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Circumstances does not make the man...

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Circumstances does not make the man - it reveals him to himself

Jack Whittaker, the largest lotto winner in history, winning $314.9 million was in the news recently claiming he is broke...just a few years after winning his fortune on Christmas 2002. Just like any other rich and famous celebrities life, his family was put under a microscope as well after winning the money. I have followed his life with some interest, as I run into so many people that think money is the only reason they are unhappy. So I like to follow up on people that get their wish to riches and see how they turn out.

Jack has had many problems and tragedies in his life since December 25, 2002. I recall hearing about his beloved granddaughters death from drug overdose. Jack had bought her 15 cars, but it seems that 15 cars was not enough to make her happy, content and keep her alive. Jack has bounced checks at Atlantic City, N.J., casinos and was robbed at an adult strip bar a while back. Another report on the news had charges being brought up against him for threatening the life of a bartender after being banned from the bar for being unruly. Then he was picked up and arrested for DUI. A young man was also mysteriously found dead at his house. Jacks wife says she wished she had torn up that winning ticket and never cashed it. Well, money is not bad or good, money is stored energy and it is people that do bad or good things with money. But I can say positively that money cannot buy can only buy distractions.

We can also see this same phenomena in the news with Mel Gibson's latest episode of drunk driving and anti semitic remarks. They said Mel made 30 to 40 million dollars from his Jesus movie. I guess it wasn't enough for him to 'buy' some peace. I am not writing about Jack or Mel to badmouth them or break their anonymity, since all this is public record and on the news. I am writing about this topic to underscore the facts that as James Allen tells us in "As A Man Thinketh" - "Circumstances does not make the man - it reveals him to himself" As such, money cannot buy happiness and it especially can never buy peace and serenity. Many of us put our happiness and hopes of peace on hold until we would come into a windfall, maybe not as extreme as Jacks windfall, but we put things on hold none the same and cannot find happiness and peace where we are at.

The branch of philosophy that deals with such questions goes back to the early Greek philosophers and the study of virtue and ethics. Some authorities define virtue as 'excellence of the soul' or moral excellence. (Although the Greeks thought of 'soul and form' in different terms than say Christians think of soul. For example, the soul of an eye would be its ability to 'see' and whether this ability was good or bad would decide whether the soul of an eye had 'virtue' or excellence.) The concept of understanding virtue can be told in a story of the 'Ring of Gyges' or 'Myth of Gyges'. This story was taken from Plato's Republic and recounts how the shepherd Gyges finds a ring on a hand extending from a crack in the earth and removes the ring from the hand and puts it on. Gyges discovers the magic ring gives him powers to be invisible at will and then uses these powers to kill the king, rape the queen and take over the kingdom.

In readily understandable terms we can define virtue for us from this story of Gyges and ask ourselves the question, "What would we do if no one was looking or we knew we would not get caught?" No heaven, no hell, no karma, no police, nothing but us and our virtue? Would our actions promote our inner peace as well as the inner peace of others or would our actions destroy our peace and the peace of others? Take away the fear of pain of karma or hell and you have a different person? A truly virtuous life remains the same irrespective of such fears and is not based on them

Virtue is not learned from the classroom, other than memorizing definitions. Remember, a fool can only say what he knows ~ it takes a wise man to know what he says. How do we become a success at living a virtuous life and really know what we say? As a lecture on Aristotle mentioned: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." We develop it by practice. Practicing 'excellence of the human soul' is how.

Is money all that is holding you back from happiness? Here is an interesting story about some lotto winners that found out that it is true as to what I wrote in my earlier post on virtue "circumstances do not make the man - they reveal him to himself." In a nutshell, it all boils down to what an old sponsor told me in DA many years ago. "If we are spiritually sick we will find a way to get rid of the money no matter what."

This was posted at AOL Personal Finance - no anonymity has been broken and it is all public record


For a lot of people, winning the lottery is the American dream. But for many lottery winners, the reality is more like a nightmare.

"Winning the lottery isn't always what it's cracked up to be," says Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey lottery not just once but twice (1985, 1986) to the tune of $5.4 million. Today the money is all gone and Adams lives in a trailer.

"I won the American dream but I lost it, too. It was a very hard fall. It's called rock bottom," says Adams.

"Everybody wanted my money. Everybody had their hand out. I never learned one simple word in the English language -- 'No.' I wish I had the chance to do it all over again. I'd be much smarter about it now," says Adams who also lost money at the slot machines in Atlantic City.

"I was a big time gambler," admits Adams. "I didn't drop a million dollars, but it was a lot of money. I made mistakes, some I regret, some I don't. I'm human. I can't go back now so I just go forward, one step at a time."

Living on food stamps

William "Bud" Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 but now lives on his Social Security.

"I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare," says Post.

A former girlfriend successfully sued him for a share of his winnings. It wasn't his only lawsuit. A brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him, hoping to inherit a share of the winnings. Other siblings pestered him until he agreed to invest in a car business and a restaurant in Sarasota, Fla., -- two ventures that brought no money back and further strained his relationship with his siblings.

Post even spent time in jail for firing a gun over the head of a bill collector.

Within a year, he was $1 million in debt.

Post admitted he was both careless and foolish, trying to please his family. He eventually declared bankruptcy.

Now he lives quietly on $450 a month and food stamps.

"I'm tired, I'm over 65 years old, and I just had a serious operation for a heart aneurysm. Lotteries don't mean [anything] to me," says Post.

Deeper in debt

Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million in the Virginia lottery in 1993. Now she's deeply in debt to a company that lent her money using the winnings as collateral.

She borrowed $197,746.15, which she agreed to pay back with her yearly checks from the Virginia lottery through 2006. But, when the rules changed allowing her to collect her winnings in a lump sum, she cashed in the remaining amount. But, she stopped making payments on the loan.

She blamed the debt on the lengthy illness of her uninsured son-in-law who needed $1 million for medical bills.

Mark Kidd, the Roanoke, Va., lawyer who represented the Singer Asset Finance Company who sued Mullins, confirms. He won a judgment for the company against Mullins for $154,147 last May, but they have yet to collect a nickel.

"My understanding is she has no assets," says Kidd.

Back to the basics

Ken Proxmire was a machinist when he won $1 million in the Michigan lottery. He moved to California, went into the car business with his brothers and within five years, Ken had filed for bankruptcy.

"He was just a poor boy who got lucky and wanted to take care of everybody," explains Ken's son Rick.

"It was a hell of a good ride for three or four years, but now he lives more simply. There's no more talk of owning a helicopter or riding in limos. We're just everyday folk. Dad's now back to work as a machinist," says his son.

Willie Hurt of Lansing, Mich., won $3.1 million in 1989. Two years later he was broke and charged with murder. His lawyer says Hurt spent his fortune on a divorce and crack cocaine.

Charles Riddle of Belleville, Mich., won $1 million in 1975. Afterward, he got divorced, faced several lawsuits and was indicted for selling cocaine.

Missourian Janite Lee won $18 million in 1993. Lee was generous to a variety of causes, particularly politics, education and the community. But according to published reports, eight years after winning, Lee had filed for bankruptcy with only $700 left in two bank accounts and no cash on hand.

One Southeastern family won $4.2 million in the early '90s. They bought a huge house and succumbed to repeated family requests for help in paying off debts.

The house, cars and relatives ate the whole pot. Eleven years later, the couple is divorcing, the house is sold, and they have to split what is left of the lottery proceeds. The wife got a very small house and the husband has moved in with the kids. Even the life insurance they bought ended up getting cashed in.

"It was not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," says their financial advisor.

Luck is fleeting

These sad-but-true tales are not uncommon, say the experts.

"For many people, sudden money can cause disaster," says Susan Bradley, a certified financial planner in Palm Beach, Fla., and founder of the Sudden Money Institute, a resource center for new money recipients and their advisors.

"In our culture, there is a widely held belief that money solves problems. People think if they had more money, their troubles would be over. When a family receives sudden money, they frequently learn that money can cause as many problems as it solves," she says.

Craig Wallace, a senior funding officer for a company that buys lottery annuity payments in exchange for lump sums, agrees.

"Going broke is a common malady, particularly with the smaller winners. Say you've won $1 million. What you've really won is a promise to be paid $50,000 a year. 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," he says.

Are you really a 'millionaire'?

Part of the problem is that the winners buy into the hype.

"These people believe they are millionaires. They buy into the hype, but most of these people will go to their graves without ever becoming a millionaire," says Wallace, who has been in the business for almost a decade.

"In New Jersey, they manipulate the reality of the situation to sell more tickets. Each winner takes a picture with a check that becomes a 3-foot by 5-foot stand-up card. The winner is photographed standing next to a beautiful woman and the caption reads: 'New Jersey's newest millionaire.'"

Winning plays a game with your head

Bradley, who authored "Sudden Money: Managing a Financial Windfall," says winners get into trouble because they fail to address the emotional connection to the windfall.

"There are two sides to money. The interior side is the psychology of money and the family relationship to money. The exterior side is the tax codes, the money allocation, etc."

"The goal is to integrate the two. People who can't integrate their interior relationship with money appropriately are more likely to crash and burn," says Bradley.

"Often they can keep the money and lose family and friends -- or lose the money and keep the family and friends -- or even lose the money and lose the family and friends."

Bill Pomeroy, a certified financial planner in Baton Rouge, La., has dealt with a number of lottery winners who went broke.

"Because the winners have a large sum of money, they make the mistake of thinking they know what they're doing. They are willing to plunk down large sums on investments they know nothing about or go in with a partner who may not know how to run a business."

What if you get so (un)lucky?

To offset some bad early-decision making and the inevitable requests of friends, relatives and strangers, Bradley recommends lottery winners start by setting up a DFZ or decision-free zone.

"Take time out from making any financial decisions," she says. "Do this right away. For some people, it's smart to do it before you even get your hands on the money.

"People who are not used to having money are fragile and vulnerable, and there are plenty of people out there who are willing to prey on that vulnerability -- even friends and family," she cautions.

"It's not a time to decide what stocks to buy or jump into a new house purchase or new business venture.

"It's a time to think things through, sort things out and seek an advisory team to help make those important financial choices."

As an example, Bradley says that on a list on 12 things people who come into a windfall will spend money on, buying a house is at the top of the list while investing is number 11.

"You really don't want to buy a new house before taking the time to think about what the consequences are.

"A lot of people who don't have money don't realize how much it costs to live in a big house -- decorators, furniture, taxes, insurance, even utility costs are greater. People need a reality check before they sign the contract," she says.

Evelyn Adams, the N.J. lottery double-winner, learned these lessons the hard way.

"There are a lot of people out there like me who don't know how to deal with money," laments Adams. "Hey, some people went broke in six months. At least I held on for a few years."

Edited by Vfr

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If I ever win the lottery, the first thing I'm going to buy is a pot to p1ss in. So at least when I've blown the lot, nobody can say, "Look at that loser, he had £10 million, now he hasn't got a pot to p1ss in." The joke will be on them, you see. Because I will have.

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I think its awful that so many lottery winners have blown that kind of money, you're talking multi-millionaires here :blink: There really should be more help put in place for lottery winners...

It shows that not everyone can handle large amounts of money and that 'staying rich' is a buisness and skill in it's own right. The rich certainly don't stay rich from doing nothing and just spending .... If I was to win that kind of money I would invest it very wisely and only live off the interest..I would set up similar schemes for those close to me and I would also put a good portion of it away in a trust/pention for the long term.

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Lottery winners who blow all their bucks are stupid fools who do not deserve to have won in the first place!!!

Help in place, indeed!! For what????? Helping them cope with being mega-rich?

Now I've heard everything!!!! If a man cannot cope with having as much money as Croesus then he is a **** who deserves to lose it all!! :angry:

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I agree, some people don't know how to handle large sums of money and that doesn't necessarily have to be lottery size monies. We all dream of hitting it rich and being able to be debt free and buying whatever we want. But then comes the responsibility of managing that type of money and thats when it becomes overwhelming. It's a blessing and a curse .. :mellow:

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I will gladly volunteer for the curse of lots 'o' cash. LOL

I just can't feel sorry for these people. Maybe I'm evil. Yeah that's probably it.


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Two words: Financial Advisor.

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