and TRAVEL while I was still well!" Lea B. wrote. That would be my plan.
Courtney M. said, "I would max out every credit card I own . . . taking trips to places I will never be able to afford!!" That might work just fine if yours is the only name on your credit card accounts (no joint cardholders) and you don't care how much estate is left once your creditors tap it to cover your debt once you're gone. If your estate is used up, generally the rest of your credit card debt dies with you. (Rules vary from state to state.)
Party. There were the expected responses about hookers and booze or controlled substances. (I didn't take the time to add them up. I'd rather live my last days with as much mental clarity as I could muster.)
Family. About 12 people put family first -- making sure family members were provided for.
Shaliza H.'s "Die debt-free" is admirable since the estate would pass unencumbered to Shaliza's beneficiaries. (Not a single person who responded to the question mentioned paying a lawyer to prepare a will.)
Charity. Giving to charity was a priority for about six or so people, including donations for homeless cats and healthy lungs.
Some people said they wouldn't change much.
"Same as now, increasing net worth for my kids. He wins who has the most chips when he dies," wrote George B.
Most people assumed they would have the physical stamina to fulfill their dreams. That's optimistic. I know someone who was recently told he may live another year and he's embarking on a steady routine of energy-zapping chemotherapy and radiation to get that extra time. World travel would be difficult.
Some said they couldn't afford to do anything special, confirming what polls have shown about the number of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, without savings.
"Can't spend what you don't have," Linda K. said.
Not everyone accepted that their death would be a sure thing after a year. Maybe a cure will be found, or the doctors were wrong. Ash R. wrote:
"(Spend it) wisely! In a balanced way, because maybe I somehow got one more year to live, so positivity would be part of the strategy! . . . Every day we never really know if we will be alive tomorrow, left alone in an year, yet we are always cautious about our money. We don't spend it all at once."
My pick for most thoughtful response would be that of Debbie V.:
"I try to live every day as if it might be my last. Plan for the future, but use your life energy to make the best impact on life while you are here on this planet because it is not about finding the meaning of life, rather making your life meaningful. No regrets."
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I didn't wait until I only had a year to live.
In 1982, 30 year ago, I sold my business and real estate investments ,went back to college and undertook studies of Anthropology and Archaeology. I have spent the past 30 years volunteering at Archaeological sites around the world, working with universities, governments and private research organizations about half the year and taking my wife and my children to places around the world that they want to go the other half. I was able to spend time with my family and my intellectual interests while I was physically well enough to engage in these activities.
I am 83 now with physical limitations, and don't regret a minute of it. My wife died two years ago thanking me for giving her such a wonderful and interesting life. My assets are greatly reduced by the expenses incurred but if I leave my children nothing else, I will leave them great memories of the family together and a happy father and mother enjoying the freedom to do what they chose to do.
"Healing cancer from inside out" is an excellent film for getting your health back in order and it covers multiple illnesses. And why would anyone want to pass to the other side and be totally embarased by their actions on this side... it seems better to live as though your actions will be counted & recorded, as they surely will.
You should live every day of your life, like it's your last, without a death sentance. Life is too fragile and short, not to. There are so many things to see, so many things to experience and so many people around you to enjoy it with. Don't hold grudges, don't hang on to anger, because that will kill you, way before anything else does.
Anyone, such as myself, who has no reason to believe there is just one year left before I die, can give a meaningful answer to that question. What one can do is show how much of a writer's imagination they have -- but that's not a waste of your time, and can be fun!
Once you believe you have just one year left to live, and only then, can you learn what you will actually do with your money in that year. It may be a little or a lot as you describe it today. But the answer must wait for that year to be now.
I was faced with this question last year when I was diagnosed with stage 3, possibly stage 4, Melanoma Cancer. All from a little mole on my back. It was devastating! My daughter was turning ten, my son had just turned seven, and my husband of twenty years and I had separated three months earlier. Stage 4 cancer gives a 3-6 month window of life. My family rallied around me, my (now ex) husband found a girlfriend (jerk!)
I knew a man who had been diagnosed with bone cancer in his shoulder, and had died from it 6 weeks later! My brain was in overdrive. I have a will and life insurance, so I knew my kids would be taken care of, and loved, but I wouldn’t get to see them grow up. The thought broke my heart, I’m crying now just remembering. I thought long and hard about how I would spend those last few months, just in case.
I had planned on making a video for each of my kids, telling them how much I love them and how proud I am of them. Something they could keep for the rest of their lives, and watch when they needed a hug from Mom. I’m all about travel, the UNESCO World Heritage List is pretty much my bucket list, so I wanted to go to one of the places “I had to see before I died.” More importantly, I wanted my kids to see their Mom at her best, to have that memory of me, of us, exploring the world together. With lots of pictures!
Having three subsequent surgeries made it impossible to take that trip, but obviously saved my life. We’ll still take that trip someday, hopefully many trips…I’m very thankful to still be here, and hope I deserve the second chance I got. I plan to make my life everything I want it to be, and topping that list is being a great Mom. Even if we never make it anywhere, I’m thrilled just to get to watch them grow up, and be a part of their lives. For any length of time!
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