Let’s play a little game. I’ll, give you the stories of three people, and you tell me what they have in common. Thomas Strong died in a shootout with the police in 1993. Victoria Iselle served a seven-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter. Jeffrey Dampier was kidnapped and murdered by his own sister-in-law.
So what do all these people have in common? They all win the lottery. You probably figured that out from the title, but these three people are not alone. Not by a long shot. The history of the lottery is littered with stories of people who won the lottery and then their lives fell apart, often ending in tragedy.
So what’s the deal here? Is the lottery cursed? There’s a term you might have heard before it’s called “The Idiot Tax“. The urban dictionary defines an idiot tax. Is a voluntary tax levied on people who don’t understand probability. And it usually takes the form of lottery tickets. If you play the lotto, the probability is not on your side. In Texas for example, the chance of winning is 1 in 25,827,165.
Now, whether or not it’s fair to call somebody who plays the lottery an idiot. There’s no question that somebody who wins the lottery is incredibly lucky, or are they? According to the National Endowment for Financial Education:
70% of people who come into a huge windfall of money, wind up losing that money in a few years.
And the Paris School of Economics did a study on lottery winners and found out that 33 percent of them eventually declared bankruptcy.
So even though there’s like a 1 in 30 million chance of winning the lottery and a 70 percent chance that you’ll lose that money anyway, Americans still spend 80 billion dollars a year playing the lottery.
When you ask people why they play the lottery against all those odds. One answer that you hear often is: well someone’s gonna win, which is true. Somebody out there wins a buttload of money. But, as these stories show, sometimes winning a buttload of money can be the worst thing that can happen to you.
Steve Granger was one of eight people who won the 365 million dollar Powerball Jackpot. He wound up taking home $ 900,000. After taxes it was more like $ 600,000, not too bad. Especially considering it was 365 million to begin with.
So, the first thing you need to know about the lottery is that the winners rarely take home anything close to the actual jackpot. Yeah, especially the big ones. There’s, usually multiple winners and get split up amongst those multiple winners, and then it depends on how you take it.
If you take it as a lump sum or as an annuity. It can wound up going down by half and then there’re taxes on top of that and on and on. And that’s how somebody who wins at 365 million dollar jackpot can wind up with only six hundred thousand dollars in his account.
So on top of not really even winning that much Steve Granger was actually smart. And he put all this money into a retirement fund.
So at least maybe he won’t be one of the 30% that goes bankrupt. But even though he only won a modest amount, and he wasn’t driving around in expensive cars and flaunting it everywhere he went. Still to the people in their community he and his wife became known as “the lottery people”.
People who knew them just started treating them differently. They started to become ostracized in their own community.
It’s a weirdly human thing to do to be jealous and hate on somebody just because they had something good happen to him, especially if they didn’t really do anything to earn that good thing that happen to him.
William Post III, also known as the “BUD”, was the winner of the Pennsylvania Lottery. He bought his winning lottery ticket by pawning off a ring which he got $40 for. He took those $40 and bought 40 lottery tickets. One of which went 16.2 million dollars.
They had to give up a third of his winnings in a legal dispute with his on-again off-again girlfriend and landlord. Mental note, don’t date your landlord. But this was just a start of his problems. In 1989 Bud’s brother paid a hitman to kill him and his sixth wife, hoping that he would inherit the money. Almost a decade later in 1998, Bud was arrested on a sailboat because he was trying to flee the country to get out of a prison sentence for shooting at a guy in his front yard.
That guy was a debt collector outside his mansion in Oil City Pennsylvania. Eventually, Bud wound up a million dollars in debt, divorced for a sixth time with nine kids and living off of $450 a month in food stamps.
I don’t care. I still want to party with this guy.
And then there’s, Jeffrey Dampier JR., who is the living embodiment of “No Money No Problems”. After winning 20 million dollars in the Illinois Lottery in 1996, his marriage took a nosedive and he wound up losing half of his money to his ex-wife. But they seem to look up after that. He invested in a gourmet popcorn company in Tampa Bay. Then the proverbial kernel popped when it turned out that people learned that he had had an affair with his sister-in-law named Victoria Jackson when she was 15 years old.
This relationship clearly did a number on Victoria, because in 2005 she and her boyfriend Nathaniel, kidnapped Jeffrey, to try to get some ransom money. And without getting into the gory details, let’s just say that things did not go to plan. Victoria wound up shooting Jeffrey in the back of the head with a shotgun. hang on. So, clearly these people aren’t cursed. They’re, just idiots, cursed with stupidity maybe.
But let’s just say you’re not stupid. But you still play the lottery because anything is possible. And let’s just say you win, because anything’s possible. How do you get to enjoy this massive stroke of luck without letting it ruin your life?
Well, here’s, a step-by-step guide, you know just in case.
- Step One – Pretend it’s a Fight Club and don’t talk about it. Tell no one about your winnings.
Yes, in that moment you’re probably gonna be excited. You might want to throw your desk up in the air and go tell your boss to eat a bag of butts and storm out the front door, but resist the urge. Keep your head down, or else you’re gonna lose it.
- Step Two – Lawyer up.
Recognize that you do not have the skills to deal with this and find somebody who does. But make sure that person has no connection to you or any family member or friend. Cold call, search the internet, look at the Yellow Pages.
Look for a lawyer that specifically deals in trusts in the States. And find a big-time firm that works with big-time people. Don’t cheap out. You’ve got the money.
- Step Three – Take the lump sum
For two reasons: 1- Yes, you can pile it all on a silo and swim in it all Scrooge McDuck style, but 2 – If you take the annuity the state will hold on to it and it’s gonna cruise interest at like 4.5%, whereas you could get 10%, putting it in a good SMP.
Now taking that lump sum means that You’re probably gonna lose about happier winning than another 33% or so to taxes, but you’re still gonna be in better shape than if you do the other way.
- Step Four – Figure out how much of your winnings you want to share with friends and family.
Now, does this mean that you tell them that you won? NO, remember the first rule of lotto club. Set aside 20% of your winnings to give to other people. And then figure out how much of that you want to give to different people. Go to your new fancy-pants lawyer and have him set up an educational trust so they can use that money for educational purposes.
Don’t put so much in there that they would pay for everything. But enough that it would substantially help. That might seem cruel, but if you turn into an ATM that’s all anybody’s ever gonna think of you. And one thing about ATMs Is people get really pissed off when it stops giving them money.
Plus, If cousin Roy wants to take that money and invest it in a beeper company, because that’s “totally coming back”, people have to go through your lawyer instead of you. Every family has a cousin Roy, and if you don’t think yours does, it’s you.
Now, If you do all this properly, people will just start receiving checks from the trust and they will have no idea where it came from. But if the word gets out, if somehow people find out that it was you. You’re gonna have many people offering to help manage your money. They’re gonna give you a lot of stock tips.
They’re gonna start trying to get you to do things with your money. And this is where you need to learn the fine art of the polite NO.
- Step Five – Protecting you from yourself.
Remember how I told you it’s important to know that you’re an idiot that just sort of stumbled onto this. And you don’t really know what you’re doing? Yeah. Is time to sip on that a bit more.
Before you take your winnings and go crazy at the world’s largest casino aka “the stock market”, it’s time to get a conservative foundation set.
Are the securities bonds gonna make you rich? No. But they are the safest place to put your money in case you go do some stupid things and lose everything else. Most of your money can go To something way more exciting, like slow-growing index funds. These funds track with the market, and while it has its difficulties at trends upwards over time, it’s the safest investment you can make.
Only then is it time to look into investing in individual companies, especially the ones that are called “Dividend Aristocrats”. Essentially, these are stocks that pay 1 to 8 percent and you can take that money or you can reinvest it back into the stock and get into that hole compound interest gain the Warren Buffett so fond of. And after that, then it’s all hookers and blow and jet skis and robotic dolphins – you’ve earned it baby. Have your fun. You’re safe financially. Your family has funds that they didn’t expect before and you can live out your life in the lifestyle you want. Just stay quiet about it, so nobody finds out.
So there is a smart way to go about winning the lottery but, the question has to be asked: is the smartest thing just to not play at all? I mean if you’re gonna rely on luck to bring about your fortune, maybe we should take a second look at luck. How does it work? What makes a person lucky?
A scientist named Richard Wiseman studied the phenomenon of luck for ten years for a book he called “The Luck Factor” and in it he said this:
Lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles. They’re skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.
So maybe instead of putting that dollar into a lottery ticket, You could save it. Or keep an eye out for opportunities that can make that dollar useful.
Take control of your luck. As Carl Jung once said:
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
Now, go out there and make your own luck.