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$18.5M lottery winner 'scraping by'

After the Big WinAfter the Big Win: $18.5M lottery winner 'scraping by'
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'I wish I'd won a billion dollars' — not just $18.5M

Ten years after he and his wife won $64 million in the "Big Game" lottery, Alex Snelius wishes he'd won more money.

The 73-year-old Palos Heights man doesn't want to replace his 2001 Lincoln Town Car. Nor does he want a bigger home (he'd actually prefer something much smaller).

"I wish I'd won a billion dollars so I could keep everyone happy," said Snelius, a retired truck mechanic originally from Lithuania. Snelius opted for a single $18.5 million payment back in September 2000, rather than get 26 annual payments.

In the just-released movie "Lottery Ticket," rap artist Bow Wow plays a young man from the projects who must survive a three-day weekend after his greedy neighbors find out he's holding a winning lottery ticket.

Snelius said his windfall has been both a blessing and a curse — he has lost friends who borrowed money and never paid him back, and he says he has received "thousands" of requests from strangers who need cash for everything from house payments to fancy weddings. But when he has been able to, giving money away is the best part about winning the lottery, he said.

It's getting harder these days.

"I'm not completely broke," Snelius said last week. "I can survive. I had a lot of investments that didn't come through. The stock market went bad, but at my age, I don't care anymore. ... I feel sorry for all of those people who are filthy rich because they cannot take [the money] with them. You come with nothing, and you leave with nothing."

Before the money dwindled, he bought houses for all four of his children and eight other relatives to live in, including paying for a $1.4 million copy of Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion in Palos Heights for his daughter and son-in-law.

"I spent money like it was running through your hands," Snelius said cheerfully.

Sometimes, Snelius would be in a store and watch as a cash-strapped parent had to tell a child there wasn't money to buy the thing the child wanted. Snelius said he was good at spotting a parent in genuine need. Snelius would reach into his wallet, fish out a $100 bill and hand it to the stunned parent.

"It's beyond imagination what a pleasure it is to give," Snelius said.

Before Snelius' wife died in 2004, the couple began donating money to White Sox charities.

"My wife was the biggest [Sox fan]," Snelius said.

Now, every time the Sox score a home run, those charities get $100 and announcer Hawk Harrelson mentions Ursula Snelius' name.

Snelius, who says he has used his winnings to buy a few cars through the years, prefers to drive his 10-year-old Lincoln Town Car.

"Whatever that sweetheart needs, I take care of her," he said.

Snelius says he'd like to sell his four-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot home if he could find a buyer. He says he wants to move back to Burbank, where he and his wife were living before they won the lottery.

"I wanted to see what it was like to live on the other side of the tracks," he said, referring to Palos Heights. "And now I want to go back to where I came from."

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

Sun-Times

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44 comments. Last comment 4 years ago by Hermanus104.
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dpoly1's avatar - driver
PA
United States
Member #66141
October 16, 2008
1444 Posts
Offline
Posted: August 24, 2010, 10:53 am - IP Logged

Wow!

I don't know if I would do any better managing my money if I won a jackpot, but I would be very very careful with "investments".

Hope this guy is OK.

I would like the opportunity to find out if I can mange the money tonite ............. I just scrape by, but I have been paying medical bills for 24 years and had my last full time job in 2001 and am now disabled. I do think that I could do better with more cash! Life goes on and I make do with what I have! After all, family is worth more than all of the money in the world!

Best of luck to all that play and to those who win!

US Flag

    fwlawrence's avatar - Yavill
    Austin
    United States
    Member #9378
    December 6, 2004
    195 Posts
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    Posted: August 24, 2010, 12:05 pm - IP Logged

    I wouldn't mind scraping by on $18.5 million. Or tonight's $115 million jacjpot.

      Avatar
      New Member

      United States
      Member #79116
      August 27, 2009
      7 Posts
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      Posted: August 24, 2010, 12:22 pm - IP Logged

      I'd hope you do better, too, Dpoly1.  And with me in your entourage, I'd help you stay on track.  Big Smile

      If I won, all those total strangers with their hands out would be told no.  Homes for family?  Mom and Dad, sure.  Brothers and sisters?  No.  First, they have homes.  Second, the homes they have are homes they can easily afford to maintain (anything bigger, and it would be a burden to pay the utilities, taxes, insurance, etc.)  Any money I give them would be in the form of a cash gift (they can put to toward their mortgage, if they desire), but I guarantee you that it wouldn't be as much money as they think they deserve (for some people, there's not enough money in the world).  Any money I give to charity, would be donated anonymously (his donations for when his team hits home runs is a great idea, but the resulting publicity would attract attention from beggars, thieves, and con-artists--publicity I'd rather do without).  Sure, people'd hate me, but I'd much rather be known as a rich tighta$$ than a poor dumba$$.  

      Too bad about his stock market investments, but he was much too old to be fooling around with that.  I checked Vanguard's Balanced Index Fund (an index of 60% US stocks and 40% US bonds).  If you had invested prior to the crash of 2008, but rather than selling and fleeing the market you sat tight, you would now be almost entirely recouped on your investment (almost, but not quite--it was a big crash).  Other balanced funds (like Wellesley), with a larger percentage invested in bonds, have entirely recouped their loses and are attempting to move on.  It's all one big gamble, but when you're in your 70s, you should probably have your gambling days behind you.  

      Dpoly1, I've been thinking.  I think we should both skip having an entourage, also.  Just more people to take care of.

        starchild_45's avatar - spherewall2
        kent, washington
        United States
        Member #3509
        January 26, 2004
        462 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: August 24, 2010, 1:40 pm - IP Logged

        they did a story about him on tv before. everything is relative no matter how much money you have. i barely know what i will do with the money if i win tonight. probably something sexual in nevada. arrgghh.

          tiggs95's avatar - Lottery-036.jpg

          United States
          Member #47420
          November 4, 2006
          3930 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: August 24, 2010, 2:18 pm - IP Logged

          they did a story about him on tv before. everything is relative no matter how much money you have. i barely know what i will do with the money if i win tonight. probably something sexual in nevada. arrgghh.

          Sexual in Nevada thing sounds good..IF TIGGS WAS YOUNG!!!..

            RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
            mid-Ohio
            United States
            Member #9
            March 24, 2001
            17877 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: August 24, 2010, 2:27 pm - IP Logged

            Hope he kept playing, maybe he'll get lucky again and be able to do what he seems to enjoy doing, giving it away.

            * you don't need more tickets, just the right ticket * 
            * your best chance at winning a lottery jackpot is to buy a ticket * 
                 Wink 

              hearsetrax's avatar - 78638c467ef281febf24383e126f74b6

              United States
              Member #52345
              May 21, 2007
              1846 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: August 24, 2010, 2:28 pm - IP Logged

              Wow!

              I don't know if I would do any better managing my money if I won a jackpot, but I would be very very careful with "investments".

              Hope this guy is OK.

              I would like the opportunity to find out if I can mange the money tonite ............. I just scrape by, but I have been paying medical bills for 24 years and had my last full time job in 2001 and am now disabled. I do think that I could do better with more cash! Life goes on and I make do with what I have! After all, family is worth more than all of the money in the world!

              Best of luck to all that play and to those who win!

              US Flag

              Twitch as I've queried b4 ... I often wonder how many of us are actually prepared to win vs talking out the _____

              again I can't fathom why any one would choose the lump sum over payments ......

              we've seen arguements for both options .... but I still wonder

              as for the greed of others : phooey !!

                plus40's avatar - chi jpeg.jpg
                New Member
                Atlanta, GA
                United States
                Member #85651
                January 20, 2010
                6 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: August 24, 2010, 2:54 pm - IP Logged

                I remember this guy from one of those "Lottery Changed My Life" type shows.  He seemed like a nice guy, but I remember thinking how silly that Graceland house was for his daughter and Son-in-law, but I like the idea of handing out the odd 100 dollar bill to a needy/struggling person. 

                Folks 18.5 millions is a lot of money but poor planning and spending can get rid of it.   Compared to what I'm living on now, I could put that money into CDs or someother low risk investment and live off of the interest from that kind of money for the rest of my life, even in this economy.

                  dpoly1's avatar - driver
                  PA
                  United States
                  Member #66141
                  October 16, 2008
                  1444 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: August 24, 2010, 3:27 pm - IP Logged

                  I'd hope you do better, too, Dpoly1.  And with me in your entourage, I'd help you stay on track.  Big Smile

                  If I won, all those total strangers with their hands out would be told no.  Homes for family?  Mom and Dad, sure.  Brothers and sisters?  No.  First, they have homes.  Second, the homes they have are homes they can easily afford to maintain (anything bigger, and it would be a burden to pay the utilities, taxes, insurance, etc.)  Any money I give them would be in the form of a cash gift (they can put to toward their mortgage, if they desire), but I guarantee you that it wouldn't be as much money as they think they deserve (for some people, there's not enough money in the world).  Any money I give to charity, would be donated anonymously (his donations for when his team hits home runs is a great idea, but the resulting publicity would attract attention from beggars, thieves, and con-artists--publicity I'd rather do without).  Sure, people'd hate me, but I'd much rather be known as a rich tighta$$ than a poor dumba$$.  

                  Too bad about his stock market investments, but he was much too old to be fooling around with that.  I checked Vanguard's Balanced Index Fund (an index of 60% US stocks and 40% US bonds).  If you had invested prior to the crash of 2008, but rather than selling and fleeing the market you sat tight, you would now be almost entirely recouped on your investment (almost, but not quite--it was a big crash).  Other balanced funds (like Wellesley), with a larger percentage invested in bonds, have entirely recouped their loses and are attempting to move on.  It's all one big gamble, but when you're in your 70s, you should probably have your gambling days behind you.  

                  Dpoly1, I've been thinking.  I think we should both skip having an entourage, also.  Just more people to take care of.

                  I Agree!

                  My entourage will be my family ! The four of us would be enough ! ......... some for my siblings .......... if they accept it.

                  Some anonymous donations ......... some close friends on vacation ............

                  Let's go Mega Millions !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                  Oh ........ almost forgot ........... I will not spend like the Government !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                    OwlCreekBridge's avatar - Lottery-031.jpg
                    lottoville
                    United States
                    Member #95476
                    August 11, 2010
                    132 Posts
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                    Posted: August 24, 2010, 4:18 pm - IP Logged

                    I'd do my best to stay anonymous if I won but it sounds like he had a blast blowing through all that cash

                      OwlCreekBridge's avatar - Lottery-031.jpg
                      lottoville
                      United States
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                      August 11, 2010
                      132 Posts
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                      Posted: August 24, 2010, 4:22 pm - IP Logged

                      they did a story about him on tv before. everything is relative no matter how much money you have. i barely know what i will do with the money if i win tonight. probably something sexual in nevada. arrgghh.

                      what are you talking about? I only go to vegas for the excellent buffets Jester Laugh

                        jeffrey's avatar - moon
                        Hamilton, OH
                        United States
                        Member #4162
                        March 27, 2004
                        277 Posts
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                        Posted: August 24, 2010, 9:09 pm - IP Logged

                        I remember when he won. I was praying to win the lottery so I could afford a liver transplant for my mother and a bone marrow transplant for my brother. They had insurance, unfortunately, it was the deny all claims insurance. They died in agony and bankrupted my whole family. The recession took my career that year and I lost everything. Ten years later, I am just recovering. I could have used a win like that. My family would still be alive. (probably) To hear of 1.4 million graceland copy just makes me sick. It's his money but it could be better spent. Lottery gods don't pick the people with the greatest need. I think I would do fine with even a small win. Heard too many sad stories of people going broke quickly. Remember, if you have a lot, don't spend the principle, just what your money earns and all your dreams can come true.

                          Avatar

                          United States
                          Member #26330
                          November 16, 2005
                          330 Posts
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                          Posted: August 24, 2010, 11:20 pm - IP Logged

                          I remember when he won. I was praying to win the lottery so I could afford a liver transplant for my mother and a bone marrow transplant for my brother. They had insurance, unfortunately, it was the deny all claims insurance. They died in agony and bankrupted my whole family. The recession took my career that year and I lost everything. Ten years later, I am just recovering. I could have used a win like that. My family would still be alive. (probably) To hear of 1.4 million graceland copy just makes me sick. It's his money but it could be better spent. Lottery gods don't pick the people with the greatest need. I think I would do fine with even a small win. Heard too many sad stories of people going broke quickly. Remember, if you have a lot, don't spend the principle, just what your money earns and all your dreams can come true.

                          I used to feel the same way.  After Jack Whittaker won that Powerball jackpot my family was going thru hard times...and I fel like the combination of the extreme stress and lack of medical insurance led to a realative having a severe heart attack.  The doctors did all the could but we still lost our relative.....  And we were still stuck with huge medical bills.  All during the next few years while we have been stuggling to pay these bills while hearing stories of Jack Whittaker wasting Millions and getting Hundreds of thousand of dollars stolen from .... I couldn't help feeling a little angry...Why THIS GUY??  He's throwing away milllions on junk...When I would be sending my relative to the finest Doctor's in the country at the finest Heart Centers....   It's truely just dumb luck I believe....   If it's meant to happen it will if not then better luck next time....

                            Nino224's avatar - Lottery-013.jpg
                            Miami
                            United States
                            Member #62793
                            July 9, 2008
                            669 Posts
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                            Posted: August 25, 2010, 4:26 am - IP Logged

                            they did a story about him on tv before. everything is relative no matter how much money you have. i barely know what i will do with the money if i win tonight. probably something sexual in nevada. arrgghh.

                            LOL!!

                            "...a chance to push everything aside, the circumstances that've controlled our lives, and do it our way now. Good, bad or otherwise. You'll maybe get lost in it, tied up in it a little bit, but if you work your way through that the real you shows up, I think. Maybe what's at your core deep down, maybe that comes out. Maybe that's what it's about." Mike Pace