There's at least three new multi-millionaires this week, following the Mega Millions record high lottery win Friday night. Three winning tickets were sold in Maryland, Illinois and Kansas.
Lottery fever swept the nation and by Friday night the jackpot had climbed well above half a billion dollars. It was at $640 million when I bought my tickets. I was part of a lottery pool here at the Chronicle, where we planned to split the winnings and live fabulously wealthy lives. My plans were big. We're talking island in the Caribbean big. Robin Leach would be doing stories on my new life. And I'd spread the wealth, too. There's more than a few worthy organizations out there that could make good use of my philanthropy not to mention friends and family I'd want to bestow some good fortune on.
In all honesty, I'm glad we didn't win. That kind of instant wealth brings with it a whole lot of problems that, frankly, I'm not prepared to deal with. Sure, it'd be pretty nice to pay off everything I owe, everything my friends and family owe and then just sit back and live off the interest, but there's a reason there's tales of a lottery curse. Families have been torn apart, long-time marriages disintegrating after they finally have the money to do all those things they always talked about doing. Winners have been kidnapped or had beloved members of their family kidnapped and held ransom.
Look at Jack Whittaker of West Virginia, who was a record Powerball winner in 2002, pocketing a $314.9 jackpot. A few months later, he had $545,000 stolen from his car. Apparently a lottery win makes you do stupid things like leave half a million just lying about your car as you cruise seedy establishments, like the strip club he was at. He lost his granddaughter to a drug overdose just months after the girl's boyfriend died of a drug overdose at the man's home.
He was constantly being sued and squandered money on booze and strippers. Not surprisingly, his marriage fell apart. His ex-wife later said if she could have seen what would become of their lives, she would have torn up the ticket.
William Post, a 1988 winner of a $16.2 million win, was sued by his girlfriend for a share of the money. Later, his own brother hired a hitman to kill him so he could get the cash. Mr. Post lives alone and is nearly broke.
Abraham Shakespeare won $31 million in 2006. He was hounded by friends, relatives and others wanting money. He was cheated out of millions by his girlfriend/financial advisor, who was later charged with his murder in 2010.
Many lottery winners have lost their millions within a short time of their win, squandering their money, making poor investments, and living beyond their means. There's also a supposed lottery curse, with lottery winners finding their way to a premature death, from being killed in freak accidents to being the target of nefarious schemes.
Winning $100 million, the estimated prize for each of the three winning tickets, is just so far above anything I can fathom it might as well be a gazillion dollars. I'm glad I didn't win that much. I enjoy my simple life, with its simple pleasures, like spending a morning flying a kite at the Cumberland Mountain State Park, taking my dog for a walk at the Obed River Park or hanging out by a bonfire with good friends and s'mores. At the end of the day, it's the little things in life that most impact our happiness and contentment, and you don't need a gazillion dollars to enjoy those.
• • •
Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published each Tuesday. She may be reached at email@example.com.