Powerball winner may not be so lucky

Pedro Quezada won the fourth-largest Powerball payout in history this week. Poor guy.

I wish him luck. He’ll need it.

The New York Daily News said his take-home pay after taxes will be $152 million. Maybe the 45-year-old Dominican immigrant who worked at his family’s deli will be able to handle it. He sounds like a hard-working guy who has known the value of a dollar.

But that’s no guarantee, and it’s not encouraging to hear him say he has no idea what to do with the money, except to buy a car.

Seven states do not allow lotteries. The rest are cruel, raising money from the poor on false hopes. And even those who win rarely find happiness.

For the winners, the experience must be as thrilling, and ultimately as dangerous, as being put in the middle of an NFL game and receiving the ball. People who know how to handle money would be like athletes who have trained all their lives and know how to play the game. The rest won’t have such a good time, even with padding and a helmet.

There are exceptions, of course, but the stories of destitute jackpot winners litter the landscape.

Author Don McNay has written about many of these. In a recent op-ed on Huffington Post, he said some winners come to see their good fortune as a curse. “Seems like a lot of lottery winners want to tear up the ticket.”

“A lot of ‘Big Money’ misery comes from not having the necessary systems in place,” he wrote. “The winners weren’t ready for their 15 minutes of fame and the hangers-on who would want a piece of them.”

I used to be a reporter in Las Vegas. I’ve written about this before. Winning a huge jackpot is an emotional and disorienting experience. People do foolish things. They see themselves as invincible and the money as never-ending.

Although a lot of people scoff, it really isn’t hard to become wealthy without winning the lottery. This web site outlines five steps. It isn’t rocket science. It also isn’t what anyone would consider fun. Just live within your means, save money and invest wisely.

Most people have trouble with the first two and never get close to the third thing. Why should anyone think they could then suddenly handle millions and millions of dollars? And why would any government fund itself on the backs of misery.

As McNay wrote, “Most lottery winners eventually figure things out, once the money is gone. Or when they are at the point where they wish they had ‘torn up the ticket.’”

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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