Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can Money Buy Happiness?

On July 23, 2000, forty-two-year-old forklift operator in Corbin,  Kentucky, named Mack Metcalf was working a 12-hour nightshift. On his last break, he halfheartedly checked the Sunday paper for the winning Kentucky lottery numbers. He didn't expect to be a winner, of course - but hey, you never know.

Mack Metcalf's ticket, it turned out, was the winner of the $65 million Powerball jackpot, and it changed his life forever. What did he do first? He quit his job. "I clocked out right then, and I haven't been back," he later recounted. In fact, his firs impulse was to quit everything, after a life characterized by problem drinking, dysfunctioal family life, and poorly paid work. "I'm moving to Australia, I'm going to totally get away. I'm going to buy severel house there, including one on the beach," he told Kentucky lottery officials.

Metcalf never worked again. But he never moved to Australia. Instead he bought a 43-acre estate with astentatious, plantatio-syle home in southern Kentucky for more than $1 million. There, he spent his days pursuing pastimes like collectng expensive cars and exotic pets, including tarantulas and snakes.

Trouble started for Metcaf as soon as he won the lottery. Seeing him on television, a social worker recognized him as delinquent for child support from a past marriage, resulting in a settlement that cost him half a million dollars. A former girlfriend bilked him out of another half million while he was drunk. He fell deeper and deeper into alcoholism and became paranoid that those around him wanted to kill him. Racked with cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis, he died in December 2003 at the age of forty-five, only about three years after his lottey dream had finally come true. His tombstone reads, "Loving father and brother, finally at rest."

Did millions of dollars bring enduring happiness to Mack Metcalf? Obviously not. On the contary, those who knew him blame the money for his demise. "If he hadn't won," Metcalf's former wife told a New York Times reporter, "he would have worked like regular people and maybe had 20 years left. But when you put that kind of money in the hands of somebody with problems, it just helps them kill themselves."

Money doesn't buy happiness, but success does.

No comments:

Post a Comment