Winning the lottery is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for many past winners. Their claim to fame culminates in the events that change the course of their lives after the win. Horror stories abound for past lottery winners and that's why some financial experts say "70 percent of lottery winners will squander away winnings within a few years."
Winning the lottery is a fantasy for most of us because we understand the odds of winning the big jackpots are overwhelmingly against us. Still, what if you did win? Would you end up as some famous lottery winners, broke within two years, family relationships destroyed or perhaps worse? Or, could you make the money last for the rest of your life?
What's the real story behind the lottery winners? Those who have had the most exposure in the press are the past winners who died broke, committed crimes, or committed suicide. That's a tragic end to a dream come true, and the deeply tragic stories touch our hearts. Wayne Schenk is one of them. His story made national TV and newspapers in 2007.
Wayne Schenk was a veteran diagnosed with lung cancer. When he won a million dollars in a lottery he thought his troubles were over and he would get the advanced medical treatment that might save his life. State officials refused to pay him a lump sum and he died before he could get the medical treatment he wanted. Lottery officials said no, they could not make an exception to the rules and regulations.
When Schenk died in 2007, he'd only received one payment of $34,000. Consider that he had put his life on the line for his country, but in his time of need no one stepped forward to help, not the lottery board and not the cancer treatment hospital. Money was the overriding consideration.
One of the earlier lottery winners was William "Bud" Post who had won 16.2 million dollars and was living on Social Security when he died. His life was bitter even though he'd won the PA lottery in 1988. His brother tried to have him killed for the inheritance money. Bud Post didn't find the satisfaction from becoming a millionaire.
Another lottery winner, Billy Bob Harrell, Jr. committed suicide two years after winning 31 million dollars in the Texas lottery in 1997. He'd spent large amounts of money and given large amounts away, but he didn't find that elusive peace that should have come with the freedom of money.
Other lottery winners have ended up in jail and prison for crimes and vehicle manslaughter. Many file bankruptcy after the big jackpot is spent and given away including some of the eight people who won the 365 million Powerball in 2006.
Financial advisers sometimes tell winners to change their names and move away. As you can imagine, lottery winners are bombarded with requests for money by relatives they never knew existed, and scammed by unscrupulous business opportunists. Even lottery agents have tried to steal tickets and money from unsuspecting lottery winners. See Lottoreport.com
The examples given paint a sad picture of what can happen if you win a big lottery jackpot, but fortunately, these examples don't tell the stories of all jackpot winners.
The Journal of Gambling Studies gives a much better portrait of lottery winners. The paper is based on a study of 576 lottery winners from 12 states and it states that many winners who were in satisfying jobs continue to work in their chosen fields and avoid drastic changes in lifestyle.
New homes, cars and vacations are what these winners usually spend part of their winnings on, and they were less likely to be scammed because they hired financial planners to manage their money. Money didn't change the steady course of their lives.
Lottery winners that are not savvy about money management make the mistake of thinking the huge jackpot money will last forever. The lesson is not lost on those of us who only dream of someday hitting the lottery jackpot.