Good luck to the latest big winners

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

To paraphrase the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, a million here and a million there, and pretty soon we'll be talking real money.

Dirksen actually was referring to the billions of dollars in the federal budget, but most of us can't even image the millions involved in Saturday's Powerball drawing.

It was actually more than a third of a billion dollars -- $365 million -- that should be claimed by the person who purchased the winning numbers -- 15, 17, 43, 44 and 48 -- at a Lincoln convenience store.

But the winner or winners, of course, won't see nearly that much money. If the winner takes the cash option, it starts out at $177.3 million or $124.1 million after taxes. On the installment plan, the first payment is $6.5 million, climbing to nearly $20.3 million after 30 years.

Rumors are running rampant. One caller claiming the ticket turned out to be a Colorado radio station doing an on-air prank. Others had five co-workers treating others to drinks and dinner in celebration.

Whoever the winner, he, she or they should heed the misfortune of those who have gone before.

An MSN Money story, for example, recounts eight lottery winners who wished they had never bought a ticket. One man who won $16.2 million was successfully sued by a former girlfriend for a share of the winnings, his brother hired a hit man to kill him in hopes he would inherit a share of the money, and other siblings talked him into bad investments. Within a year, he was in the hole $1 million, and now he lives on $450 Social Security and food stamps.

Another woman went in debt to a company that lent her money using her winnings as collateral, blaming the debt on her son-in-law's medical bills. A Michigan man went bankrupt after leaving his machinist job and going into the car business with his brothers. Two other Michigan men spent lost their fortunes in divorce and cocaine, and one of them was even charged with murder.

A Missouri woman who won $18 million gave to a variety of worthy causes before winding up with $700 in two bank accounts eight years later.

A Southeastern family that won $4.2 million in the early '90s blew the money on a huge house and family handouts, and are now divorcing. The wife got a small house, the husband has moved in with the kids, and they had to cash in their life insurance.

And, if the winning ticket is held by a group of co-workers, that could bring complications of its own.

Not all stories turn out so badly, of course. Numerous big winners have managed their fortune well, while still helping out relatives and worthy causes.

As for the latest winners?

Good luck.

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