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Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Ken Kerr Bio

The couple, who bought the winning ticket at the Giant on Alabama Avenue in Southeast DC, and won the April 8th $142 million jackpot, will not be claiming the prize. Instead, the lump sum of $79.6 million will be claimed by their lawyer. That is probably the best decision in a string of decisions facing them as they deal with the life-changing windfall. They seem to be determined to avoid joining the long trail of sad tales of foolishness, hit men, greedy relatives, and dashed dreams as they come to terms with their new-found wealth.

So far, at least, they seem to be taking the advice Susan Bradley, a certified financial planner in Palm Beach, Fla., and founder of the Sudden Money Institute, gives. To avoid some bad early decision-making, and the inevitable parade of requests from friends, relatives, and strangers, Bradley recommends lottery winners start by setting up a DFZ, or decision-free zone. She advises winners to set up a system where they cannot get access to the money for a period of time—months— while they think rationally about what tens-of-millions-of-dollars means.

Most people do not win so big.

Say someone wins $1 million. What that means is he has won $50,000 a year for 20 years. Yet, many people win, and they think they're millionaires. "They go out and buy houses and cars and before they know it, they're in way over their heads," says Craig Wallace, a senior funding officer for a company that buys lottery annuity payments in exchange for lump sums.

If they couldn't afford these things on their U.S. average annual household income—which is about $50,000—what makes them think they can afford these things on lottery winnings of $50,000 a year? And many quit their jobs preferring to do what they want when they want rather than dragging themselves to work each morning. They then realize that their work gave their lives meaning—now that's gone and the money soon is too.

Perhaps the best-known lottery winner is Jack Whittaker who now says that he regrets winning the lottery. He woke up on Christmas morning in 2002, to find he had won the Powerball lottery jackpot—a huge $315 million. He had the best of intentions: building churches and helping other.

"Since I won the lottery, I think there is no control for greed," he said. "I think if you have something, there's always someone else that wants it. I wish I'd torn that ticket up."

He formed the Jack Whittaker Foundation. "There were so many letters that they wouldn't even deliver the mail. It was nothing for us to sit for 10 hours just opening envelopes," said Jill—the clerk who sold him the ticket and later went to work for the foundation. Even she asked that her last name be kept private. Jill says the foundation received all kinds of requests, such as, "people wanting new carpet, people wanting entertainment systems, people wanting Hummers, people wanting houses -- just absolutely bizarre things."

Whittaker has spent at least $3 million dollars fending off lawsuits. His only joy was his granddaughter upon whom he piled lavish gifts. It made him happy. She ended up dead, wrapped in a plastic tarp in one of the luxury cars he bought her.

As Sophocles writes in Antigone, "Nothing vast enters the lives of mortals without a curse," Whittaker believes the vast sum of money has cursed him and those he loves.

One-third of people in the United States think winning the lottery is the only way to become financially secure in life. Ray Otero is one of them. For the past three years, he's spent $500 to $700 a week playing the lottery—about $30,000-a-year. He's hit a couple of times for $1,000 and $2,000 but not the jackpot he seeks.

If Otero had put this $30,000 a year into a savings account at 3%, he'd have about $164,000 after five years. He'd have over $350,000 after ten years. This would be more than enough for him to fulfill his dream of moving back to Puerto Rico.

The odds are against you:

You are 6 to 45 times more likely to die from a lightning strike than to win the lottery.

Then there is the flesh eating bacteria, with odds at about 1 million to 1. Yet, you are 18 to 120 times more likely to die this way than to win the lottery.

You are 180 to 1,200 times more likely to die from a snake bite or bee sting, at about 100,000 to 1, than to win the lottery.

You are also 30,000% to 200,000% more likely to be legal executed than to win the lottery.

You are also 450,000 to 3,000,000 times more likely to die in an asteroid collision in the year 2029 than to win the lottery, according to

Finally, the 10 mile drive to purchase a lottery ticket is three-to-twenty times more likely to kill you than to win you the jackpot.

The Southeast DC couple is at least taking the right first step to avoid the fate of 82% of people who win the lottery and are financially worse off in 18 months, according to Smart Money Daily.

They are keeping it a secret.


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