A long time ago, we posted an article about playing the lottery, and just how ludicrous the odds are of ever winning. But it’s still understandable that people like to play. Really, most of you who might buy in every now and then are essentially paying a buck or two for the thrill of it—the opportunity to imagine, briefly, what you’d do with the kind of money lottery winnings amount to.
And if you’re ever fortunate enough to win the lottery, you should act on that imagination. You should make a few impulsive purchases and act out some fantasies you never thought you’d have the opportunity to pursue…. But what shouldn’t you do?
Unfortunately, seemingly limitless riches can lead to a lot of stupid decisions. This is why we constantly hear about athletes with hundreds of millions of dollars to their name going broke. And really, even though such things seem completely avoidable to the average intelligent individual, none of us can really say how we’d react to suddenly having as much money as a small country. Fortunately, past lottery winners have left an interesting legacy that can perfectly instruct future fortune seekers on what not to do with lucrative winnings.
Here are five amusing examples.
1. Forget To Double Check
Very recently, a story surfaced in The Telegraph about a 46-year-old Frenchwoman who believed she’d won the Euro Millions draw in Paris and proceeded to go on a £3,000 shopping spree (which is about $4,200). That’s pretty understandable given the sheer size of the Euro Millions jackpot. According to Lottoland, this is Europe’s favorite lottery, and it can reach a jackpot of up to £130 million (or about $184 million). So why not spend £3,000 on a whim? Well, how about because the woman in question didn’t actually win! As it turned out she had the wrong numbers. So the lesson here is that if you think you’ve won the lottery, make really really sure you actually won the lottery.
2. Have Someone Else Turn In The Ticket
A few years ago a Guatemalan immigrant living undocumented in Georgia purchased a lottery ticket and won the prize. Out of a perfectly legitimate fear that submitting the ticket would reveal him as an illegal immigrant, the man (named Jose Antonio Cua-Toc) decided to have his employer retrieve the prize for him. The employer then tried to steal the prize, claiming it was his ticket all along and Cua-Toc merely bought it for him. As Huffington Post told it, Cua-Toc ended up winning a court battle and claiming what was left of the prize after taxes and legal fees, but the lesson still stands: turn in your own ticket! Or, if you must ask someone else to do it, try a good, trustworthy friend and not your employer… particularly if that employer can hold your undocumented status over you.
3. Start Gambling
This should kind of go without saying. If you win a lottery, you have pretty much met your lifetime quota for gambling luck, right? Apparently not, according to a woman who was written about by The Richest in a countdown of horrible decisions by lottery winners. Evelyn Adams won the New Jersey lottery twice in successive years, earning over $5 million in prize money… and then she gambled and donated all of it away until she was forced to move into a trailer. It’s a sad story, but still an indescribably foolish way to handle lottery winnings.
4. Buy Multiple Dinosaur Skulls
This one doesn’t actually have anything to do with lottery winnings, but it’s still right up there with the stupidest big-money purchases of all time. In case it doesn’t ring any bells, check out the account by Finance Buzz of how actor Nicolas Cage once spent himself broke. In addition to an array of other absurd purchases, Cage reportedly bought multiple dinosaur skeleton heads. It’s a little bit different because Cage worked for his fortune and can do what he likes with it (whereas if you win the lottery and make purchases like this, it seems like you’re slapping fortune in the face). However, it’s still a great example not to follow.
5. Lose The Ticket
Finally, there’s the most obvious and possibly most common stupid decision by lottery winners to consider. If you pay attention to news about major lotteries, you may have realized that it’s shockingly common to hear about misplaced or thrown out tickets, or winners not coming forward when major jackpot numbers are called. If you’re going to make the decision to buy into the lottery, at least give yourself the one-in-a-zillion chance you’re paying for and hold onto the ticket!