Thursday, September 07, 2006

Schadenfreude reigns.

Extracts from
Eight lottery winners who lost their millions
by Ellen Goodstein,

For a lot of people, winning the lottery is the American dream. But for many lottery winners, the reality is more like a nightmare.

  • "Winning the lottery isn't always what it's cracked up to be," says Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey lottery not just once, but twice (1985, 1986), to the tune of $5.4 million. Today the money is all gone and Adams lives in a trailer.

    "Everybody wanted my money," says Adams, who also lost money at the slot machines in Atlantic City.

  • William "Bud" Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 but now lives on his Social Security.

    A former girlfriend successfully sued him for a share of his winnings. A brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him, hoping to inherit a share of the winnings. Other siblings pestered him until he agreed to invest in a car business and a restaurant in Sarasota, Fla.

    Post even spent time in jail for firing a gun over the head of a bill collector. Within a year, he was $1 million in debt. Now he lives quietly on $450 a month and food stamps.

  • Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million in the Virginia lottery in 1993. Now she's deeply in debt to a company that lent her money using the winnings as collateral.

    She borrowed $197,746.15, which she agreed to pay back with her yearly checks from the Virginia lottery through 2006. When the rules changed allowing her to collect her winnings in a lump sum, she cashed in the remaining amount. But she stopped making payments on the loan.

  • Ken Proxmire was a machinist when he won $1 million in the Michigan lottery. He moved to California and went into the car business with his brothers. Within five years, he had filed for bankruptcy.

    "It was a hell of a good ride for three or four years, but now he lives more simply. There's no more talk of owning a helicopter or riding in limos. We're just everyday folk. Dad's now back to work as a machinist," says his son.

  • Willie Hurt of Lansing, Mich., won $3.1 million in 1989. Two years later he was broke and charged with murder. His lawyer says Hurt spent his fortune on a divorce and crack cocaine.

  • Charles Riddle of Belleville, Mich., won $1 million in 1975. Afterward, he got divorced, faced several lawsuits and was indicted for selling cocaine.

  • Missourian Janite Lee won $18 million in 1993. Lee was generous to a variety of causes, giving to politics, education and the community. But according to published reports, eight years after winning, Lee had filed for bankruptcy with only $700 left in two bank accounts and no cash on hand.

  • One Southeastern family won $4.2 million in the early '90s. They bought a huge house and succumbed to repeated family requests for help in paying off debts.

    The house, cars and relatives ate the whole pot. Eleven years later, the couple is divorcing, the house is sold and they have to split what is left of the lottery proceeds. The wife got a very small house. The husband has moved in with the kids.
"For many people, sudden money can cause disaster," says a certified financial planner. "In our culture, there is a widely held belief that money solves problems. People think if they had more money, their troubles would be over. ... Often they can keep the money and lose family and friends -- or lose the money and keep the family and friends -- or even lose the money and lose the family and friends."


At 11:19 AM, Anonymous alma said...

Very cool story. I've always thought that if I came into big money, I would pay off my parents', my siblings', and my home, and then work for a non-profit org. Of course, a plan is one thing and what actually happens if often entirely different.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Badaunt said...

I read something in the New Yorker (I think) about research into happiness, in which it was discovered that, using subjective (of course) questionnaires, people who have something wonderful happen, such as winning the lottery, or have something terrible happen, after six months (I think) their subjective level of happiness is pretty much the same as it was before the event.

I guess if you tend to worry, or be miserable, or be happy, you'll find a way no matter what the circumstances. And as the above stories show, getting rich suddenly does not make people suddenly clever, either!


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