13 Things Lottery Winners Won’t Tell You

Past lottery winners weigh in on losing friends, becoming spectacles, and increasing the odds of striking it rich.

By Michelle Crouch
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine January 2014
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    Easy come, easy go.

    Whether we win $500 million or $1 million, about 70 percent of us lose or spend all our money in five years or less.

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    Take a second chance.

    Always play the second-chance drawings. Some games require you to mail in your losing ticket. Others tell you to go online and 
register the ticket’s serial number. People either don’t know about the drawings or don’t take the time to enter, so your odds of winning are always better.

    Courtesy of Joshua Scott

    We don't quit while we're ahead.

    Do we still play the lottery? Absolutely. And we’re sure we’re going to win again.

    Courtesy of Joshua Scott

    You will be exploited—possibly by your friends.

    I had one friend who told me this sob story about how behind she was on her local taxes, how they were going to take her house because she couldn’t pay. After she left, I got on my computer, looked up her tax records, and saw that she wasn’t behind. When I printed out that page and sent it to her, well, that was the end of our friendship.

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    A lot can seem like a little.

    If you win $6 million and find yourself in a room full of lottery winners who won $100 million or more, all of a sudden, you feel like the poor one. It’s all relative.

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    We answer for our impulse purchases.

    After we won the lottery, we bought an eight-bedroom, seven-bath, 10,000-square-foot mansion because we could, and it sounded amazing. Well, now we’re selling the eight-bedroom, seven-bath 
mansion because it’s impractical for a family of four.

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    We are still looked down upon by the truly wealthy.

    After we won and moved into an exclusive neighborhood, we planned a huge Fourth of July party and invited all our neighbors. None of them came—they thought we didn’t earn our money.

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    We're sick of money questions.

    It drives me nuts when people ask where I keep the money, how I spend it, and if I still have it. No one would dream of asking a CEO those questions.

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    Your friends will change with your lifestyle.

    Everyone who wins thinks they’re going to have the same friends and do the same things. But if you have $100 million and you want to fly to Hong Kong for the weekend, you need to either find someone who can afford to go with you or be willing to subsidize someone. And subsidizing people gets old.

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    You may be forced into the spotlight.

    If you think you’re going to win and remain anonymous, you’d 
better check your state laws. Many states require that you do a news conference and hold up a big check.

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    'Tis better to give.

    Now that I can buy anything I want, I’ve learned that what 
really matters—and what I enjoy most—is being able to do things that help other people.

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    Don't donate all at once.

    If you want to give a charity a big sum of money, never give it all at once. It’s better to donate $100,000 a year for ten years so you can retain some control and make sure the cash is being spent wisely.

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    Who are we kidding? Life is great.

    You haven’t lived until someone picks up the laundry from your front porch and brings it back to you that night, completely done and neatly folded.

    Sources: Donna Mikkin, who won $34.5 million in the New York State Lottery in 2007; Sandra Hayes, a social worker who split a $224 million Powerball with her coworkers in 2006 and wrote How Winning the Lottery Changed My Life; seven-time lottery game grand-prize winner Richard Lustig, who wrote Learn How to Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lottery; and Don McNay, a financial consultant to lottery winners and the author of Life Lessons from the Lottery.

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