I thought that if I was ever going to get out of the debt I needed a miracle. The options I saw in front of me were to either file for bankruptcy or win the Lottery (and I didn’t even play the Lotto). I’m really curious about these two financial extremes. This series has been a set of interviews from people who have either filed for bankruptcy or who have come into very large sums of money through unconventional means. HERE’S THE 1ST INTERVIEW (a bankruptcy), 2ND INTERVIEW (a big win), and the 3rd Interview (a bankruptcy).
Throughout this series we have been exploring the effects of both on life in the short and long-term. Today’s interview is the final installation of this series and it is with a man who won 6 Million Dollars in the Colorado Lottery.
I hope you have found these interviews as interesting and insightful into the extremes of money as I have.
The 4th interview (below) is with a kind and cheerful man who would like to be referred to only as $$-Man. He’s going to tell us all about what it was like to win BIG in the lottery!
And Then We Saved: What year did you win the lottery and what was the amount of your total winnings?
$$-Man: We won in 1999… The jackpot was 6 million dollars.
ATWS: What is the name of the game you won?
$$-Man: The Colorado Lotto.
ATWS: How long had you been playing the lottery at that point?
$$-Man: I’ve been playing since the game started, about ten years prior.
ATWS: Did you have a feeling you would win someday? If so, what gave you that feeling? Any way to describe it?
$$-Man: Believe it or not, I ALWAYS knew I would win someday. (Interesting side note, if you ask ANY lottery winner they will say the same thing.)
ATWS: Do you consider yourself lucky? Are you lucky in any other areas of life besides the lottery?
$$-Man: I really don’t consider myself lucky. If I go to Vegas or Black Hawk, I lose like everyone else. I do consider myself BLESSED though. I have been blessed in a lot of areas: my wife, my job, my family, and my friends.
ATWS: Have you won any other lotteries? If so, what did you win and when?
$$-Man: No other lottery winnings.
ATWS: Can you describe how you found out that you won? What was that like?
$$-Man: I found my winning numbers in the newspaper (I play the same six numbers every time) (and no I will not tell you the six numbers). I was home with my dog (my wife was at work) I saw my six numbers and almost had a heart attack.
ATWS: Who’s the 1st person you told and how did you tell them?
$$-Man: I called my father-in-law and said “Ben, I think I just hit ALL six numbers in the lotto”. He then called the Lottery office and confirmed that I won and was the only winner (I did not have to split the prize with anyone). All this time I was trying to call my wife (she was not answering her phone because she was in a meeting). I finally had to go to her workplace and tell her in person.
ATWS: What was the 1st thing you bought?
$$-Man: Dinner for me and my wife’s family at Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus (with champagne).
ATWS: How has your life changed and how has it stayed the same since you won?
$$-Man: Winning the lottery does NOT change your life, it changes your lifestyle. If you were a butthead before you won, you are now STILL a butthead, but with money. People have told me that I am the same person as before I won. It does not have to change you if you don’t let it.
ATWS: How has your wife’s life changed and how has it stayed the same since the win?
$$-Man: It is somewhat different for my wife. She quit her stressful job at an insurance company and has taken a part-time job teaching at a private school. NO ONE at her new job knows we won. She has not told ANYONE there. She prefers to work there with them not knowing.
ATWS: What is the biggest surprise that you encountered right after winning the lottery?
$$-Man: The biggest surprise was the day we won. The lottery manager put us in a private conference room at the lottery office, and after 20 minutes of checking the ticket, returned and said “Congratulations Mr. ********* you are Colorado’s newest Millionaire” and then shook my hand. What a surreal feeling.
ATWS: Did you choose the lump sum option or the annuity? Why did you decide what you chose?
$$-Man: We chose the annuity (we get a check every year for 25 years). It seemed like a safer mover to get money once a year for 25 years instead of one big lump sum. We were afraid that if we had gotten the lump sum we would have spent it all by now.
ATWS: How do the taxes work with winning that amount of money? Anything regarding the taxes that was a surprise?
$$-Man: BOY what a surprise. The government taxes the yearly check 32% (28% Federal, 4% State) then gives us our check. THEN at the end of the year we GET to pay INCOME tax on the money then have ALREADY given to us. We get taxed TWICE. Uncle Same has two hands and he grabs with BOTH.
ATWS: (I hated asking this but I also know everyone’s curious about this topic.) Were you married to your current wife when you won?
$$-Man: Yes, I was married to my current wife. She married me for me, not for the money. (She has said that she always knew that she would ultimately marry for money. I wonder how she knew??????)
ATWS: How do you feel you and your wife have handled the big win? I’ve heard it can have adverse effects on some people/relationships… how do you avoid this and stay sane?
$$-Man: I don’t think it has changed our relationship. We had to work hard to make our marriage work when we were poor, so we had a good base to work off of after we won. To be honest, it HAS made things EASIER within our relationship. Life IS a lot easier if you don’t have to worry about money. Money is one of the biggest reasons people argue. It does take away that extra burden. ( I have to admit that life is a lot easier without having to worry about paying the bills.)
ATWS: Do you and your wife still work? If so, why have you chosen to do this? Do you still have the same jobs as win you won?
$$-Man: Yes. We both still work. I am still at the same job as before I won. I REALLY enjoy what I do and I don’t really have any secret ambition to start my own business. I am happy with what I do.
ATWS: How have your thoughts on work changed?
$$-Man: OH YES… if work “pisses” me off too much I CAN quit today!!
ATWS: Do you ever have bad days at work and just think “what am I doing here!? I don’t have to work or deal with this!?”
$$-Man: see above
ATWS: What’s the most expensive thing you’ve purchased with the winnings?
$$-Man: A 6000 square foot 4 bedroom house in the “ritzy” part of town. Also, my dream car, a 1963 split window Corvette.
ATWS: What’s the most common question that people ask you when they find out you won the lottery?
$$-Man: “Can I rub you for luck???”
ATWS: Do you ever get sick of talking about it?
$$-Man: Not really, it was and still is VERY exciting.
ATWS: Was there a lot of press about your win after you won?
$$-Man: Right afterwards, no. There was just a small article in the back of the newspaper. Although since then we have done some radio commercials. The radio commercials have turned out to be some of the most popular commercials the lottery has done (we contracted for the commercials to air for 3 months, and they actually ran for almost 2 YEARS. My co-workers threatened to beat me if they heard my voice on the radio ONE more time.) We have been asked, but have refused to do TV (I cannot allow my face to be seen on a commercial because of the line of work I am in).
ATWS: Is there any way to have still have a normal life with that kind of money and would you even want a normal life with that kind of money?
$$-Man: I do live a normal life. We both work. We attend church every Sunday and I still pack a lunch for work every day. The is the SECRET to winning. Stay normal… stay the same people you were before and take care of your spouse and your family.
ATWS: Do you still play the lottery and do you think you might win again?
$$-Man: Of course I still play. I also PLAN on winning again (we used to belong to a lottery winners club, and four of the people in our club have won the lottery at least TWICE). People have commented that “could you imagine the odds of winning the lottery again?” but the odds of winning twice are exactly the SAME as winning once. The game I played… the odds of winning the jackpot were 1 in 5.3 million!!!!!
ATWS: Do you think winning the lottery has affected your short term happiness (directly after winning) and quality of life?
$$-Man: I believe that happiness is what you make it to be. You can choose what path to take in life (winning the lottery doesn’t change the path you choose… it just changes your seat on that path from “coach” to “first class”.)
ATWS: Do you think winning the lottery has affected your long term happiness (today at 10+ years later) and quality of life?
$$-Man: As I said before, life is a lot easier knowing that you don’t have to worry about money.
ATWS: Do you splurge on anything on a regular basis?
$$-Man: We have taken some AMAZING vacations. We have seen polar bears up close in Canada, have watched humpback whales breech in Maui, have seen the space shuttle launch live, have stayed in the “owners suite” on cruise ships, have watched the Aurora Borealis light up the sky, have flown first class, and have stayed in suites at 5 star hotels like the Waldorf Astoria. I have also been able to participate in my longtime passion of going “storm chasing”. Every Spring I get to drive around 3000 miles in a week with other “crazies” criss-crossing the U.S. chasing tornadoes.
ATWS: Were you frugal or thrifty or on a budget before you won? Are you frugal or thrifty or budget conscious now?
$$-Man: It is REALLY a good thing we won. My mother used to say that we had “champagne taste on a beer budget”.
ATWS: Do you have any debt?
$$-Man: Very little… just enough for tax write-offs.
ATWS: Do you try to keep it “under wraps” that you won such a large sum?
$$-Man: Somewhat… I don’t “advertise” the fact that I am a lottery winner but if someone wants to talk about it, I am happy to talk about it.
ATSS: How do people generally react when they find out you won millions?
$$-Man: They are usually very happy. The most common reaction is “Wow! I have never actually met anyone who has won the lottery.”
ATWS: Do people ask you for money? What’s the strangest/most interesting request?
$$-Man: Only a FEW people have actually asked us for money. We have heard some “horror” stories of people “begging” for money from other winners. We have been very lucky to not have been “hounded” for handouts. When we won, we gave money to ALL members of our family, and have taken family and friends on vacations (Vegas, cruises, etc.).
ATWS: How do you handle it when people ask for money? Do you handle this differently now then right after you won?
$$-Man: It is handled very easy, the same now as then………NO!!!!!!
ATSS: Do you make charitable contributions?
$$-Man: YES. Along with tithing at church on a regular basis we give to a number of charitable organizations. We are also trying to create one of own to help members of the military get home on leave without having to buy airfare out of their own pockets.
ATWS: Do you have a financial planner/advisor or deal with your finances on your own?
$$-Man: We have a “GUARDIAN ANGEL” of a financial planner. She takes care of us like we are her own children. We have made an agreement with her that we will NOT purchase anything OVER a certain dollar amount WITHOUT her knowledge or approval. We meet with her on a regular basis and she helps to keep us “grounded”. Without her we would be in a lot of trouble. She has been a “godsend” for us.
ATWS: What would be your recommendation be to anyone who wants to win the lottery? Any secret insider tips on how to win big?
$$-Man: The “SECRET” tip to winning the lottery is this…………………… PLAY. You would be surprised at how many people DO NOT play. The only odds worse than 1 in 5.3 million is NONE is 5.3 Millions. You MUST play to win.
ATWS: What has been the most unexpected thing about winning all these years later?
$$-Man: Earlier I said that I always knew that I would win… I feel like I am leading the life I was “destined” to lead. I always knew I was supposed to be rich… I just had to wait till I was 39 to start being the Millionaire I always knew I was.
ATWS: Is there anything you would like to add that you haven’t been asked?
$$-Man: God has blessed me and I thank him for this blessing every day.