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Lottery winners share secrets of their success

After the Big WinAfter the Big Win: Lottery winners share secrets of their success

Simple steps can keep dream jackpot from turning into financial nightmare

Terry McNalley used to be just a regular guy putting in eight-hour shifts at a factory in Bryan.

He was a divorcée who liked hunting, fishing, and plopping down $6 a week for lottery tickets and a chance to dream.

Then the dream came true.

"From what everybody said, I was white as a ghost. The more I looked at the ticket, the less I could see it," he said. "It's just quite a day when you're sitting there holding a ticket worth $16 million."

He shared the prize with three co-workers, including one of his sons. That day in 1993, his annual salary instantly jumped to $105,000 after taxes.

Things change with this kind of overnight success, including your job title. When Mr. McNalley got his tax form after winning the lottery and quitting his job, a new occupation was filled in for him: professional gambler.

Other, more life-changing realities confront all such winners, especially when one has bought a ticket worth $270 million, as someone did last month in little Lyons, Ohio. That winner, who formed a blind trust to claim the money and remains anonymous, is the state's largest winner ever.

Mr. McNalley has a few cautionary words of wisdom, from one millionaire to another: "Just take every day and don't change. Keep your same lifestyle."

Numerous paths await overnight millionaires. If you invest your winnings right, there's the security of living a comfortable life in perpetuity and never having to work again.

There also can be unwanted notoriety, calls from people across the globe requesting money, and the realization that a couple million dollars isn't going to buy you the tropical island and private jet of your dreams.

The advice from the lottery industry is basic and straightforward.

"Get professional financial advice and get professional legal advice," said David Gale, executive director of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

Forty states, including Ohio and Michigan, had lotteries last year, selling more than $45 billion in tickets. About $26 billion nationwide was returned in the form of prizes — meaning there were plenty of new millionaires.

Ohio and Michigan each distributed about $1.2 billion in winnings, while more than $640 million from each state went to schools, where all lotto profits must go, according to state law.

For the lucky instant winners, gazing down at a winning ticket can mean more than just shock.

"It's a stressor," said Eileen Gallo, a California psychotherapist who has interviewed more than 100 big lottery winners and did her dissertation on the psychological impact of sudden wealth. "A lot of people just go spend it. They bring more stress into their lives by buying a house, quitting work."

Her suggestion: Take things slowly.

"Try not to do anything for a while, have a moratorium — whether it's six months or eight months or whatever — to just take some time and become introspective," she said.

One winner she interviewed from the Midwest still hadn't spent any money two years after hitting the jackpot.

For some winners from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, the lesson is that sometimes everything changes when you hit the jackpot — and sometimes not as much as you might think.

'Nothing's changed'

The biggest worry for the Fenner family in Adrian wasn't what to do with the $3.4 million won in the lottery five years ago.

It was what not to do with it.

"You read about all these stories where people get it and go out and start buying and putting no limit on anything. In three or four years time, they've blown it," said Carol Fenner, 52. "That was my biggest fear."

Statistics say that fear can be warranted.

Seventy percent of those who become suddenly wealthy squander it within a few years, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education.

And one-third of lottery winners eventually declare bankruptcy, according to the Certified Financial Planners Board of Standards.

So Mrs. Fenner and her husband Russell, a Vietnam veteran who worked 35 years at Brazeway Inc., a manufacturer of heat transfer and refrigeration components, took it easy.

They still live on the same street in the same two-bedroom house. They never thought about moving, though they changed their phone number — before they even turned in the winning ticket — and paid for some remodeling.

"We love it where we're at. We love the neighbors ... We're still the same people. Our neighbors stop in for a visit, just like always," she said.

They helped others too, setting aside money for their 3-year-old granddaughter, helping their children get new houses, and contributing a lot to their church. They also took Mr. Fenner's parents on a trip to Hawaii.

One of the first purchases made by the couple — who celebrate their 35th anniversary this year — was a new truck, a Dodge Ram. They actually had picked it out and made a deal for it before the world knew them as millionaires, but all that changed after word spread, Mrs. Fenner said.

"When we went to pick it up, the cost of the truck was different from what we'd agreed on," Mrs. Fenner said. Things got heated and unpleasant, and they decided to buy the same vehicle from another dealer.

Mr. Fenner, 56, intended to keep working. After winning the Super Lotto Plus Jackpot — but before turning in the golden ticket — he still put in an overtime shift on a Saturday.

"My husband said all along he wouldn't retire," Mrs. Fenner said. "But it wasn't feasible to work. The government would take up all the money he was making. It would just go to taxes."

These days, they do whatever they feel like, including keeping their granddaughter four days a week. Mr. Fenner keeps busy with projects, such as the barn he's helping his son build.

"Nothing's changed," Mrs. Fenner said. "That's the good part."

'Don't tell anybody'

The first year as a millionaire was the hardest for Andrea Stalsworth and her husband, William.

"It was horrible," she said.

There were calls from strangers from as far away as Indonesia asking for money and relatives unsatisfied with their share of the $36 million pot won by the Tiffin couple in 1999.

They had to live with people calling them greedy and selfish. There were heavy taxes they didn't expect, and they had trouble finding a reliable financial adviser.

"We don't trust anybody because they all rip us off," said Mrs. Stalsworth, 49.

The result was a speedy evacuation to Nevada. That brought two advantages. First, Nevada has no state income tax. Second, Mrs. Stalsworth said, "It's far away."

This wasn't the original plan when the couple cashed in on the promise of more than $900,000 a year after taxes. At the time, Mrs. Stalsworth, who worked at an Owens-Illinois factory in Findlay, told The Blade that she and her husband didn't plan on making big changes in their lives.

"We'll stay where we are. We love our house. We love our neighbors. We have no intention of changing that," she said then.

It was a blessing for them, especially since Mr. Stalsworth, 50, who had a siding business, had suffered a cerebral vascular accident in 1996 and underwent brain surgery twice. Friends had held an event and raised $2,000 to help them make ends meet.

Mrs. Stalsworth said back then that they were going to use the money to help others. They've done that, she told The Blade recently, paying for relatives to go to college and supporting their Baptist church. They bought a house and a car for each of their children. They even sent checks in the Christmas cards of 15 people from work whom they'd played the lottery with for years.

The Stalsworths made life comfortable for themselves too. They have several motorcycles, an RV, a 24-foot-boat, a pool, and a guest house.

Things are better now, but there will always be a stigma from some people.

"It's been horrible because people still call us greedy," Mrs. Stalsworth said.

Her advice if you ever strike it rich?

"Don't tell anybody."

Same life ... but better

Mr. McNalley probably isn't what you'd expect from a guy who won a lottery.

On a recent afternoon, he was wearing a green sweatshirt adorned by the faces of two bucks. AC/DC's rock anthem "Back in Black" was blasting from his stereo speakers. An inspection of his blue jeans' pockets revealed little more than what appeared to be a wadded up $5 bill.

Sound familiar? Like you or me?

Sure, he was padding around his new lake house of more than 4,000 square feet, preparing to move year-round to this blue sky country in Hillsdale County, Michigan, where his family once had a more modest place, but he's helping with a lot of the work himself.

"It's kind of fun," he said. "It's something to do for a while."

The house was empty at the time, save for some tools and a couple of cots used by Mr. McNalley and a friend who were framing up some bedrooms in the basement so that grandchildren would have somewhere to sleep during visits.

Mr. McNalley, 59, insists he's living precisely the kind of life he would be if he hadn't won the lottery — except he doesn't have to hold down a factory job to do it anymore.

Or perhaps more accurately, it's the same life ... but better.

After he won the lottery, he stayed in his hometown of Edgerton, simply moving to a property that had more land and a pond where he could fish. He continues to hunt and travel, only now he can do it in locales like Alaska and Hawaii.

"I've done a lot of traveling and stuff, been to a lot of places that I never would have got to go to," he said.

He sells fireproof gun safes on the side — it's something to do — and he remains active in the group Pheasants Forever, of which he is currently president.

His phone number is in the phone book; even the vehicle he drives is pretty much the same, a red Chevy Silverado pickup, close to the same color he drove before. He did splurge on a 1961 Corvette, but that didn't last long. He sold it because he didn't have anywhere to put it.

Maybe the biggest change was just dealing with some more drama, like when he said his ex-wife tried to get a share of his winnings. They divorced several months before he struck it rich.

"Her lawyer laughed at her," Mr. McNalley said.

Nowadays, he's remarried and only worries about the fish in the lake outside, filled with bass, bluegill, and trout.

Is he worried about what happens when the payments dry up?

"No," he said matter-of-factly. "I'll be 72."

Toledo Blade

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11 comments. Last comment 9 years ago by PrisonerSix.
Page 1 of 1
fja's avatar - gnome1

United States
Member #91
January 19, 2002
10228 Posts
Online
Posted: April 9, 2006, 9:44 am - IP Logged

The lottery commision should make reading about past lottery winners mandatory, before yu claim yur prize!

    dvdiva's avatar - 8ball

    United States
    Member #2338
    September 17, 2003
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    Posted: April 9, 2006, 1:24 pm - IP Logged

    Other than the entertainment value I don't see a point in reading about most winners. Maybe the rare winner that has more money with good investments but most winners have little clue what to do with the winnings. People who are irresponsible with money now are just going to continue after a win. Responsibility isn't something that comes from a ticket.

      Avatar

      United States
      Member #6676
      September 3, 2004
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      Posted: April 10, 2006, 12:04 am - IP Logged

      good read.

      Tonight's my night; i'll post my lecture after I win the MM today :) Party

      --winner2b

        Dream's avatar - dragon1

        United States
        Member #2399
        September 28, 2003
        143 Posts
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        Posted: April 10, 2006, 12:33 am - IP Logged

        Remain lower then the grass and quieter then the sea.

        DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS. White Bounce

          justxploring's avatar - villiarna
          Wandering Aimlessly
          United States
          Member #25360
          November 5, 2005
          4458 Posts
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          Posted: April 10, 2006, 12:54 am - IP Logged

          These stories are just for marketing the lottery and selling newspapers, but it makes people feel good to know "real" people win lotteries. The Stalworth's story is exactly what I'd be afraid of - that no matter how much I do for people, they will always think I'm not generous enough. That's why I always say I'll move first and set up residence where nobody knows me.

            Lurk More N00b's avatar - ummm
            USA
            United States
            Member #3312
            January 10, 2004
            35 Posts
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            Posted: April 10, 2006, 4:44 am - IP Logged

            These stories are just for marketing the lottery and selling newspapers, but it makes people feel good to know "real" people win lotteries. The Stalworth's story is exactly what I'd be afraid of - that no matter how much I do for people, they will always think I'm not generous enough. That's why I always say I'll move first and set up residence where nobody knows me.

            I Agree! ... on all three points.

            However, not on: "Keep your same lifestyle." Which is quoted in the story. If I were happy with my life the way it is now, I wouldn't be playing the lottery.

              SassyOhio's avatar - Picture012
              Columbus Ohio
              United States
              Member #35946
              March 25, 2006
              234 Posts
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              Posted: April 10, 2006, 10:41 am - IP Logged

              These stories are just for marketing the lottery and selling newspapers, but it makes people feel good to know "real" people win lotteries. The Stalworth's story is exactly what I'd be afraid of - that no matter how much I do for people, they will always think I'm not generous enough. That's why I always say I'll move first and set up residence where nobody knows me.

              I Agree! ... on all three points.

              However, not on: "Keep your same lifestyle." Which is quoted in the story. If I were happy with my life the way it is now, I wouldn't be playing the lottery.

              EXACTLYYYYYY 

              Hopin To Be The Lucky Ones!!

              COME ON MEGA! MEGA-ME-RICH!

               

              Please feel free to visit my sisters memorial page that I have now completed

              www.freewebs.com/wendyinmyheartforever

                Avatar

                United States
                Member #972
                December 30, 2002
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                Posted: April 10, 2006, 11:33 am - IP Logged

                Other than the entertainment value I don't see a point in reading about most winners. Maybe the rare winner that has more money with good investments but most winners have little clue what to do with the winnings. People who are irresponsible with money now are just going to continue after a win. Responsibility isn't something that comes from a ticket.

                Perhaps it would be instructive to compare people made sudden millions winning the lottery vs. people who made sudden millions by inheritance, selling their business, lawsuits etc. How do people who made big money in other ways handle it? Do they do substantially better than lottery winners?

                I doubt anyone knows exactly what to do with $50 million right after they come into the money. You get advice and more experience as you go, like in any aspect of life. 

                Twenty years ago I knew a guy who had been living in total poverty for a long time, and got a tax-free $50,000 from a settlement after being injured in a car crash that was the other guy's fault. I told him it was a great chance to pay for school or training for a real career, that he could set himself up good in life with it. Instead he bought a ridiculously expensive car, then went to England and partied and spent like a rock star and called me up 8 months later to ask he could borrow some money (I never asked for a cent when he got the money). The car was repossesed while he was in Europe.  Yeah, that sounds like a typical lottery winner who thinks lightning will strike twice and the gravy train will never stop.  It was a good experience for him because he got serious about money and career and realized he wasn't going to always get lucky in life. Today he is very successful.

                I also know a guy who won MA Megabucks 20 years ago, and the first year was such a non-stop spending spree that he ended up calling his friends for loans to pay the bills when he found himself short of money before the second of 20 installments came.  Say what you will about annuities, if this guy had access to the cash he would have blown far more I'm sure. As it was, he found it a sobering and embarrassing position to be in and acted much more responsible after that.

                So the 2 examples I know of did not get off to great starts with their sudden money, beyond living it up for several months. I'm sure I'll do better, right?  

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                  SassysBaibeee's avatar - kiss
                  New Member
                  Ohio
                  United States
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                  April 10, 2006
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                  Posted: April 10, 2006, 5:46 pm - IP Logged

                  Well here's the thing... if the jackpot's big enough that you're going to get enough in the first year of annuities to get yourself a nice house, car, go on vacation, etc all the things that you want to do with that first surge (I'm thinking around a million or so) then it's a much better idea to do that. You lose 1/2 the money taking the lump sum (that doesn't take a brain surgeon Crazy)

                  But if not, then in our mind at least, hitting the lottery means all those things that are most important to you that you wouldn't have the chance to do otherwise on a regular basis. And there's no reason to go blow it all at once. Of course that's going to be a temptation, but the key should be to budget yourself like you would if you haven't won. And INVEST it!!!! We've got it worked out we can do everything we want to do, not just for us, but for the select members of our family that we choose to, with less than 1 million.

                  Hell! When we hit, I'm sure we'll still shop @ WAL*MART! Can't beat it, and we love the store. It just means that we can go on bigger shopping sprees and go to every nascar race on the schedule. And that's heaven as far as I'm concerned.

                  Let's All Drink To That!

                    JAP69's avatar - Lottery-053.jpg
                    South Carolina
                    United States
                    Member #6
                    November 4, 2001
                    8514 Posts
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                    Posted: April 10, 2006, 6:05 pm - IP Logged

                    "When we went to pick it up, the cost of the truck was different from what we'd agreed on," Mrs. Fenner said. Things got heated and unpleasant, and they decided to buy the same vehicle from another dealer.

                    It figures. I woulda got heated alright.

                    Stats hunting: Type

                      Avatar
                      Baton Rouge, LA
                      United States
                      Member #4602
                      May 7, 2004
                      578 Posts
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                      Posted: April 17, 2006, 12:57 pm - IP Logged

                      I thought it was a good read. We hear about all the things that go wrong, now we see some examples of what to do right. It's a funny thing, there are alot of people out there who will criticize whatever a person does or say they are flat out wrong but when asked what would have been the better or right thing, the critical one has no answers or even a guess. This article gives some good answers.

                      I run a lottery pool at work and if we ever do hit it big, I have some things I've suggested to the pool members, which are very similar to this article. They don't agree with all of them, but hopefully they'll take them under consideration if that day comes. The things I think we should do basically fall into 2 categories; keeping it quiet and being responsible with the money.

                      Under the first category, I suggest we reveal it to nobody. Doing things like simply keeping our mouths shut and using an attorney and blind trust to claim the prize will help with that.

                      Under the second category, get financial advisors to help with the investing/saving of the money. That will help in making sure we never have to worry about money again and will be able to do all the things we want to do with the money, such as not having to work, getting out of debt, providing for children/grandchildren's education, charitable contributions, and so on.

                      Another suggestion I have is to not go on an obvious spending spree not only because of the chance of wasting all the money, but if others see this, it will raise a red flag. Paying of debts and so forth and buying some modest items is fine, just don't make it too obvious.

                      In regards to work, I suggested we don't quit our jobs right away. I suggested we wait a few months until all the excitement dies down, then determine a selection method to select who will resign and when, then leave one at a time. All of us quitting at once right after a big jackpot for a ticket bought in our area will again, raise a red flag. After reading this article, it will also give us time to think about what we are going to do once we leave our jobs. One employee in our pool is eligible for retirement so it would be OK for her to quit right away under the guise that she is retiring. That wouldn't raise much suspicion.

                      I'd like to move after the big win, perhaps like one of the profiled people in the article did, to Nevada, which is far from almost everyone I know and has no state income tax. Other coworkers of mine don't want to move. Even just moving to another house in the same city would be a good idea I think, to keep away the curious.

                      My fellow pool members think I make valid points but they don't like my ideas on quitting work. They are all anxious to get out of here I guess. Once they have their money they can do what they want, but I hope they at least consider some of my suggestions. I just want to be able to live a happy life without having to worry about money and not have people hounding me all the time.   

                      Just my opinion.

                      PrisonerSix