If you’re a lottery player – and even if you aren’t – you’ve probably heard that Wednesday’s upcoming PowerBall jackpot is expected to hit or maybe even surpass a record $425 million.
I’m the first to admit that a mega cash windfall like that is enough to make you salivate – and probably want to toss a few dollars toward lottery tickets as a way to fulfill your dreams.
You know the dreams: the fantasy for a bigger house, a comfortable retirement, a nice car, the freedom to travel, or even the ability to help out your church, family members and loved ones.
But even if you were to win, against tremendous odds, just be careful that your “dream” scenario doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
The reason I say this is because I remember a decade ago, also right around the holiday season, another record jackpot.
In this case, a man from West Virginia named Jack Whittaker won a $315 million jackpot all by himself. It was Christmas Day 2002. At the time it was the single largest Powerball jackpot in lottery history.
Unfortunately, winning the lottery kicked off a series of tragedies for Mr. Whittaker and his family.
In the 10 years since he hit the lottery jackpot, here’s what’s happened to Mr. Whittaker:
- His wife of nearly 50 years divorced him (One problem, it seems, was that Mr. Whittaker started drinking a lot and hanging out at strip clubs, and wifey wasn’t having it)
- His only granddaughter, who he loved and treasured, overdosed on drugs and died (She got the money for the drugs, as much as $2,000 a week, from Mr. Whittaker)
- His only daughter also overdosed on drugs and died
- He was robbed multiple times
- He made numerous bad investments
- He and his companies were sued at least 400 times (frequently by people looking for a quick settlement)
- He went broke
In just five short years, by 2007, Mr. Whittaker declared that he was “cursed” after winning that massive Powerball lottery.
In fact, Mr. Whittaker told ABC in this profile that he wished he never won the lottery or that he’d torn up his winning lottery ticket.
Clearly, winning the lottery – at least in this case – wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.
If this was an isolated case of a lottery winner with bad luck or a one-time thing, you might chalk it up to just bad choices on Mr. Whittaker’s part or problems with this one man.
Unfortunately, Mr. Whittaker is far from alone in experiencing what some people call “the lottery winner’s curse.”
Even if no such “curse” exists, Mr. Whittaker’s tale serves as a cautionary reminder that coming into gobs of money can indeed change your life.
But that change might not be for the good, and it might not be in ways you expected.
Make no mistake about it: If you’re not emotionally, financially and mentally prepared for a huge cash windfall, winning the lottery can be a total nightmare.