Show of hands, how many of you played the Powerball this week? Guilty as charged. I purchased five tickets among the more than 635 million tickets sold for the unprecedented $1.6 billion jackpot that will be split among three winners from Wednesday night's drawing.

I even won. A whole $4.

Advertisement

Discussions about the mathematical probabilities of winning, how much you'd need to spend to buy up every combination and whether it would be a worthwhile investment — how high would the jackpot need to be versus the number of people splitting it to guarantee a profit — and, of course, what would you do with $1.6 billion dollars dominated conversation in our newsroom this past week. It was fun listening to everyone's theories and what you might do if you won. (For the record, I've always thought living in a castle would be cool, and I think I could pull that off with the $600-plus million after taxes.)

More than a few people noted they wouldn't want their life ruined by having that much money. Some of us seemed willing to take that chance.

In the days before and after the world-record jackpot drawing, several media outlets published pieces about past lottery winners who explained how the money had ruined their lives.

Want some scary statistics? According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, about 70 percent of those who win the lottery or otherwise come into large sums of money unexpectedly will be broke within seven years, and more than 44 percent of lottery winners spend all their winnings within five years.

In a 2014 CNBC article, 20-year financial adviser Scott T. Hanson wrote that "receiving large sums of money is not about wealth, it's about dealing with shock and temptation. It's about understanding that while newfound money doesn't really change the world around us, it can quickly change us into something we are not equipped to handle."

But that couldn't happen to you, right? It probably can. No matter how level-headed we think we are — for all the talk about paying off our debt, giving our friends and family some cash, and putting large sums in the bank before you even think about spending a dime on all that cool stuff — it's hard to judge how the money will change you in the short term or long term, or how it will change the people around you.

Winners of past jackpots indicated they'd have friends and family come out of the woodwork asking for a handout, but even more disconcerting is how many said close friends and family members' attitudes toward them changed after their windfall. Give them money, they might begrudge you because they don't think it's enough. After all, what's another million when you've won a billion? Relationships crumble because expectations change, even if you don't.

Perhaps one of the scariest outcomes of coming into a large sum of money is the issue of addiction, which rears its head in several forms.

Money doesn't buy happiness, but even thinking about winning the lottery can send a rush of endorphins to the brain. Just imagine the euphoria of winning millions.

Now imagine trying to experience that high again. It's likely why so many lottery winners turn to substance abuse or other forms of addiction.

After you've bought all the things you want, you can struggle to achieve that euphoric feeling again. Maybe you turn to gambling, seeking another big win. Or hard drugs. Or anything to help you feel that rush.

Perhaps it's much more enjoyable to fantasize about winning the Powerball or any lottery jackpot than it is to actually win it. Maybe the rest of us are the lucky ones. Maybe I'll keep telling myself that.

Wayne Carter is the editor of the Carroll County Times. Reach him at wayne.carter@carrollcountytimes.com.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement