Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Powerball winners: Cautionary tales, lessons from past lottery winners

Past winners of mega-lottery drawings and financial planners offer advice to Powerball winners on how to manage a $500 million windfall. How to avoid the pitfalls of instant Powerball wealth.

By Alan Scher ZagierAssociated Press / November 28, 2012

A crowd of people line up outside the Arizona Last Stop convenience store and souvenir shop to buy Powerball tickets, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, in White Hills, Ariz. The jackpothas reached a record $500 million, it is the second-highest jackpot in lottery history, behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March.

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Enlarge

Columbia, Mo.

So you just won the $500 million Powerball jackpot, the second highest in lottery history. Now what?

Skip to next paragraph

Perhaps it's time for a tropical vacation or a new car. There are bills to pay, loans to settle, debts to square.

Past winners of mega-lottery drawings and financial planners have some more sound advice: Stick to a budget, invest wisely, learn to say no and be prepared to lose friends while riding an emotional roller-coaster of joy, anxiety, guilt and distrust.

"I had to adapt to this new life, "said Sandra Hayes, 52, a former child services social worker who split a $224 million Powerball jackpot with a dozen co-workers in 2006, collecting a lump sum she said was in excess of $6 million after taxes. "I had to endure the greed and the need that people have, trying to get you to release your money to them. That caused a lot of emotional pain. These are people who you've loved deep down, and they're turning into vampires trying to suck the life out of me."

RECOMMENDED: Can you manage your money? Take the quiz

The single mother kept her job with the state of Missouri for another month and immediately used her winnings to pay off an estimated $100,000 in student loans and a $70,000 mortgage. She spent a week in Hawaii and bought a new Lexus, but six years later still shops at discount stores and lives on a fixed income — albeit, at a higher monthly allowance than when she brought home paychecks of less than $500 a week.

"I know a lot of people who won the lottery and are broke today," she said. "If you're not disciplined, you will go broke. I don't care how much money you have."

Lottery agencies are keen to show off beaming prize-winners hugging oversize checks at celebratory news conferences, but the tales of big lottery winners who wind up in financial ruin, despair or both are increasingly common.

There's the two-time New Jersey lottery winner who squandered her $5.4 million fortune. A West Virginia man who won $315 million a decade ago on Christmas later said the windfall was to blame for his granddaughter's fatal drug overdose, his divorce, hundreds of lawsuits and an absence of true friends.

The National Endowment for Financial Education cautions those who receive a financial windfall — whether from lottery winnings, divorce settlements, cashed-out stock options or family inheritances — to plan for their psychological needs as well as their financial strategies. The Denver-based nonprofit estimates that as many as 70 percent of people who land sudden windfalls lose that money within several years.

"Being able to manage your emotions before you do anything sudden is one of the biggest things," said endowment spokesman Paul Golden. "If you've never had the comfort of financial security before, if you were really eking out a living from paycheck to paycheck, if you've never managed money before, it can be really confusing. There's this false belief that no matter what you do, you're never going to worry about money again."

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!