10 Reasons Why Winning the Lottery Can Be the Worst Thing that Happens to You

As an author, I’ve had to rely on many regular jobs to keep a roof over my head and food on my table. Easily, one of the worst jobs I had to endure was “convenience store cashier.” One particularly irritating aspect of the job was selling lottery tickets. Droves of customers would appear, week after week playing the same dog-eared tickets or conjuring up their own through various number-picking schemes. Some people would spend tens or hundreds of dollars per week on the tickets. When the lottery jackpot would swell to forty million or beyond, it seemed that practically every customer who entered the store would buy a ticket. They would all say the same things: “If I won, I would tell my boss to (insert rude retort here);” “It would give me a chance to see how those rich suckers live;” “I’d be able to drive a Corvette instead of a Cavalier;” and the most irritatingly ingratiating of all: “I won’t forget you if I win!”

During my mini-career of selling lottery tickets I read with interest any newspaper or internet story about how the winner’s lives changed after the big windfall. Sometimes talk show hosts such as Oprah Winfrey would also feature lottery winners as guests. What I concluded after listening to the same stories over and over again was that winning the lottery can be the worst thing that happens to you. Here are the reasons:

1. Your life will get complicated, and not in a good way.
As the winner of a major lottery, the first decision confronting you will be whether you should take the lump sum payout or be paid your money over a thirty year period. That’s the easy part. You will also need to hire tax accountants, an attorney, and investment professionals.

2. The hucksters and grifters will circle their wagons.
When you win the lottery, your name becomes a matter of public record. This is a greedy world. There are hundreds of individuals and organizations who target lottery winners as customers for their services, whether they are licit or illicit. They know that recent lottery winners are likely to be in a state of temporary euphoria and not necessarily cash savvy. This is a good combination for an easy mark.

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3. All of your relationships will change.
You may have spent decades developing your identity in various ways through your interests, professional skills and hobbies. When you win a major lottery, you immediately become John or Jane Doe, the lucky stiff who won all that money.

4. Mansions and six figure cars are nice, but that upkeep is hell!
Does this really need any comment? Sure, that huge chunk of cash can take you from a 500 square foot studio to a 5,000 square foot mansion, but that mansion comes with gardens and a lawn to water, plumbing and roofing to maintain, and ten to twenty rooms to keep clean. It’s also no secret that the higher end vehicles feature exotic powertrains and electronics that cost big bucks to repair. Not many people realize this when they’re salivating at the real estate office or the Ferrari dealership.

5. You become a target for lawsuits.
For twelve years I lived in the Orlando, Florida area, which is relatively small, population-wise. There are about 400,000 residents in the city proper and about two million in the three county metropolitan area. Yet the yellow pages contained nearly a half inch of listings devoted to attorneys! Many of these attorneys spend their time going after the “deep pockets” in our society, whether it is corporations or individuals. One example was a guy in central Florida who won millions of dollars in the lottery and suddenly became served with paternity suits from three different women. Sound outlandish? It’s not.

6. Rounds of golf (or sailing, or world travel, etc.) can get old quickly.
To relieve the monotony of selling lottery tickets, I would sometimes quiz the purchasers about what they would do if they won the big bucks. One of the more interesting responses came from a gentleman who was an avid scuba diver. He said he would travel the world, to the Truk lagoon, the Red Sea, the Great Barrier reef and all the other spectacular dive sites he’d heard about but knew he might not be able to afford to get to. True, a huge lotto windfall could help him circle the globe and visit all these locations and more, maybe even do it several times. But, what then?

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7. You’ll wonder “Do people like me just for me, or is it because of all that money?”
Here’s another one that needs little comment. When you win a lottery, most experts say that you should get an unlisted phone number at the minimum and a few even recommend the drastic measures of moving to a different state and changing your name. Changing your name! But it’s a fact. When you win the lottery, friends and casual acquaintances materialize from the fog and all of them suddenly aspire to be your best friend. Does this sound overly cynical? It is simply my observation of how the lives changed for the winners interviewed for articles and on panel television shows.

8. You become Uncle Sam’s best bud.
Taxes on lottery winnings are obscene, as most people know, especially if one chooses the “lump sum” payout option. You immediately become one of the tenth of the people paying 90% of all taxes. Income into the stratosphere brings on the need for tax accountants and tax attorneys. Much of the energy of the uber-rich is spent lobbying for political tax breaks and hiring armies of professionals to help alleviate the burden. Is this the way you want to spend your time?

9. You’ll probably get divorced.
It seems to fly in the face of reality, doesn’t it? Don’t most couples squabble over financial affairs? And if you suddenly received tons of money, wouldn’t that take care of the that problem forever? The sad fact is that even the most emotionally close couples have different financial styles and attitudes toward money It may have been one of the things that brought them together in the first place (the spendthrift and the saver balance each other out). Yet large sums of money bring about large amounts of responsibility and creates a huge bone of contention for married couples. Most of the time the continuous conflict erodes even the most rock solid of unions.

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10. You’ll probably go bankrupt.
Huh? you say. How is this possible? It is widely reported that seven out of ten lottery winners end up in bankruptcy court. For the reason, check items one through nine.

Honestly, if you are to become rich in your life, you are hundreds of times more likely to do it through your work, however humble it may be, than because a few ping pong balls got sucked into a tube in a cosmically fortunate combination. And when you reap your rewards this way, you get to enjoy the ride and feel that whatever you give back comes truly from your heart and not just your bank account.