Over fifty years ago, the Beatles instructed America’s youth in financial matters of the heart, singing “Money Can’t Buy Me
“We all know that getting a better-paying job is one of the main reasons to go to college … But if you are ever tempted to go into a field or take a job only because the pay is high and for no other reason, be careful. Having a larger income is exciting at first, but as you get used to your new standard of living and as you associate with other people in your new income bracket, the thrill quickly wears off.”
Bernanke’s remarks reflected exactly what other studies have found, that just six months after winning a large lottery prize, even in the millions of dollars, people reported being not much happier than they were before the winning. As a matter of fact, those winners often received misery and misfortune in addition to their prize. Winning the lottery is not what everyone expects it to be. The National Endowment for Financial Education estimates that as many as 70
Many of us have fantasized about winning the lottery, imagining that such a lucky windfall would be an end to all of our problems. Spend a moment and visualize what you would do with a sudden cash prize of say, fifteen-million-dollars. One might immediately make a titillating list of
Another form of death
Although we all engage in the fanciful art of daydreaming, darker forces are fermenting just below the surface. Apprehension about the future is a driving force behind our endemic lottery fantasy. For example, not saving enough for retirement is a major fear of most Americans, and studies have shown that more Americans fear insufficient retirement savings than fear death. We would rather die
Research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) shows there’s a pretty good chance that many Americans will run short of cash due to poor planning or by not having adequate funds to save or invest. According to the EBRI
Why is it that many Powerball lottery winners soon find their lives upended as winners become losers and ecstasy turns into despair? Newspaper headlines announce lottery winners, regrettably citing many who have lost it all. They have gone from tattered rags to riches to rags once again. The sudden infusion of wealth creates a dramatic life-change that few are prepared to cope with. Still, the monetary reward is notable and can dramatically influence one’s access to materialistic pleasures only dreamt about. But wealth becomes an optical illusion of false hope and false promise. The reality is that, for many, the stupor of wealth does not last but disappears in a rapid, predictable expression of lustful greed and excess.
Unlucky winners often assume a life of regret, declare bankruptcy, or are conveniently murdered for their money. It is a poetry of incredible sadness where fortunes are reversed and upward momentum crashes down. Christopher Carbone’s ‘The curse of winning the lottery’ concludes, “It turns out winning a jackpot of millions or even thousands of dollars can lead to financial ruin – or even death.”
Several recent lottery winners have turned up dead in communities across the country.” Abraham Shakespeare, Jeffrey Dampier, and Doris Murray were among the unfortunates who won the lottery only to be exploited and brutally murdered. Lottery winners may be lucky individuals in an immediate sense, but they are also vulnerable, their once-private lives exposed to opportunistic criminals and pathogens.
Jack Whittaker’s $314.9 million
When Jack Whittaker won the US Powerball jackpot of $314.9, it was the largest jackpot ever won by a single winning ticket in the history of the American lottery. Lucky Whittaker was one of the richest men in history to bank a lottery
“My granddaughter is dead because of the money. You know, my wife had said she wished that she had torn the ticket up. Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up, too … I don’t like the hard heart I’ve got. I don’t like what I’ve become.’
Bud Post’s $40 million
That was how it was for William ‘Bud’ Post. After pawning his ring for $40, Post spent the money on forty Pennsylvania Lottery tickets. His lucky ticket netted him $16.2 million. He soon began to receive the first of his twenty-six annual payments of $497,953.47. Post’s breathtaking experience as a multi-millionaire was both sudden and tragic. At the time of his 1988
In a series of macabre events, Post was stalked and hunted like a wounded animal. Ann Karpik, his landlady and former girlfriend, successfully sued him for a third of the jackpot. His brother hired a contract murderer to kill ‘Bud,’ hoping to retrieve a portion of the inheritance. Several of the Post siblings pressured him to invest in sundry business ventures including a car business and a failed Florida restaurant. His sixth wife moved out. After firing a shotgun over the head of a bill collector, Post was jailed for dangerous, erratic behavior. ‘Bud’ Post was $1 million in debt within the year.
Just before his predictable bankruptcy, Post bought a twin-engine plane even though he did not have a pilot’s license. He purchased two homes, two Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a luxury camper, two 62-inch Sony televisions and a $260,000 sailboat that was docked thousands of miles away in Biloxi, Miss. John Lacher, a bankruptcy lawyer who assisted Post observed, “He was like ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’ He did everything you would expect of a guy who became a millionaire overnight.”
Post died of respiratory failure in a Seneca, PA hospital. He was 66 years old. Referring to his lottery winnings as the ‘lottery of death’ Post admitted prior to his demise that, “I was much happier when I was broke. I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare.” He admitted that he was irresponsible with his winnings as he attempted to please his family members. After declaring bankruptcy, he existed on food stamps and his disability check, a little more than $450 a month. At one point he said, “I’m tired, I’m over 65
‘Bud’ Post was not alone in his quest for that magical pot of gold. Even during changing economic times with millions of American workers unemployed and questioning when their next paycheck will arrive, there are those who risk their very survival on instant scratch-off tickets and daily games of chance. The Rockefeller study found that total lottery revenue has climbed steadily since 1992, rising to $17.4 billion in 2007. During that 15-year span, lottery revenue increased most rapidly during the 2001 recession. Some researchers claim that financial insecurity may be tempting more people to risk larger amounts of their survival money in hopes of a huge cash payoff.
State lotteries first emerged in the
Many individuals like ‘Bud’ Post mistakenly equate financial success and material possessions with happiness. Is it because we as a society have defined happiness in terms of lavish materialism and have gradually stepped away from spiritual elements? Is it because we have defined the terms of happiness as being outside ourselves, and have denied each other the true essence of self?
Abraham Shakespeare’s $30 million
On Friday, January 29, 2010, the body of Abraham Shakespeare was discovered. It had been stuffed, like fetid garbage, beneath a 30-by-30 concrete slab in a rural Florida backyard, east of Tampa.
In 2006, Shakespeare had won a $30 million jackpot in the Florida Lottery. It should have been the grandest moment of his life, an opportunity to experience exotic pleasures and visit faraway locations. The lottery winner chose a lump sum payment of nearly $17 million and immediately purchased an opulent million-dollar home in Lakeland, Florida. Three years later he vanished from sight. He had been missing for a period of nine months before detectives found his body in a five – foot grave under a concrete slab.
Shakespeare’s body was discovered behind the two-story ranch house of the boyfriend of Dorice ‘DeeDee’ Moore, 37, who befriended him a year after he won the lottery. Police connected the dots and quickly established a motive. The home had been purchased by Moore and listed in the name of her boyfriend. Moore had also asked an unnamed witness if he knew anyone who was
At the time of his winning, Shakespeare, 43, was employed as an assistant truck driver. He lived with his mother in a rural location east of Tampa. Shakespeare, who had a criminal record, was barely literate. Still, he was extremely generous with his fortune and quickly gave much of it away as people gathered outside his mother’s home, pleading for a portion of the cash and a share of his good fortune.
“I’d have been better off broke,” he told his brother, Robert Brown, on several occasions. Shakespeare’s fate was that of so many others who suffered the curse of newly acquired wealth.
Adolf Merckle’s $9.2 billion
Despite incredible fortune and success, Adolf Merckle, one of the wealthiest businessmen in Germany, was unable to embrace happiness within his vast financial reality.
Merckle had a net worth estimated at almost $9.2 billion dollars. Merckle’s empire included holdings in a diverse range of products including Volkswagen cars, HeidelbergCement, generic-drug maker Ratiopharm and Phoenix Pharmahandel. His vast business empire consisted of 120 companies that employed over 100,000 people. He had been listed as Germany’s fifth richest individual and ranked 94th on Forbes’ listing of the world’s richest individuals. “The desperate situation of his companies, caused by the financial crisis, the uncertainties of the last few weeks and his powerlessness to act, broke the passionate family entrepreneur and he took his own life,” his family said in a prepared statement
In 2009, German billionaire Merckle, a once-vibrant symbol of Germany’s industrious spirit, threw himself under the wheels of a speeding train. His lifeless mangled body lay on railway tracks at Blaubeuren in southwestern Germany. Merckle, 74, had become depressed after his business empire was devastated by the global financial crisis
Money cannot buy happiness. Experts agree that if you were unhappy before any lottery winnings you can anticipate that the additional cash flow into your life will not make you any happier. It is a deceptive hoax that preys upon our emptiness and unfulfilled needs. And too, an unexpected windfall of hard cash does not alter one’s basic mindset. One remains who he is, doing what he does to get through the day. Writer Ayn Rand (1905-1982) said, “Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” In his classic text The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle articulates, “You may win ten million dollars, but that kind of change is no more than skin deep. You would simply continue to act out the same conditioned patterns in more luxurious surroundings.”
Money, used with caution and respect, can provide happiness, security, and peace of mind. Financially secure individuals live longer and healthier lives. Money allows them the luxury to carefully choose their occupation, their place of residence, and ensure the legacy of how their wealth will benefit their family and community. According to financial guru Don McNay, most people who come into sudden money, sports stars included, end up broke. His advice is concise. Take the annuity and invest carefully, he says:
“Real freedom means stability, security
Few things are more tragic than squandering a huge opportunity such as a financial payout. One’s inability to remain centered and grounded is the true cause of misery brought about by sudden allotments of wealth. As reflected in the Beatles’ (Money) “Can’t Buy Me
Maxim W. Furek has a rich background that includes aspects of psychology, addictions, mental health