OPINION: Guest Editorial- Will the latest Powerball winner in Minnesota turn into a lottery loser?
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 8:17 AM
I've written three best-selling books on what to do when you win the lottery, but really it can be boiled down to five simple points.
Paul White of Ham Lake, Minn., violated all five of my rules within 18 hours.
My five rules are:
1. Don't tell anyone that you won.
2. Take some time to get your financial systems in place before you claim the ticket.
3. Find financial advisers who have worked with more money than you have.
4. Take the money in annual payments; don't take the lump sum.
5. Give money back to charity.
People with millions of dollars blow all their money, all the time. A report by the National Endowment for Financial Education said that 70 percent who receive a lump sum, from any source, run through it in a few years.
Since most people blow the money, Mr. White is bucking the odds under any circumstances, but he has dramatically made his life harder.
An article by Jenna Ross in the Minneapolis Star Tribune noted that "winners typically wait for a few days as they consult their attorneys and financial advisers," but White drove straight to the Minnesota lottery headquarters as soon as he found that he had a winning ticket.
The same article noted that White did not take the annual payments, but took a cash payout of $86 million.
There are six states that allow lottery winners to claim the money completely in anonymity, but Minnesota is not one of them. However, you are not required to have a news conference and hold up a fake check.
The last thing a person should do is tell the world that they came into millions of dollars that they never planned on having. White did it anyway.
In fact, he held up a check for the wrong amount of $149.4 million. He was actually getting $86 million since he did not take the money in annual payments and after the state withheld income taxes, he has about $58 million in his pocket.
Most people can live on $58 million if they handle it right. So far, White shows few signs of handling it right.
I always tell lottery winners that a tax and estate-planning lawyer needs to be part of their team. The Star Tribune article referenced White's "partner" for four years and that he has children and she has children.
Is she getting part of the money? If so, how much? What happens if he drops over dead in the next five minutes? Having $86 million puts you in a major league estate tax category. Does he have a will? Who would get his money if he died? Does he have guardians or conservators named for his children? Will he include his partner or her children?
These are all good questions to answer before you race to the lottery office and cash the ticket.
But as the saying goes, "dying is easy; it's the living that's hard." White has a host of immediate financial concerns.
White needs a team of first class advisers, in the worst way. He has made the job a thousand times harder by running down, cashing in the ticket and taking the lump sum, but there is still time for a crack team to perform damage control.
Something tells me that will never happen.
Along with the high-powered estate and tax issues, White has other big time problems.
The London Daily Mail says his children are 16 and 14. Thus, I assume he has a former spouse who is supposed to receive child support.
I hope he has been paying on time. Pedro Quezada, who won the Powerball in April, was not, and his jackpot landed him a trip to court, where he had to fork over $29,000.
I've spent my adult life working with people who get large sums of money. It's supposed to be the happiest time of their lives and often it is the worst.
White could have purchased any of my books for less than $20.
If he taken a day to stop and read one before racing to the lottery office, my bet is his life would have been much better off.
White overcame a 171 million-to-one shot to win the Powerball.
He is going to need the same kind of luck to hang on to the money and keep it from destroying his life.
Don McNay has written several best-selling books. He is a Huffington Post contributor, a syndicated weekly columnist, and an award-winning financial writer.