If I Had a Billion Dollars

We all know about the world’s billionaires: those fortunate men and women who have locked up a considerable percentage of the world’s wealth for their own use. They have more money than they can ever spend. Some of them flaunt their wealth and become household names while others enjoy the kind of privacy and security only big money can buy.

For a visual aid, here’s a chart from USA Facts showing exactly what wealth inequality looks like:

Wealth inequality, billion, top one percent

It leads me to wonder what I would do if I had more money than most of us can even imagine. I would not spend it on a portfolio of multi-million-dollar homes around the world or a garage full of expensive cars. (Well, maybe just one) No private jets, either. Ditto with a stable of polo ponies or thoroughbred racehorses. Also, I would not concern myself with mega-yachts or sub-orbital trips to see Planet Earth from above.

Flaunting my wealth would then and does seem now immature to me. Selfish is the only word that describes the ultra-rich funding lobbyists to make sure they pay as little in taxes as possible. The country’s billionaires taking advantage of the many ways in which the local, state, and federal governments support them while ducking the cost can only be described as obscene.

Great Wealth / Great Responsibilities

Great wealth comes with great responsibilities, however. To me, the greatest of those responsibilities is using the money wisely to improve the world, the environment, and the lives of its people,

Consider the singer and songwriter Taylor Swift, who gives the proceeds of her success freely to others. Here’s a timeline of her generosity across a wide range of causes.

Like Ms. Swift, we all have our own interests and passions. Mine will probably not be the same as yours and that’s okay. But here are the things I would do if I had a billion dollars.

If I Had a Billion Dollars

If I had a billion dollars, I would:


  • Buy the rights of way created for a high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Then I would lay the tracks, build the stations, buy the trains and get it all running. Why would I do this when I live 3,000 miles away? Because the project would succeed, and thus demonstrate that high-speed trains could work in other parts of the country as well.

Crime and Punishment

  • Pay to have every rape kit in storage taken out and processed. This would both help to solve some cold cases and prevent future rapes from happening by identifying the perpetrators.
  • Fund a country-wide online network to help identify serial killers who move from state to state in search of victims. Let’s make it easier to catch them.


  • Build subsidized housing for the homeless who are mentally and physically capable of living on their own.
  • Create a network of hospitals and group homes for those with mental health problems, including PTSD, and ensure that they receive treatment. This would get them off the streets and heating grates and help them to get well.


  • Create a centralized site where America’s teachers could order classroom supplies at no cost to them or their school district. It is a disgrace that teachers have to do this out of their own not-so-well-paid salaries.

Feeding the World

  • Fund meals for every child in America. How do we, as a prosperous country, rationalize hungry children in our towns and cities? It’s a scandal that everyone has accepted as The Way Things Are. Well, things shouldn’t be that way and I would make sure every child had enough to eat.
  • Give a huge donation to Jose Andres and his World Central Kitchen, which sends teams of cooks out to disaster areas and war zones to feed people who have lost their homes.


  • Fund systems for collecting plastic trash and processing it into something else more beneficial than single-use water bottles and sandwich containers.
  • Increase the systems that collect plastic trash from the oceans and send it to be processed into something else.


  • I would buy up small news outlets in rural areas and subsidize them so they could staff up with professional reporters. They would be free to report the real news, independently of partisan politics and commercial pressures. This basically what Sinclair has been doing for years to spread far-right disinformation. This would create some balance.

There are certainly many other worth causes in need of funding. And I probably would need more than just one billion to accomplish all these goals. I don’t know for sure, though, not having much experience with that many zeroes.

What would you do?

Why Not Now?

Mr. Moneybags, Monopoly, billion dollars, planet earthWhy don’t these projects happen already? Perhaps it goes back to the maturity thing. Perhaps America’s billionaires are too young and too male to let go of their own egos and see what needs to be done. It may be that they can’t see anything at all beyond themselves and their hoard of wealth.

I think of Succession’s first season when feckless Roman Roy complains how a new senator, “…wants to take all my lovely money.” Exactly.

How Much is Enough?

But, really, how much money can you spend on yourself? And doesn’t self-indulgence wear thin after a while? Doesn’t yet another luxury toy, another home, another piece of “important” jewelry, cease to mean much?

What do you do then? I suggest looking around for ways to make a difference for others. Find out where your passions lie and put your money there.

Now, if I could only get my hands on that first billion.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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