Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lottery Money: Cursed?

You wouldn’t even think of buying a lottery ticket if you didn’t dream of winning the top prize.  And for sure, you would already have plans where you would put the money in, what charities you would give to, and where you would spend the rest of your days. You’d buy a big house, the latest model cars, top of the line gadgets and electronic equipments, and other things that you genuinely believe could make your life better. They would all be good plans and you would be happy because you wouldn’t have to work; all you need to do is just breathe, relax, and enjoy every good thing life has to offer. In all honesty, you believe that the lottery money you won will take care of all the things you need and then some more.

Instant wealth can bring a lot of good indeed, but for some people, actually winning the lottery and having more money they could spend in a lifetime can have a negative impact and tear apart the life they have become used to.  There are many well known stories of people whose peaceful lives have been destroyed after they won the lottery, thus giving birth to what we know as the curse of lottery winners.

We all love rags to riches stories.  We shed tears of joy when somebody we know or heard about has come into good fortune after having gone through the worst in life.  We adore people who have risen from poverty, became rich and still retained their humility, helping others overcome their own limits, and giving back to the community what they have received. But unfortunately, not all the rags to riches stories of lottery winners ended up on a happy note.  In fact, many of them ended in worse situations than what they were before they won. Some winners were already doing well and one would think that having more money could only make things better.  The reality however, was that their lives were turned upside down when they got more money. 

Expert psychologists are trying to find a reason for this phenomenon. They are saying that for some people, their dream of winning may be actually better than that of winning in reality. Without naming names, we can cite the case of a couple who have been happily married for 16 years.  Their marriage collapsed within just a few months after winning a $25 million lottery jackpot.  A man who won $20 million was kidnapped and murdered by no other person than his own sister-in-law.  A successful businessman who was already earning $17 million a year won $315 million in 2002. The last time people heard of him in 2009, he had lost his business, his wife had divorced him, his daughter and granddaughter died of drug overdose, and he had been robbed several times.  He had also been sued for millions of dollars and arrested for DUI. Don’t think that he became a bad person after winning because he had done good things too, like put up a foundation to help other people and he had given money to several Christian charitable institutions. But in the end, he lost everything and declared to the world that he wished he’d torn the lottery ticket up instead.

There is no doubt that a huge windfall of even just several hundred thousands can have a great impact and change one’s life in a dramatic fashion. The change can be either for better or for worse.  Some people say that if you were already happy before you won, then you would just continue to be happy, or become happier after you get the money.  However, they are also saying that if before winning you were already very unhappy, then no amount of winnings can change that.  You will be an extremely unhappy person with a huge bank account.  You may be able to pay your debts, buy the best material things in life, but the underlying cause of unhappiness will still be there, waiting to pounce upon you the moment they get their chance. The winnings can only cover them up but not completely erase their presence. Depression may come inevitably to those who were not accustomed to being rich as the accompanying problems become unbearable and overwhelming.

It is not unknown for some big lottery winners to file for bankruptcy after a few years. This happened to a Pennsylvania man who won $16 million in 1998. The same thing happened to two other big winners. One was a winner of $18 million in 1993 and the other one won $37 million in 1997, who also took his own life after two years.

After considering all of these, you would wonder, “Is winning the lottery a welcome blessing or a curse to be avoided?” Perhaps, some words of wisdom can help you just in case you do win the lottery.  First of all, don’t forget you have to pay the taxes!  You’d be surprised how many lottery winners have had to face this demon after they have already lost more than half of their winnings. And remember this – the huge amount of money you won may radically change your life and your lifestyle but you shouldn’t allow it to change your friends.

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