Check your progress on New Year's resolutions
Monday, February 10, 2014 5:06 AM
Every year after New Year's, there is always a lot of conversation and discussion about resolutions in the news media. So it was logical that, at our house, we were talking about making, or not making, and breaking those good intentions.
I had read an article in The Wall Street Journal Sunday section of the big city newspaper titled "When New Year's resolutions become New Year's regrets" (Jan. 26, 2014). It pointed out that many of us make commitments at this time of year, most often about weight loss and finding love, and most of us don't follow through. The gist of this article was that sometimes we shell out big money on these resolutions and live to regret it when it is too late.
Some of the examples cited were gym memberships, which "ramp up their marketing in January" to take advantage of this once-a-year determination, and online dating sites to satisfy people's resolve to find love. Another holiday "deal" is cable TV, with special offers but with long contracts. Other examples were mail-order clubs and language courses.
So when we were talking about this, I said I was really going to make only one serious New Year's resolution this year and that is I am going to win the lottery. And quite naturally that led to the question for both of us: what will we do with the dollars when (not if!) we win? That week the lottery was in the mega-millions, or some other unlikely figure, so it was a good question.
Spouse Roger said the first thing he would do would be to fix the bridge. That's the bridge by the Old Barn that was closed under questionable circumstances about three years ago.
I said, "Me, too. That would be my number one expenditure."
Then we both agreed that another huge chunk would go to the charities of our choice. To be honest, we each had different lists of what those charities would be. But, no problem, there is going to be enough for us to combine our lists and give to them all.
I guess we just assumed from the start that this was going to be a joint win. So I added a personal item: let's take a certain percentage of the take-home amount, I added that it could be a small amount, and just blow it! For a day or a week, if I felt like buying something, I would. But it would be a limited amount and for a limited time.
I know that it is important to plan before we win, because big money apparently can cause a lot of unhappiness. There are a lot of examples, including the person who won $11 million and then lost all of his friends and family, ending up with no contact at all with his former life.
A lot of people get into drug-related trouble, such as the person who was in court more than 30 times on drug-related counts. Another was indicted for selling cocaine and another was charged with murder only two years after winning $31 million; his money was also gone.
Another guy retired when he won big and then got bored and went back to work at McDonald's.
In addition to a lot of unhappiness, a sudden windfall can also cause financial problems, believe it or not. A man won $16.2 million in 1988. He later called it "a nightmare and I wish it had never happened." He had been sued by a former girl friend hoping to get her hands on some of the money, and his brother hired a guy to kill him so he could inherit some of the money. In addition to others trying to get their hands on it, he lived so high that within a year he was $1 million in debt and now lives on Social Security.
Another example is the person who won $31 million and two years later it was all gone and he had been charged with murder.
It took another guy five years to go bankrupt. A woman who won $18 million in 1993 filed for bankruptcy eight years later.
Studies have been done on lottery winners - no surprise there that it has been studied - at least on the ones who have gone public versus remaining anonymous. It has been found that lottery winners declare bankruptcy at twice the rate of the general population. It was said that winning big "comes with a heap of baggage."
A man who had won $314.9 million in 2002 went through a long list of arrests, lawsuits and broken relationships. In 2007, his former wife said she wished she had torn up the ticket.
Well, forewarned is forearmed, as the wise old saying goes. So we will have a plan. Of course I still haven't bought a lottery ticket and Spouse Roger says that is necessary to win. And I need to keep my New Year's resolution, so I'd better get started on those regular purchases.
After all, somebody has to win and it might as well be me.