How many of us, at one time or another, have fantasized about what our lives would be like if we were to win great sums of money? We can picture ourselves satisfying our wildest dreams of owning a mansion, buying luxury cars, going on trips to exotic places, living a life of leisure.
For some people, fantasy becomes reality when they actually hit it big via huge lotteries. They are immediately thrust into a world of sudden wealth, with all the advantages it provides. You would think that they proverbially had it “made in the shade” now, but this is often not the case, as many sad stories detail.
Andrew “Jack” Whitaker
“Jack” Whitaker was already the owner of a successful contracting firm in Putnam County, West Virginia when he won the $314.9 Powerball jackpot in 2002. As the sole ticket holder, he decided to take one lump sum instead of having his winnings paid in installments, meaning that, after taxes, he walked away with $113.9 million. Definitely nothing to sneeze at!
He seems to have started out with the best of intentions, pledging a tenth of his lottery earnings to Christian charities and starting his own foundation to assist low income families with food and clothing. This was a man who was clearly generous and appeared to be unspoiled by his newfound riches.
There was, however, no happy ending here, as it seems winning the lottery was the beginning of Whitaker’s troubles. His business and home were repeatedly broken into, a large sum of cash was stolen from his vehicle parked outside of a strip club, lawsuits were brought against him and his teenaged granddaughter was found dead of a drug overdose. He has also been arrested for drunk driving.
Most recently, Whitaker claimed that he was unable to pay a lawsuit settlement, because his bank account was cleaned out by disreputable people.
He has had a succession of legal and personal problems since his 2002 lottery win, hardly the stuff dreams are made of.
Nothing seems to bring out the mercenary streak in a spouse than having a husband or wife win the lottery.
In November 2004, Columbian immigrant Juan Rodriguez won $149 million in the New York Mega Millions lottery, $88.5 million before taxes, in a lump sum. His wife Iris, married to him for 17 years, filed for divorce soon thereafter
and, of course, wanted her share of his winnings.
In all fairness, it seems that their marriage was somewhat troubled enough before Juan’s streak of good fortune. He had, in fact, filed for bankruptcy just prior to winning the lottery.
Perhaps the Mrs. was too afraid that he would end up messing up matters financially again, so she bailed out and got her cut, in order to avoid that risk.
In 2005, Gerald Muswagon, who had won a $10 million lottery 7 years earlier, committed suicide by hanging himself.
The troubled former Manitoba resident had made a number of unwise financial decisions, by partying, spending large amounts of money on friends, even starting up a business that eventually failed. He got into legal troubles when he was arrested for dangerous driving and for fondling a 19-year-old girl. Criminal behavior, however, was nothing new for Muswagon and coming into instant wealth only served to exacerbate his problems.
Relatives said he was depressed, prior to his taking his life. At the time of his death, his financial situation had reversed to the point that he had to take a job doing heavy lifting in order to support his girlfirend and children.
Donald and Danette Sigmon
In July 2006, North Carolinian Donald Sigmon won $800,000 in the Powerball Lottery. For some, this might be a cause for celebration, but for Sigmon and his wife Danette, their lives have been anything but happy.
The two have been shunned and criticized by the Baptist church of which they are members, as well as been regarded with resentment by their community. When they attempted to tithe 10% of their lottery earnings to their church, it was returned, because the pastor deemed money obtained from a lottery inappropriate to receive.
Donald works for an engineering company, while Danette is a part time bus driver and both have been shamed into feeling disgraced for playing the Powerball Lottery, which neither even remotely thought they would end up winning.
Although the Sigmons do feel glad to have the money for financial reasons, any enjoyment they might have had is non-existent, due to the Christian fellowship and friends they have lost because of their participation in the state lottery.
(One does have to wonder…why don’t they just move?)
The Georgia Lottery made Wanda Rickerson $500,000 richer in 2003, when she won the Fantasy Five drawing.
Miss Wanda, evidently, had been a busy little thing prior to her good luck, because, not long after her win, the former office administrative clerk was arrested for allegedly stealing $56,000 worth of inmate money from the Columbia County Detention Center. She was also charged with insurance fraud.
She was given 10 years probation and told to pay back a total of $84,000, to be taken from her lottery winnings.
Are Lottery Winners Really Cursed?
I have my own take on this.
I believe the case in situations like these has more to do with the attitudes and personal choices of the individual winners than it does with the actual winning of the money. There’s a vast difference between you having the money and the money having you.
Some of these folks went on huge spending sprees, buying a lot of impractical stuff and being overly extravagant. Others failed to adjust their lifestyles and went on with the same bad habits they had before they won the lottery.
I remember hearing someone say once that “if you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got”.
This has, sadly, proven to be the case with most of the individuals described here.