“I Won the Lottery” — Now What?

You’ve won the lottery? Congratulations!

Winning the lottery can be the best thing that ever happened to you… Or, it can be the worst.

Lottery winner Jack Whittaker honored God by promptly giving 10% of his winnings to churches he was associated with, as well as helping others. Unfortunately, his generosity couldn't prevent the many personal disasters that followed his win.

Lottery winner Jack Whittaker honored God by promptly splitting 10% of his winnings among several churches  — as well as by setting up a foundation to help others. Unfortunately, his generosity couldn’t prevent the many personal disasters that followed his win.

Literally.

Just ask Jack Whittaker, who in 2002 cashed in on the biggest lottery win in history — $315 million. At the time, Whittaker predicted it wouldn’t change his life much: “I’m content with my life… I’m not going to change my life much.”

He also started with the best of intentions, by giving a 10% tithe to a total of 3 churches — before doing anything else — and setting up a charitable foundation to help others.

Jack was the President of a construction company and already very wealthy when he won. Most reports seem to estimate his net worth before the lottery win at roughly $17 million.

So you would think that if anyone knew how to handle a situation involving money, it ought to be Jack… But the lottery win was different.

In less than two years, Jack lost his beloved granddaughter Brandi, the “shining star” of his life. After she had been missing for 11 days, her body was found rolled up in a plastic tarp and dumped behind a truck. She was dead of a drug overdose at age 17. Family friends have attributed her death to the lottery win.

Six weeks later, Jack’s wife of nearly 40 years filed for divorce.

Jack Whittaker has also experienced literally hundreds of lawsuits, at a cost of millions of dollars. He’s suffered depression, started drinking too heavily, and lost his driver’s license as a result. Both he and his ex-wife Jewell have said that if they had known what was going to follow the big lottery win, they would’ve torn up the ticket.

Grave of 17-year-old Brandi Bragg. A family friend described the lottery win as "the root of it all."

Grave of 17-year-old Brandi Bragg. A family friend described the lottery win as “the root of it all.”

And Jack Whittaker is not alone. Others have lost their marriages, their family and friends, and even their lives after winning the lottery.

Most survive, of course. But quite a few of those don’t even have the money to comfort them. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 70% of people who get a financial windfall lose that money within a few years.

How is such a thing possible with a major lottery win? The fact is, there are many places money can go. Inexperience in managing large amounts of money, unsound investments, wealth-consuming spending, money-draining habits and addictions, friends and family in need, theft, and lawsuits can all take a heavy toll.

And no amount of money is immune. Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the brother of the fabulously wealthy Sultan of Brunei, reportedly went through $14.8 billion in about 10 years. That’s well over 50 times as much as the biggest lottery win in history.

Winning the lottery, however, can be a blessing. Six years after winning $17 million, Sandra Hayes said, “Yes, my life is different, and it feels good.”

My goal is to help you avoid the curses, and benefit from the blessings.

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