Avoiding a one-way ticket to misery …

broken-hammerSmart Money Daily says that winning the lottery is a “one-way ticket to misery” … and, I couldn’t agree more!

The problem, as he puts it is this:

There is something about our culture that gets people very excited about getting something for nothing. The thought of paying $1 for a lottery ticket and coming away with several million dollars is a fantasy many people can’t let go of — in fact, that’s why the lotto companies can afford to keep going in the first place.

The problem with winning so much money is that it’s a complete life change that very few people are ready for. Going from near poverty levels to wealth rarely ends well. People tend to either wind up lonely, broke, or in some other kind of trouble.

I couldn’t agree more …

I’ve read that 4 out of 5 lottery winners are worse off 5 years after winning the lottery than they were before. The problem is that you have to make your money slowly in order to learn  the rules of money that allow you to keep what you have.

I am always amazed at sports and rock stars who sign multi-million dollar contracts then are broke just a few years later (remember MC Hammer?) … according to Motley Fool, it boils down to two main issues:

i) The newly rich don’t look after their own money very well

I remember receiving my first multi-million dollar check; I flew to Melbourne from the US to personally bank it – after ‘watching’ it flow through the right channels. I remember worrying that the personal bankers might have just printed up fake bank business cards and rented a fake office just to rip me off!

By the time I received my next two checks (one of them just as big at the First Big One), I just let my accountant bank them for me … it’s amazing how your mindset can change so quickly. So, it’s no great surprise that some of these people simply trust others with their money.

ii) They spend more than they earn

This is an easy one: it’s ALWAYS easy to live beyond your means, no matter how large your means are 😉

Here’s a ‘system’ for those who receive a ‘one off’ amount … or, have a potentially limited life to their large earnings (e.g. a 5 years sports contract; a 10 year lottery payout; etc.):

1. When you sign the contract for $X per year, realize that you DON’T have 80% – 120% of $X per year to spend!

2. Instead calculate how much you will build up over the LIKELY life of the ‘contract’ and plan to save most of that (a secure/insured bank account is JUST fine for this purpose)

3. That total becomes your Number: adjust for inflation (i.e. take off 50% if it will take you 20 years to accumulate that amount … prorate for any shorter period)

4. Take 5% of that ‘accumulated’ Number and that’s the amount that you can afford to spend in any one year ‘living’ – starting now …. period!

5. To decide how much house, cars/possessions, etc. that you can afford simply apply the 20%, 5% and 25% Rules to your ‘Number’, accordingly:

– House: presume that you’re going to pay cash for this, and put no more than 20% of your expected ‘Number’ into the house; if you actually intend to buy so much house that you can’t pay cash (sucker!) then you MUST apply the 25% Income Rule,

– Cars and Other Possessions: always pay cash for these, and put no more than 5% of your expected ‘Number’ into them … since you will most likely enjoy spending, spread the 5% over the number of years that you expect to achieve your Number.

Of course there is still risk in this, but you are a [Insert Lucky S.O.B. Reason of  Choice: Lottery Winner; Rock/Movie/Sports Star; Slip’n’Fall Insurance Payout Recipient; etc.; etc.] so, you probably won’t be able to fully contain your spending until after you actually see how much money you are GUARANTEED to end up with, so this ‘system’ is at least designed to keep your spending as ‘realistic’ as we can without sacrificing your Rock Star Image (or, whatever ‘image’ you are trying to project) too much 😉

Still, to be safe yet keep up pretenses, simply rent the house (that’s where the 25% Rule comes in; i.e. don’t spend more than 25% of your after-tax yearly earnings on rent and other direct housing expenses) and cars until you’re pretty sure that you will actually achieve your Number … or, be prepared to downsize pretty quick if something happens (e.g. sport injury).

Oh, and forget the blood-sucking entourage!

I hope that this post becomes VERY helpful to you, one day soon 😛

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6 thoughts on “Avoiding a one-way ticket to misery …

  1. The original forum post/article has a lot of interesting stories, but you have to wonder how much can really be blamed on the winning. Maybe it’s the fact that people who buy tickets frequently come from a certain mindset that doesn’t handle winning well, but most of the winners have to come from that pool of people.

  2. @ SiliconPrairie – VERY insightful comment, Silicon … one worthy of further exploration! 🙂

    In fact, let’s kick it off now; what do other readers think? Is it: (a) too much money too soon without the ‘training’? (b) the wrong mindset going in? (c) Both of the above? (d) Something else entirely???

  3. Personally I think a bit of both here. Too Much Money too Soon. Plus<I believe most people don’t really receive any real life training on how to manage money, and how to look at their future,when dealing with money.
    Personally I wouldn’t fall into this trap, but the advice is really great for many Adrian. If ever I would receive a large payout of any kind, the largest part of that would instantly go to investments(I.E.) Real Estate ,Stocks<and Business investments.
    My Biggest Mistake Early in Life was allowing My Wife to Handle our finances. She wasn’t read for that. And I don’t think others will handle your money as carefully as you would your own.So, I would never have any kind of Money managers. Too Many Celebs have gone Broke trusting their wealth to Money Managers.

  4. Steve makes a good point – even a basic education could help a lot. It seems that the default for a lot of people is “if I have a positive balance I can spend it”. Throw in a few unexpected surprises (or agreeing to things you don’t really understand) and it’s easy to overspend. Multiply that by 1000 and you have a problem.

  5. I completely agree with the article in that if you haven’t developed the money management skills to deal large sums of money like that, you will simply lose it, or worse yet, be harmed more by it(enter addiction or superfast toy injury of choice).

    And I agree that most of the people winning the lottery are people that come from a background with little to no financial accumen, nor did they choose to develop the accumen later for themselves.

    On the other hand, if a well-disciplined, well schooled, student of finance, investing and overall money stewardship, working on a plan toward his/her number by his/her date has this windfall, another outcome may present itself. But the fact is, those individuals are mostly not playing the lottery, but instead opting to ‘win’ their own lottery with a higher chance of success, just a few year longer down the road. 😉

  6. @ Scott – I think that is the point: if you understand finance enough to deal with that kind of windfall, you are probably not the kind of person who would enter the lottery in the first place.

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