The Downsides to Winning the Lottery

By Nicholas Christensen
Last Updated: September 26, 2018

Everyone wants to win big at the lottery, whether they admit it or not. Going from rags to riches in the blink of an eye is a fantasy many of us can relate to. It’s a life-changing event, after all – one that can transform someone’s life for the better.

What you might not know, however, is that winning the lottery can sometimes be more trouble than it is actually worth. Sure, there are tons of upsides to striking it rich via the lottery, but the more money you have, the more potential problems could arise. Read on to see what the downsides of winning the lottery are!

Say Goodbye to Anonymity

Most people don’t know this, but many states require that lottery winners appear in a news conference and hold up a big check. In other words, your days of anonymity might very well be over. Thankfully, there are some states (and some lottery sites) that allow you to remain anonymous.

Friendships Will Be Tested

No matter how good you think the people in your life are, there will always be some who will think that just because you suddenly have lots of money, that you owe them anything. This is exactly what happened to Sandra Hayes, who won the $224 million Missouri Powerball pool in 2006 – which she split with 12 co-workers.

Downsides to Winning the Lottery - Friends
Sandra Hayes’ friends turned out to be the complete opposite.

Soon after she won, she noticed something off about her friends. Whenever they went out to eat, her friends would order their food and quickly announce that they didn’t have any money on them. Sandra caught on quickly, and not long after she stopped hanging out with them.

Another of her friends made it very clear that they expected Sandra to upheave their family from their financial troubles. Upon consulting with her financial advisor, Sandra drew the line and said no. If she hadn’t, she would have been in dire straits in no time, too.

You Might Have to Fend off Family

It won’t be just your friends that might take advantage of your newfound wealth; family members are likely to do so, as well. You might just have to fend off a long line of “family” asking for handouts – most of whom you haven’t seen in decades. Worse, there’s also the possibility that people you’ve never met before, or even knew existed, might come out of the woodwork and come knocking on your door.

Downsides to Winning the Lottery - Family
Family you’ve never seen in a while (or at all) will come out of the woodwork to ask you for money.

Jeff Motske, president of Trilogy Financial Services, confirms this. He says that lottery winners are often targets of long-lost relatives expecting them to dole out some cash. Jeff says that “a family member who wins the lottery will appear as a better option than a bank for fast cash that comes with the price tag of little to no interest paid and no application process.”

Relationships Might Suffer

Couples aren’t safe from the so-called “lottery curse” as well. Over the years, many couples’ relationships have been left in ruins soon after winning the lottery. Adrian and Gillian Bayford are one of the more popular examples of how the lottery can take a toll on couples.

Downsides to Winning the Lottery - Relationships
Andrew and Gillian Bayford, during happier times as a couple.

The Bayfords won £148 million in 2012, but a year later their marriage was over. The couple insists that a third party wasn’t the cause of their separation. The millionaire life was simply too stressful for the Bayfords, leaving them little to no time together as a couple. Currently, they are living on opposite ends of their country.

You Might Go Bankrupt

Admit it – if you win money, the first thing you’d think of is to buy something nice for yourself and your loved ones. It’s a normal reaction, but it’s also a mindset that could lead you to bankruptcy. Many lottery winners have fallen into this trap countless times before, and many more will surely follow.

Downsides to Winning the Lottery - Bankruptcy
Michael Carroll, previous winner of the £9.7 million UK National Lottery jackpot, lost all his money due to reckless spending.

Scott Dillon, a bankruptcy attorney at Rosen, Kantrow & Dillon, PLLC, said that “Winners suddenly have significantly more credit available to them than they ever had. That makes them more likely to make purchases on credit, rather than use cash.”

It helps to set a financial plan and stick to it. If you don’t, and you just spend your winnings willy-nilly, then you are more likely to go bankrupt sooner rather than later.

Scammers Will Hound You

When word gets around that you’ve come into a large amount of cash, not only can some people in your life turn into money-obsessed leeches, but you also become a target for scammers and other undesirables.

Sandra Hayes, one of the lottery winners I discussed earlier in this article, had the misfortune of working with contractors that immediately raised their work bids soon after learning she had won the lottery.

Downsides to Winning the Lottery - Scammers
Malicious people will zero in on you to take advantage of your newfound wealth.

Robert Miles, who won $5 million from a scratch card in 2006, got conned into believing that he had only won $5,000. When Robert walked into a convenience store in Syracuse, Andy and Nayel Ashkar – sons of the store owner – offered him $4,000 in exchange for the winning ticket. Battling cocaine addiction at the time and clearly not thinking straight, Robert agreed to the brothers’ proposal. Robert did get his $5 million, but only after seven years and winning a criminal lawsuit against the brothers.

Should You Still Play the Lottery?

That depends. If you plan on ignoring the cautionary tidbits I laid out in this article, then you should probably quit while you are ahead. Winning the lottery will definitely change your life, but you’re still the one that should be in control of it and not the other way around.

Of course, there are going to be some things that will be out of your control – such as people showing their true colors – but how you handle them makes all the difference. Learn from the others that have come before you, so you might just come out of being a lottery winner relatively unscathed.

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