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What would you do with an extra $100,000?


Some would live out their wildest fantasies, but many would give it away to their families or to charity.


Getting Personal

What would you do with an extra $100,000?

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Choose article section... Finally getting away for that dream vacation Giving it away to the family or the needy Saying goodbye to medicine, and launching a new career How doctors would spend an extra $100,000

Some would live out their wildest fantasies, but many would give it away to their families or to charity.

By Berkeley Rice,
Senior Editor

Okay, so asking doctors what they'd do with an extra $100,000 isn't quite the same as asking a group of minimum-wage workers, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" Still, even for those who typically net considerably more than $100,000 a year, that's a sizable chunk of money—particularly when presented as a windfall.

Even though our hypothetical mad-money offer stipulated that doctors had to spend the cash, many responded with surprising fiscal conservatism. About 20 percent say they'd use it to pay off student loans, home mortgages, credit card debts, or other bills. Another 12 percent say they'd invest the money in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or real estate. Some would save it for retirement.

Several physicians say they'd put most of the $100,000 into their practices. "I'd spend the money keeping my practice alive," says one internist. Another would build a new clinic. A solo ob/gyn in Delaware would use the cash to reduce the balance on his office mortgage. Philadelphia FP Monica Gaskins, until recently employed by a large group, says she'd spend it to launch her new holistic health practice. One physician thinks he'd use the money "to pay for psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic training," but it's not clear whether that would be a personal or professional venture. Olin Smyth Jr., a family practitioner in Cleburne, TX, would like to "take my office staff on a nice vacation."

One of the top choices among our respondents—nearly 18 percent gave this answer—is buying a new home (usually bigger) or a weekend/vacation home. In today's booming housing market, however, $100,000 doesn't go as far as it used to. In some parts of the country, it's only enough for a modest down payment. Recognizing that fact, some realistic doctors say they'd use the money to remodel or add onto their current homes. Among the projects they propose: remodeling the kitchen; finishing the basement; and building a deck, darkroom, greenhouse, swimming pool, or basketball or tennis court.

Finally getting away for that dream vacation

Given that so many physicians feel overworked, it's not surprising that 38 percent of our respondents would spend some or all of the $100,000 to get away from it all. Typical plans include travel to Europe or the Caribbean, family vacations at the beach or mountains, and cross-country road trips.

Some have grander visions, however, including year-long sabbaticals for world travel. One doctor wants "an African safari for the whole family"; another would explore Southeast Asia. For Christopher Lee, a radiologist in Columbus, OH, a dream vacation would be a "round-the-world golfing trip." An orthopedist from North Carolina says he'd charter a yacht and sail it around the world. Another doctor yearns for a hunting trip to Alaska. Less adventurous souls also dream of round-the-world cruises, preferring to leave the navigation to someone else.

Not everyone would blow all the money on a one-shot dream trip or vacation, however. Many of our respondents say they'd rather spend the $100,000 on a vacation home, ski condo, beach cottage, mountain cabin, or farmhouse, giving them a long-term return on their recreation investment.

Also operating on the pleasure principle, more than 10 percent say they'd spend the money on expensive toys like cars, boats, and planes. The car buffs—mostly male, not surprisingly—lust after a Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari, or just "a fast sports car." Many of the boat enthusiasts already own one, but want something bigger, faster, or better. Some doctor-pilots share the same urge. Charles "Chuck" Yeager, an appropriately named GP in Mobile, AL, says he'd use the money "to upgrade the engine and avionics on my airplane."

And then there are the doctors who'd simply buy more "stuff." While some would purchase art or antiques, those with a technical bent prefer such items as "lightning speed Internet access" or a "state-of-the-art home entertainment center." One doctor admits she'd simply "go on a shopping spree."

Giving it away to the family or the needy

An impressive number of our respondents—about 30 percent—say they'd give away some or all of the $100,000. Many said they'd give the money to their children, grandchildren, siblings, other family members, or needy friends. About 14 percent say they'd donate some of the windfall to a church, charity, college, hospital, or foreign relief organization.

A few, however, would like a more personal or hands-on role in their good works. One doctor says he'd "set up a scholarship for poor kids in Third World countries." Another would "fund an abstinence program for teen-age kids" in his home town. A Wisconsin FP would use the money to pay his family's living expenses while he worked as a medical missionary. Another would spend it to support his family for a year in Israel, where he'd volunteer at a hospital.

Several, including Mary Ellen Coulter, an FP in Bend, OR, would use part of the money to pay for treatment of poor and underprivileged patients. Charles Shafer, an FP in Sioux Falls, SD, wrote: "I'd use part of the money to buy my preacher a reliable car."

Many of those who express charitable impulses aren't ashamed of spending some of the money for their own pleasure. One doctor, presumably single, says he'd use half the money for charity, and "split the rest between travel and blondes." Another replies simply: "Gamble." Anne Schneider, a Michigan ob/gyn, says she'd "buy gifts for friends, take a great vacation, and hire a part-time chef."

One doctor writes: "I'd use most of the money to support our family, so my husband would be able to be home full time." An ob/gyn in New Jersey says she'd spend the money for fertility treatments. Another physician would use part of it to adopt a child. One anonymous doctor says he'd spend the money for "sex," but offers no explicit details.

Saying goodbye to medicine, and launching a new career

Several ambitious doctors would launch a new enterprise, even if it means retiring from medicine. Robert Smith, an FP in Riverview, MI, says he'd buy a country inn. "Whenever my wife and I go on vacations," he explains, "we love staying in B&Bs. Lately we've thought seriously about running one ourselves if we got the opportunity. I've been practicing for 30 years now, and maybe it's time to try something new."

David Brogno, a cardiologist in Suffern, NY, would launch a classic film cinema combined with a repertory theater company. Nader Salti, a general surgeon in Racine, WI, would open a local coffee house. "I love the history and culture of coffee," he explains, "and I love to see other people enjoying it. I'd open a café here in Racine, and spend my spare time sitting there talking with people about coffee."

Curiously, some of our respondents can't imagine how they'd spend the extra money. As one writes, "I don't have the foggiest idea. My needs are few." Another, perhaps the ideal husband, says simply, "However my wife wants." One doctor refuses to even consider the hypothetical windfall: "I am very practical," he writes, "and do not live dreams." Another replies: "I don't need your money." One amateur philosopher writes: "It wouldn't make any difference. Money we got; time we don't." An abstemious physician proclaims, "Don't want it. There is hidden danger in too much wealth."

Finally, one physician challenged us to put up or shut up. "Please send it. I'll tell you afterwards how I spent it."

How doctors would spend an extra $100,000


Berkeley Rice. What would you do with an extra $100,000?. Medical Economics 2000;19:199.

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