Eleven years after hitting a $1 million jackpot in the New York Lottery's 7-11-21 game, Agnes Jackman got some free advice on how to handle her winnings.
In a 1991 Money magazine cover story titled "Midway Through a Million," financial planner Gary Schatsky suggested investing in money market funds, certificates of deposit and U.S. government bonds. He also told Jackman to stop spending money on lottery tickets.
She rejected his guidance.
And now, seven years after cashing her last installment check from the Lottery, the 81-year-old widow said she still buys about $20 worth of tickets a week.
"About three years ago, I picked four numbers — that paid $5,000," she said.
The May 22, 1980, drawing that guaranteed Jackman $1 million over 20 years was a life-changing event.
Before it, she worked as a legal secretary and her husband, James, was a building-maintenance supervisor. They lived in a converted summer bungalow in Tarrytown, where they had raised three sons inside its cramped confines. Lottery tickets and bingo games were their only extravagances.
The winning ticket paid off in $50,000 installments that netted about $32,000 a year, more than half again as much as the couple had ever earned.
So they quit their jobs, bought their first new car and sold their home, trading up to a two-bedroom Cape Cod that formerly served as a minister's residence behind a local church. One son got a canoe, another got money so he could bicycle to Alaska, and the third got some playground equipment for his children.
But beyond that, Jackman said, everyone's lifestyle remained the same.
"It was nice because we were able to retire early, and my husband was able to take it easy," she said. "I could go grocery shopping and not have to watch my pennies."
Since her husband's death in 1998, Jackman has stayed in their home. And with no mortgage or other debt — as well as New York's enhanced School Tax Assessment Relief program for senior citizens — she hopes her savings will keep her there the rest of her life.
"I'm comfortable for a while," she said.
Jackman successfully avoided what financial planner Susan Bradley, founder of the Sudden Money Institute in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said was the most common mistake made by lottery winners: not understanding their financial limitations.
After winning the big money, she said, "it feels unlimited."
But it isn't. One of the best examples is Curtis Sharp Jr., an air-conditioning technician from Newark, N.J., who won $5 million playing Lotto in 1982.
Sharp filmed commercials for the New Jersey Lottery Division, became something of a local celebrity — and blew his money on cars and fine living.
Before long, he was borrowing against future payout checks. When it was all gone, he moved to Tennessee and became a minister.
Bradley, author of "Sudden Money — Managing a Financial Windfall," said some winners feel as if they have to "equalize."
"They want to give money to friends and families so they do not feel different and people will still like them afterwards," she said. "That generally will not work."
Financial experts say winners should put their winnings into a fund and live off of the earnings from that fund, not from the winnings themselves.
That is what Louis and Kay Kannegiser of Warwarsing, N.Y., did.
On Nov. 11, 1998, Louis Kannegiser learned that the Quick Pick numbers his wife had grabbed for him had come up in the $30 million drawing.
Louis Kannegiser, 61 at the time, had one of two winning tickets. His $15 million jackpot remains the largest ever paid to an Ulster County resident.
Kannegiser, a diabetic, was convalescing at home after his right leg had just been amputated. The family had wheeled him up a makeshift ramp into his house after returning from rehabilitation at Horton Medical Center in Middletown when they learned of the winning numbers.
Kannegiser consulted a financial planner who lived down the road and invested the winnings in trusts.
"The checks went from my husband's hands right to the financial adviser's," Kay Kannegiser said.
They used some of the money to buy motorized wheelchairs for Louis Kannegiser, who eventually had both legs amputated. He died March 6 at the age of 68.
"My life is made easier because of the investments we made," Kay Kannegiser said. "Do I have to worry? No. ... I don't spend, but I can spend if I want. I'd like to see my family be comfortable."
Kay Kannegiser, 69, has three children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The other day, one of the youngest ones asked her a question.
"Is Poppy still dead?" the boy asked.
"You gonna buy a new one?"