Prize can't guarantee happiness
If money could bring happiness Research in psychology and economics has found that people do get happier as their income increases, but only up to a certain level where they are comfortable. One of the more recent studies on the subject, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, found life satisfaction rises with higher incomes up to a household income of about $75,000, and levels off afterward.
In general, the research on the happiness of lottery winners is mixed. A 2006 study in the Journal of Health Economics of lottery winners in
up to $200,000 found an improvement in their mental well-being two years later.
But an often-referenced study from 1978, comparing 22 major lottery winners
with people who did not win, found no difference in happiness levels between
the two groups. Britain
There's not an extensive amount of study in this area, but experts have a few ideas about how to make that initial thrill of winning last longer and increase overall satisfaction.
Cynthia Stafford won the Mega Millions lottery in 2007
Cynthia’s amazing life story from a sister raising her late brother’s children to multi-millions lottery winner to film producer and widely-hailed philanthropist is the stuff of fairy tale, and the media has followed her every step of the way.
"In 2007, I won the California Mega Million Lottery, and the amount I won was $112 million. I, at the time, was a foster mom, to five nieces and nephews." April 2011 Winning $112 million in the
lottery helped Cynthia Stafford achieve her goals including the major funding of nonprofit
organizations. As twists of fate go, Cynthia Stafford has been dealt some
doozies. Like many people, Cynthia Stafford dreamed of winning the lottery.
Unlike the others, California Stafford's dreams came
true. In May 2007, Stafford won $112 million
playing Lotto, but what is most amazing is that she'd been planning the big win
for a while and even had a written strategy
Lottery winner almost out of cash three years later
Keith Bryce, 47 - seen here with his wife, 27-year-old Elizabeth M. Bryce - won $3 million in the Mega Millions lottery in 2005. But three years later, he says, the money's nearly all gone.
Keith Bryce and his wife, Elizabeth, play bingo on Tuesdays at a Knights of Columbus Hall, or watch movies on a mattress in the living room.It's a long way from the craps tables, flashing lights and plush presidential suites at the swank Las Vegas hotels of their honeymoon.
Since Bryce won the Mega Millions lottery three years ago, he has clashed with family, spent close to $3 million and isn't far from the poorhouse - a place he assumed he'd never visit again.In the first 30 days after hitting the jackpot - which brought him $3.7 million - Bryce dished out at least $1 million.He still has some of the toys and accoutrements to show for it: A home on 5 fenced-in acres with a man-made pond out front, a quarter-mile long driveway and a garage for each of his rides - a pearl white Cadillac Escalade, blue convertible Corvette and Harley Davidson motorcycle.Three months after winning, Bryce had almost a half-million dollars in taxes to pay.
He has stopped the $100 tips for Applebee's waitresses, drunken, late-night check writing and footing the bill for his three adult children.Facing life as a thousand-aire at 47, Keith Bryce is back installing windows for his brothers' company, the same part-time job he worked before winning."When you don't have any money to begin with," his sister Kay Popp says, "I wouldn't wish (winning the lottery) on anybody."Disagreements over money have divided the Bryce family.Elizabeth Bryce swears her husband's 70-year-old mother, Helen Bryce, flips her off when they pass each other on the road.
"Greed's what wrecked us," Keith Bryce says.
Things weren't always that way.
Soon after cashing his $3.7 million check, Bryce gave his siblings and mother $10,000 apiece with the promise of more to come. He bought a Cadillac Escalade for his mother, Harleys for his brothers and gifts for their children.
'Everything went wrong'
Bryce and his mother exchange hellos when they pass each other at the grocery. They haven't talked since he married Elizabeth Rendon, a former bartender 20 years younger than he.
Bryce and Rendon met when she worked at Drake's Bar on
Dixie Highway, where Bryce would buy
shots and beer for everyone in the joint.
After their first date, they headed back to his house. Bryce asked her to make out. She never left. The couple wed at the Little White Chapel in
two months later on Bryce's 46th
birthday. Las Vegas
The couple made the three-day, 2,000-mile road trip from
, bickering all the way. Bridgeport
"I didn't think we'd get married once we got there," Keith Bryce says.
Family members assumed the younger woman married Bryce for his money.
Soon after the marriage, Bryce quit acting like an ATM, handing out hundreds of dollars per week to relatives, he says."Everything went wrong," his mother, Helen Bryce, says. "I just stay out of their business."
The first time Bryce met with an attorney, the lawyer gave him some advice: Don't go into business with family. He didn't listen.In a venture with his six brothers and sisters, Bryce bought the former Deming's Hardware,
6165 Dixie Highway,
in 2006. They named the place Gene's Bridgeport Hardware in honor of their dead
His brothers and sisters voted him out of the business and kept the store on a $230,000 purchase agreement. They pay their brother $2,000 per month.
Kay Popp works the register, nine hours per day, five days per week. The other siblings rotate the weekend shift. A thin film of dust covers the merchandise at Gene's, evidence that sales are slow."It's hard right now," Popp says. "We're barely making it."Three months ago, Keith Bryce went back to work for his brothers at KBS Builders to help pay the bills.
The brothers pay him in cash and talk about work, avoiding family matters. They had to let him return to work; he bought part of the business when he was flush with cash.The Bryce family had Thanksgiving dinner without Keith this year. He doesn't expect to see them at Christmas, either.
"I don't know too much about what he's doing now," his mother says. "I don't even want to think about it."
Popp wishes her brother never won the Mega Millions.
"Money does strange things to people," she says. "That's what it did to Keith."
The calls have stopped, and the hectic pace of life as a millionaire has slowed enough, Bryce says, to let him enjoy life again - at times.
Bryce has multiple sclerosis, a nervous system disease that forces the body to attack itself.At times, the muscles in his arms and legs tighten up, making it tough for him to sleep and walk. He shuffles around so stiffly, people wonder if his back gave out.His wife's massages and long soaks in his hot tub don't do much to ease the pain.
If his condition worsens, the couple isn't sure insurance will cover the hundreds of thousands of dollars in anticipated medical expenses.
Among the first donations Bryce made after hitting the jackpot were $10,000 to help a
classmate battling bone
cancer and $25,000 to a pediatric cancer charity. Bridgeport High School
Now he's unsure if his winnings will last long enough to help him through lean times. The medical bills could force Elizabeth Bryce back to work and Keith Bryce to pull money out of investments he set up to guarantee his retirement.
"He don't have a whole lot left," Elizabeth Bryce says. "He was too giving to everybody else."
Since he married and joined
, Bryce stopped
drinking and hanging out in bars. He plans to travel with the Rev. Lou Jurva and
other parishioners on a missionary home-building trip to Sheridan
in February. Hermosillo, Mexico
Jurva counseled the couple after Keith Bryce considered ending the marriage in March, citing physical and verbal abuse, court records about the start of divorce proceedings show.
"I'm a happy man," Keith Bryce says. "I got a gorgeous wife and a great stepson."Bryce also has his eye on another jackpot. The half of the $35 million that he and former co-worker Aristeo Robelin didn't win remains unclaimed, more than three years after a vendor in
sold the ticket, Bryce said. Wilmington, Calif.
He wants his lawyer to go to court and argue that he and Robelin are entitled to the money.
If that doesn't work, he still spends $10 each Tuesday and Friday on tickets. The night he bought the winner was the first time he ever played Mega Millions.
"I can do it again," he says. "I have just as good a chance as the next person."
For some people, winning the big jackpot can turn out to be a big mistake.
William "Bud" Post III called it the "lottery of death."
man, who died in January at 66, hit a $16.2 million lottery jackpot in 1988.
After that, his sixth wife left him, a woman sued for a third of the winnings,
he failed at business ventures with siblings, and spent time in jail for firing
a gun over a bill collector's head. Pennsylvania
His brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him in the hope of getting a share of the winnings. Eventually Mr. Post declared bankruptcy.
Stories like this are the exception, but the truth remains that good fortune doesn't automatically come with a pile of money.
"Life is good, but it's not a constant party," said Susan Bradley, a certified financial planner who founded the Sudden Money Institute in
, which provides resources and
training for new wealth recipients and their advisers. Florida
"It's hard," she said. "You can change your phone number. You can move out of state. You can do all those kinds of things. But maybe you don't want to.
"Lottery winners are targets," she continued. "They also don't get the same kind of respect that someone who 'earned' the money gets. There's kind of this funny taint."
The Ohio Lottery does little specific counseling for winners, aside from stressing the importance of finding a good attorney and financial planner because it can't be seen as endorsing anyone in particular, said spokesman Mardele Cohen.And while the lottery would prefer that winners go public - it's good publicity - more are choosing to avoid some of the drawbacks of instant wealth by remaining anonymous.
"Most of the folks anymore that win large prizes - $1 million or more - are claiming in blind trusts so they don't have people they knew 30 years ago showing up," Ms. Cohen said.
Basically, that involves putting a third party - an attorney or other appointee - between the winner and the money with fiduciary responsibilities.
"You're anonymous, and that part's very, very good," Ms. Bradley said.
Not everyone takes that path, though.
West Virginian Jack Whittaker didn't hide from the world when he won a whopping $314.9 million Powerball jackpot in 2002. He celebrated his good fortune and shared it with his home state, giving away tens of millions to philanthropy.
But he also suffered after his big win. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were stolen from his cars, home, and office, he lost his granddaughter to a drug overdose, and he pleaded no contest to attacking a bar manager. He was arrested twice for drunken driving and ordered into rehab.The simplest lesson - explored in a famous 1978 study - is that more money doesn't always lead to more happiness.
Still, the vast majority of lottery winners wouldn't want to give the money back.
"A lot of the publicity is really negative about people - that they've got hit men ... they waste all the money. I'm sure that does happen. I just know there are a lot of people who really do adjust successfully," said Eileen Gallo, a
psychotherapist who wrote her doctoral dissertation about sudden wealth. California
H. Roy Kaplan, who teaches at the
interviewed hundreds of lottery winners over the years, agreed: "For most
people, it's a positive influence." University
of South Florida
"I found some people, their lives were saved by winning. They were in dirty, deleterious jobs and it gave them a chance to retire," continued Mr. Kaplan, who wrote the 1978 book Lottery Winners: How they won and how winning changed their lives.
Many young people become entrepreneurs and their own bosses, he said.
In most cases, the first thing a winner does is buy a house, car, or go on vacation, said David Gale, executive director of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.
"If they choose the money in installment options, pretty much that first one they go out and have a good time," he said. "After that, they recognize for the most part that financial security is really what they've won."Mr. Kaplan's advice - aside from, "Give me the money. I'd have a great time with it" - is to take things slow.
"Don't do anything right away," he said. "Don't quit [your job]. Take a leave of absence, get a financial planner. Don't do anything precipitously. Take a couple weeks off and think about it. You never have to worry again if you do it the right way."
Jack Whittaker won a record $314.9m Powerball jackpot in 2002.
But life since then has been a long list of arrests, lawsuits, broken relationships and even death. In 2007, his then wife, Jewell admitted she wished she had ‘torn up the ticket’
Luke Pittard from
won a ‘measly’ £1.3m on the National Lottery. Wales
After the novelty had worn off and the obligatory lavish holiday, wedding and new home were done and dusted, he got bored and returned to work at MacDonalds.
An as-yet-unnamed Sicilian won £79m on the Italian lottery in 2008.
Before he or she could even collect the winnings consumer groups were demanding that the windfall be seized by the government. The winner has since gone into hiding, fearing the Mafia will come calling.
Janite Lee won $18 million in 1993.
Her generosity in giving money to a variety of political, educational and community causes was commendable – but just eight years later she filed for bankruptcy.
Mark Gardiner from
won £11m in 1995. London
Thirteen miserable years later, he hasn’t lost his money, but he has lost all his friends - even the ones he treated to new £100,000 homes – and lost touch with his family.
Michael Carroll won a £9.7m National Lottery jackpot in 2002.
Since then he has appeared in court more than 30 times and been jailed for drug related offences. In 2008, he admitted that ‘just’ £500,000 of his windfall remained.
Willie Hurt won $3.1 million in 1989.
Two years later the money was gone and he was on a murder charge. Hurt spent his fortune on a divorce and crack cocaine.
Charles Riddle won $1 million in 1975.
The original lottery car crash, he quickly got divorced, faced several lawsuits and was eventually indicted for selling cocaine.
Ken Proxmire won $1 million in the
He moved to
and invested in a car business with his brothers. Five years later, he was
bankrupt and back working as a machinist. California
You've probably fancifully imagined what you might do with lottery earnings, but those who do well have serious plans for where they want to be in five years. Lottery winnings can help them get there, said Danish, the psychology professor.Those who don't have clear life goals are more likely to feel overwhelmed and fumble with the money, even more than before winning, he said.
Be a giver, not a lender It's a common experience that giving away money makes people feel good, and science backs that up. A 2008 study in Science found that people were happier spending $20 on others than they were on themselves. In general, research supports the idea that people feel good when they feel they are making an impact with their money in a personal way and a sense of shame when they are stingy. Indeed, most iReporters said they would use $380 million to help the world, if they won that kind of money in the lottery.
But if someone asks you for help paying a bill, that's a different story. If a friend owes you money, and you see him or her go have a nice dinner, you feel offended, said Michael Norton, associate professor of business administration at
who co-authored the Science study. Harvard Business School
"When you become the rich person, who other people look to, it can actually erode the social bond that you have with people, because it changes your relationship from friendship into almost like a transaction," Norton said.
Invest in making memories
It's a personal decision, of course, but research supports spending money on experiences rather than material possessions. Not only do going places and seeing things lead to more happiness, but experience-oriented people are better liked by others than those who are materialistic, a 2010 study found.
And that's partly because once we buy something, we get used to having it around, and it no longer gives us the pleasure it did in the first few days following a purchase. An experience, on the other hand, can be enjoyed again and again when you remember it and tell others about it. Likewise, if you suddenly get a lot of money and spend it all at once, you might not get as much happiness as you would if you spread it out over time.
If you slowly change your lifestyle so that you keep appreciating that new money, you'll most likely be happier than if you quickly make large adjustments at once, Norton said. For example, you could make a point to take a big trip once a year, rather than putting it all into a house.
And that might be why Harvard economist Guido Imbens found that lottery winners who received annual payouts averaging $20,000 (in 1986 dollars) were happier on average -- the recipients got to have the excitement of getting more money each year, rather than adjusting to one lump sum.
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