I crossed an item off my bucket list a few years ago when I auditioned to become a contestant on my favorite game show, Jeopardy!
I was part of a group of 36 hopefuls who gathered in a meeting room of a Washington, D.C., hotel to convince some Hollywood producers and casting agents why they should choose us to appear on the venerable TV show.
The morning included a lot of waiting - waiting for your turn to be called for an interview in front of the group, waiting to be selected to play a mock game of Jeopardy!, waiting for the next clue to be answered in the form of a question.
The waiting part of the audition was a great time to observe people. It also provided an opportunity to glean some insights into people's attitudes toward money.
Each would-be contestant, as part of their individual interview with the producer, was asked to tell the group what they would do if they were chosen to compete on the show and ended up winning a lot of money. "A lot of money" was defined as anything in the high five figures and above.
When the time came to answer this question, a starry-eyed expression appeared on each hopeful's face as they imagined what they would do with all that cash. Not surprisingly, travel was the one thing every would-be contestant said they would do with their winnings. Wander around Europe, cruise to exotic islands, hit the road and keep on going. That was foremost on everyone's minds.
Aside from dreaming about travel, the would-be contestants were all about spending. Buy a McMansion or a sportscar or an RV or a boat.
Oh, one woman said she would donate some of her winnings to her church and another woman said she would help a man she met during a mission trip to Nigeria. But they were the only members of the group who would do something with their money other than spend it on their own desires.
It occurred to me later that nobody said they would invest part of their winnings or set them aside to fund their children's education or even save a portion of them for retirement. Maybe everyone was afraid that expressing a desire to save some of their money might make them appear boring and un-hip to the casting agents. Maybe everyone was so excited over the prospect of winning big money that all they could think of was how they would spend it.
Americans have very little saved for the big things such as retirement and for minor emergencies such as a car repair. Yet when it comes to managing a windfall, we can think only of spending it.
So maybe the Jeopardy! "Clue Crew" should create a category called Big Money and see how many contestants ask the right questions.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected].
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