LEESBURG, Ind. — Haven't we all dreamed about winning the lottery at least once? It happened to Roy and Barb Hamer of Leesburg, Indiana. They hit the jackpot — and it was BIG.
Barb says "we checked our ticket, my eyes went blank, he looked at it and said, 'oh, my god! they all match!'"
There was some initial confusion over how much money they won.
"We thought, we'd only won ten million. We thought we were poor millionaires," Barb Hamer said with a laugh.
But in fact, the Hamers won $41.5 million playing Powerball.
It's been 13 great years since that day in September 1999.
"We've stayed out of jail," they joked.
Barb also says that she and Roy have stayed together and still have the money, which amounted to $13 million after taxes.
"We didn't buy yachts. We bought a marina. Who needs a yacht when you have a marina?" said Barb.
When they bought the marina in Kosciusko County, they just sold gas. Now, it's a successful bar and restaurant that employs up to 60 people during the summer.
Her other big splurge is hard to miss.
"Roy bought me a really nice diamond. This is my toilet cleaning diamond. We bought a cigar store Indian. First thing we ever bought. We still have him," said Barb.
The Powerball game that made the Hamers millionaires has turned out more winners in Indiana than any other state.
There are plenty of games to choose from.
The top retailer in the state is the Silver Express store on West 10th Street. The store sells more than 50 different kinds of scratch-off games, and even draws in customers with extra chances for a spin to win.
So would winning millions send your life into a tailspin?
Are other winners as happy and content as the Hamers?
We wanted to know, so we decided to ask more than 100 Indiana lottery winners who became instant millionaires.
Every millionaire who responded to our exclusive Eyewitness News survey said yes — they'd do it all over if they had the chance to win again.
But three-quarters of them said their sudden windfall made their lives more difficult, not easier.
More money means more responsibility, from deciding how to invest the money to dealing with all of the taxes.
Most said the biggest challenge of all is dealing with people who think they have endless amounts of money.
In reality, if you win $1 million, after taxes your take home check is just over $700,000.
The Foote family of Vincennes became instant millionaires just last year. They won $2.6 million — it's money the family of seven really needed.
But it doesn't leave them living a life of luxury, said Dwight Foote who bought the winning ticket.
"A lot of people don't know the reality of the check every year. We don't have money just sitting around to spend left and right," he said.
Dwight won his money with a $5 Lucky for Life scratch-off ticket.
It's $1,000 every week for fifty years. His family gets one check a year. After taxes, it's just under $37,000 a year.
Certainly, nothing to snub your nose at, but Dwight — who works as a carpenter — says it's not "quit your job, and live out life on the beach" kind of cash.
"The reality is, we're still paying bills, not living the vast lifestyle. We take our vacations, we let the girls experience more of what's out there," he said.
The money has given the family a little cushion — they were able to take their first ever family vacation and now all five girls can play in sports.
It's made the Foote family happier.
But half of the millionaires who responded to our survey — said their happiness level is the same as before they won the money.
When we asked about their big purchases with their winnings — their answers surprised us. It wasn't big homes or fancy cars like many of us imagine. They bought normal, everyday things like — a riding lawnmower, a new air conditioner and a saving money for a child's college.
Another big surprise from our survey of millionaires is that most kept their jobs.
As for the Hamers, they say winning the lottery changed their lifestyle, but not who they are. That just happens to be happy, and now rich, people.
Top 5 Cities for Winning $1 Million or Larger Tickets
- Indianapolis (44)
- Fort Wayne (11)
- Muncie (9)
- Evansville (7)
- Elkhart (6)
Top 10 Winningest Hoosier Lottery Games
- Hoosier Lotto (88)
- Powerball (49)
- Game Show (35)
- Two Million Cash (7)
- Hoosier Millions (7)
- Monthly Money (6)
- Mega Millions (6)
- $54,000,000 Extravaganza (6)
- $2,000,000 Bonus Spectacular (6)
- $100 MIL Cash Extravaganza (5)
Thanks to rdgrnr for the tip.