Winning the lottery may be the twenty first century version of a modern-day fairy tale. However, like most fairy tales this one comes with poisoned apples and a hard-learned moral: money doesn’t always lead to a happily-ever-after.
Of course, most people are willing to risk almost anything in the pursuit of easy money. According to AssociatedContent.com, American’s spend more than $25 billion a year on lottery tickets. Even if you win a $1 million dollar jackpot, you’re not really a millionaire. The IRS withholds 28 percent annually from your winning lottery check. Also more than $61 million dollars have gone unclaimed because most states require that any winning ticket must be filed within six months of the winning date; however, tickets get thrown away, washed, stolen or misplaced.
According to SavingAdvice.com the probability of winning a single state lottery is 18 million to 1 and the odds of winning a multiple state lottery are 120 million to 1. This means you are 6 to 45 times more likely to die from a lightning strike. Even with these incredibly low odds, one in every three Americans think that winning the lottery will help them become financially secure.
While winning the lottery may be a quick fix for money problems there is often a darker side to the story. The curse of the lottery is a well-known reality. Drugs, murder, divorce, depression and bankruptcy are just a few of the less-than-enchanted results that often befall lottery winners. Our society believes that money solves most problems; however, lottery winners often lack the financial guidance necessary to manage a large windfall.
Mansions, luxury cars, and fancy vacations are some of the first thing winners buy after collecting their initial payout. However, the majority of winners don’t factor in bigger utility bills, maintenance, insurance, and taxes that come along with a new residence or fancy car.
It should be no surprise that young adults, an age group with limited sources of income, often dream of supplementing their minimum wage jobs by playing lotto. On August 26, 2009, Natalie Marston, 22, won $5.2 million from the California Lottery. She quit her job at Disneyland and will take home $195,000 a year for the next 20 years. Although Marston may be living in her own personal magic kingdom, others aren’t so lucky. Callie Rogers, won $3 million in a British lottery when she was just 16; however, six years later, she has only $32,000 left. She told News of the World, “I was just too young to cope with suddenly having that amount in the bank when I’d come from nothing.” Rogers blew all her winnings on new houses for herself, her parents, and grandmother, new cars, a breast augmentation, designer wardrobe and over $400,000 on cocaine. Now Rogers, a mother of two, lives with her own mother and has three cleaning jobs just to make ends meet.
While the actual chance of becoming a multimillion dollar winner is considerably low, it could happen to you. Don’t become another victim of the lottery curse. If you do happen to win, the first thing you should do is invest in your own fairy godmother—in the form of a good financial advisor.
Allie Marguiles is a Baltimore-based writer.