Strangely enough, winning millions in the lottery can be the worst thing that ever happened to you. The money can strain relationships with your spouse and relatives. It can turn your friends and neighbors into leeches. It can ruin your privacy. It can cause security problems, threaten your physical safety. Paradoxically, it can lead you down the road to bankruptcy.
And, of course, it can also turn you into a raging asshole.
Tips for the Latest Instant Millionaire
[Bear in mind that none of us is a lawyer or a lottery millionaire, so these recommendations are anything but authoritative. Caveat emptor, you rich bastard.]
It's great to be rich, but fame is a bitch. So your primary mission is to claim the money without divulging your identity or having a mental breakdown. Here's how to do it:
- Don't tell anyone. The single most important rule for maintaining sanity after winning the lottery is: Do everything you can to keep your precious anonymity intact. Of course that means keeping your goddamned mouth shut. Don't share the news with your friends, neighbors, coworkers, or family. Resist even the urge to tell your spouse or significant other, at least for the time being. Otherwise you will have forever blown your one chance at being anonymous. You can always spill the beans later, after all the excitement has died down.
- Don't sign the ticket. After you write your name on that ticket, you might as well call up and announce the news to your local TV stations and newspapers. Remember that the state lottery commission will publicize the identity of every claimant. Toss the ticket into a clean Ziploc bag (to avoid spills, etc.) and temporarily stash it someplace away from excessive heat, sunlight, pets, children, roommates, coworkers, etc. Make sure it's someplace safe that you won't forget.
- Act casual. Maintain your normal routine. Continue to attend work, school, church, social functions, etc. Whatever's typical for you. When people ask you what's up, refer to rule number one.
- Make a few photocopies. At your earliest opportunity, take a trip to a 24-hour Kinko's around 2am when nobody's around and make six copies of the ticket, both front and back. Use one of the self-serve machines and take any and all bad copies with you (i.e. leave none in the trash). And before you leave, doublecheck to make sure you didn't leave the original in the machine.
- Rent a safe-deposit box. Contact your bank and see if they have any vacant safe deposit boxes, tell them you're going on a trip and need to store some documents for a few months. Make a point of asking them how much it costs, even though you couldn't care less. You're trying to keep up appearances. When you go down to the bank in person to open your box, you will probably need some ID and your bank card. Bring the ticket, along with some other (fake) papers. Don't show them the ticket, obviously. Loose lips sink ships. Stash the ticket in the box and put the box key on your keyring. Don't lose the key.
- Open a blind trust. Hire a tax attorney. Once you're a client, the lawyer is legally bound to maintain your confidentiality. Tell them you want to open a blind trust in order to claim the lottery prize as an anonymous trustee. Provide three photocopies of your ticket. All contact with the lottery commission will be made through your lawyer.
- Contact a financial planner. Rich people don't tend to stay that way without a little planning. If you have the choice between annual payments and a single large payout, you should consider the big jackpot. It's less money total, but it's probably about the same as the annuity if you take the lump sum and invest it in interest-bearing savings bonds. However, the single large payout may incur a higher tax rate. Ask your tax experts.
- Tie up any financial loose ends. No reason to procrastinate now. Pay all those traffic fines and parking tickets. Catch up on alimony or child support payments. Settle any debts. Instruct your financial planner to scrub those black marks off your credit score, but don't cancel your credit cards -- that'll screw up your rating. And don't think it won't matter anymore. It matters.
- Draft or update your last will and testament. If there were ever a time for estate planning, it's now. Be sure to remember us by including The Rotten Codicil in your will.
- Move away. And not just out of town. We're talking out of state, possibly out of the country. You can't expect to keep a lid on your secret forever; information wants to be free. Maybe buy a modest house with a good alarm system in a gated community with a private security force. That ought to minimize the solicitors at your door. Also be sure to get an unlisted phone number.
Now you can finally enjoy all that wealth in peace. Go ahead and splurge. Get yourself a P.O. Box and order one of everything from the Rotten Store. (Aren't you glad you kept those credit cards?) Anyway, that's what all the hip millionaires do. Seriously.
|28 Apr 1997
||Lottery millionaire Michael Allen is bludgeoned to death in a Lewiston, Maine motel room.
|22 May 1999
||Billie Bob Harrell, Jr. commits suicide. In June 1997, Harrell won $31 million in the Texas state lottery.
|4 Sep 2001
||Patrick Collier randomly wins $1 million at a McDonald's in Holly Hill, Florida. "I'm getting a Harley and a couple of houses." Two weeks later, Collier is arrested for allegedly choking and punching his fiancee in the face.
|19 Dec 2001
||British lottery millionaire Phil Kitchen is found dead on his couch. Kitchen had apparently drunk himself to death (whiskey).
|11 Jul 2002
||British lottery winner Dennis Elwell dies at work, shortly after telling a coworker that he had drunk cyanide.
|21 Apr 2003
||$25 million lottery winner Richard Krenzer is stabbed six times by Randall Hillyard and his son at the Swillburg Stop Bar & Grill outside Rochester, NY.
|29 Jun 2003
||Lottery millionaire Jody Lee Taylor is arrested in Collinsville, Virginia for attempting to run over a sheriff's deputy. On the night of his arrest, Taylor was driving naked down the wrong side of U.S. Route 58 with his headlights off.
|5 Aug 2003
||After lottery millionaire Jack Whittaker passes out in a West Virginia strip bar, a burglar steals his briefcase containing $545,000 in negotiable bonds. The money is located in a trash dumpster the next morning.
|13 Sep 2003
||The London Telegraph reports that 16-year-old British lottery millionaire Callie Rogers has lost her boyfriend, fought with her father, been mugged, and been accused of stealing someone's man. "Some days I don't even want to leave my house because people just scream abuse at me. Two months ago I thought I was the luckiest teenager in Britain. But today I can say I have never felt so miserable."
|15 Sep 2003
||In his Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey home, lottery millionaire Oscar Cordoba repeatedly stabs his wife and her mother with a kitchen knife, killing the mother-in-law.
|17 Oct 2003
||In a program entitled Living with the Lottery Lout, ITV1 reports that British lottery millionaire Michael Carroll has completely alienated his neighbors in Swaffham, Norfolk by periodically staging loud, impromptu demolition derbies on his property.
|18 Nov 2003
||An English court issues a bench warrant for lottery millionaire Satish Patel, charged with defrauding the government for three years' worth of unemployment claims.
|6 Jan 2004
||After getting banned from Billy Sundays Bar and Grill in St Albans, West Virginia, lottery winner Jack Whittaker reportedly threatens to have the manager and his family killed.
|20 Jan 2004
||Lottery winner Jack Whittaker reports that shortly after dawn, somebody broke into his SUV in Scott Depot, West Virginia and stole a bag containing $100,000 cash.
|25 Jan 2004
||Lottery winner Jack Whittaker is arrested for drunk driving in Nitro, West Virginia. Police allege the millionaire blew a .190 blood alcohol on the breathalyzer.
||A judge rules that broke Virginia lottery millionaire Suzanne Mullins owes $154,146.50 to the People's Lottery Foundation, a Florida lending institution specializing in loans to lottery winners.
|26 Jun 2004
||At his Longmont, Colorado home, state lottery millionaire Kevin Lee Sutton allegedly shoots Cristobal Lopez in the head with a .22 caliber pistol. Lopez survives and Sutton is later charged with attempted murder.
|20 Jul 2004
||In Minneapolis, MN, lottery millionaire Victoria A. Zell reportedly crashes her SUV into a truck on the way home from a bar, killing passenger Joshua Schmidt and paralyzing Amity Dimock from the waist down.
|7 Aug 2004
||Incarcerated serial rapist Iorworth Hoare wins $12.9 million in the British lottery.
|13 Aug 2004
||The nonprofit group Equine Protection of North America files suit against New Hampshire lottery millionaire Mary Ellen Sanderson for failure to deliver on an alleged $70,000 annual donation pledge.
|24 Aug 2004
||An Arizona bird refuge, The Oasis Sanctuary, files suit against New Hampshire lottery millionaires Mary Ellen Sanderson and former husband Jason Sanderson for failure to deliver on an alleged $100,000 annual donation pledge.
||Minnesota lottery millionaire Victoria A. Zell is arrested for having allegedly violated the terms of her bail and possessing 0.7 grams of methamphetamine. Zell had also reportedly wired $500,000 to a Canadian bank.
|10 Oct 2004
||Seattle police officers shoot California lottery millionaire Rick Camat to death in a parking lot near Qwest Field. Officers claim that Camat refused to drop his pistol, but Camat's brother claims the cops give him no instructions to do so.
|2 Oct 2005
||Having spent his $10 million prize in just seven years, Winnipeg lottery winner Gerald Muswagon hangs himself. Notable events in his monied spree include a high-speed chase in 2000 and a sexual assault arrest in 2002.
|28 Oct 2005
||Million dollar jackpot winner Christina Goodenow is arrested after Oregon police discover that she had purchased the winning ticket with a credit card stolen from her dead mother-in-law. Police searching her home discover her stash of methamphetamine, but find no trace of her first $33,500 installment.
|15 Jan 2006
||Bankrupt ex-lottery millionaire William "Bud" Post III dies of respiratory failure in Seneca, Pennsylvania. Post had won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery on February 24, 1988. From a 1993 interview: "Everybody dreams of winning money, but nobody realizes the nightmares that come out of the woodwork, or the problems."