Winning the Big One

I’ve heard the Powerball jackpot is enormous, something in the hundreds of millions – $550 million, to be exact.  Wow!  Wouldn’t it be great to win that?  What would you do?  How would you live?

I considered this as I turned away the plumber who wanted to charge us around $300 to snake our outflow pipe.  I thought, Goodbye, Christmas!  Mercifully, Jonathon was able to rent a snake and flush the clog himself.  But that’s what having less money does for you.  You become inventive.  You get a little pickier because you have to be.  You find another way to get things done, a less costly way.

In the name of science, I did a bit of online research about past lottery winners.  Statistics show that 70% or more lose it all in the next couple years.  They spend it or give it away, never dreaming there will be an end to the money.  Some, without a reason to get up in the morning, become alcoholics or addicts.  That money exacts a relational toll as well.  Friends become vampires, sucking money from you.  Relatives you never knew you had show up on your doorstep.  I would imagine perfect strangers might boo and hiss as you pass by, whispering contemptuously, jealous of your sudden wealth.  Let’s not even discuss your co-workers.

The people who have made it through, it seems, were very cautious.  They paid down debts, took a couple trips, bought a new house.  They fulfilled lifelong dreams and maybe took care of their parents or kids in a significant financial way.  But they didn’t become jet-setters.  They didn’t purchase a fleet of Rolls Royces.  They quit their jobs, to be sure, but live off the interest of conservative – and a few not-so-conservative- investments.  Some of them stayed in the same town.

These seem to be people who realize that money carries weight.  It’s something we earn for our time.  We exchange our time and skill for money.  In that respect, I suppose we are sort of slaves to who or what we work for.  Yes, winning a huge jackpot of cash is fabulous.  But it’s what we do afterwards that makes it count.  It reveals our character.  It also shows whether we know ourselves or not.

An article I read today on msn.com – here’s the link – proves this out.  Here’s a quote about our happiness being a sort of “set point” with each person, and yet we continue to hold the mistaken belief that more money will make us happier:

This is partially because we are terrible at predicting how happy more money is going to make us. The truth is, money can make you happy — but only up to a point. “Research shows that the impact of additional income on happiness begins to level off around $75,000 of income – but people keep trying to make more and more money in the mistaken belief that their happiness will continue to increase,” Norton says. “As a result of this mistaken belief, people think that big windfalls will change their happiness dramatically – and may end up with less happiness than they expected.”

So…according to this article, we can all relax after we start earning around $75k a year.  Right?  Who wants to test this out?  Anyone?  Perhaps this is why the Kardashians seem so miserable.

The article also includes a person I’ve read about twice now, Sandra Hayes.  She and a dozen coworkers won a $224 million Powerball jackpot. After taxes, her share was around $10 million. Paltry sum, that.  She paid off her house and let her daughter and grandchildren live there, getting them out of a tough neighborhood.  She bought her dream car – a brand-new Lexus.  She quit her job and spends her days writing.  Sounds pretty good to me!

I’ll let her have the last word:

The first secret, as Hayes tells it, to winning the lottery without losing your mind is to immediately meet with a financial planner you trust and make a plan that works for you. The second is a little simpler. She says, “Just because you win the lottery, it does not change you as a person.”

Amen, Sister Hayes!


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