That headline is not sarcastic. You should be happy you didn’t win. I know a couple of days ago I talked about how it’s a losing game. (Bill Gates And Mark Zuckerberg Will Give You The Powerball Lottery) But, we all want to believe that “it could happen to me.” So, you bought that ticket, or two, or $400 worth. And maybe you did win. . .a little. I have friends who won $4 or $20.
But, it’s the big prize we dream about. We imagine that we are one of those three people who are going to split the record $1.6B jackpot. And, of course, we understand the whole “taxes take 40% and the lump sum is smaller.” But, those three winners are going to clear about $140M after all is said and done.
Who wouldn’t want $140M?
If you are smart, you shouldn’t. Not like this. The lottery is an insidious institution. It’s a tax. But, it’s a tax that people willingly play. And it’s a tax on those least able to afford it. But, those poor people playing the lottery are the ones who could use it, right? Maybe you figure that you need money. I know there have been times when I went hungry so my kids could eat. My family with 12 kids was sleeping on the floor in my brother-in-law’s barn.
But, I didn’t need the lottery. I needed a job. I needed food. I needed a house to live in. And those things came from government, family and church help.
Now, I can hear you,
But, the lottery would supply all of that and more. And you would be able to help others. And you wouldn’t need to work again. . .ever.
Seventy percent of the lottery winners will lose it all within five years. It doesn’t matter if they win $500M or $1M, they will be broke in five years. Why do you think that is? I’m teaching 4 teenagers to drive this year. One just got his license. The other three are at various stages of proficiency. Imagine if I took my least skilled driver, handed him the keys to a 2016 Porche 911 Carrera and turned him loose on the streets? How long do you think he would last?
Handling money is a skill, like any other skill. And when you ask someone who isn’t trained to handle millions of dollars to suddenly manage huge wealth, it doesn’t end well. You see the same scenario play out in professional sports. While many players hire people to help them, others decide the money will never end and they end up broke.
Sports Illustrated did an article in 2009 that reported that 78% of NFL players are either bankrupt or commit suicide within two years of retirement and 60% of NBA players are bankrupt five years after leaving the league. Those numbers might be high, but even people who come into great wealth over a period of years like pro athletes still struggle to keep it together.
And I’ll leave you with the sobering tale of Jack Whittaker of West Virginia. Jack won $314.9M in 2002. You’d think he was set for life. But, the life he got was not the one he would have asked for. Jack was already a successful businessman when he won. His car was broken into multiple times and he lost hundreds of thousands. A plot was uncovered to drug and rob him at a club he attended. These things might be expected even if he hadn’t become an instant multi-millionaire. But, then his granddaughter’s boyfriend died of a drug overdose at Whittaker’s home. Then, his granddaughter died of an overdose. His daughter was found dead. He found himself sued by multiple people and businesses. Basically, his life went from a successful businessman with strong family connections to pretty messed up. “I wish I’d torn that ticket up,” he said.
So, you didn’t win the lotto. Count your blessing.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved