November 5, 2009, - 12:31 am
Recently, I read about an unemployed Texas lottery winner, Willis Willis, who is suing that state because a store-owner lied to him–claiming the ticket wasn’t a winner–and then cashed the ticket for himself and fled the country for Nepal. (Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Willis Willis?) I feel for this guy. He beat the odds and won, but got jacked. Still, given the fates of many lottery winners, maybe he did himself a favor by not actually winning his winnings.
Tina & Chris Crane Buck the Trend of Lottery Win Misery and Ruined Lives
Like many Americans, I occasionally play the lottery. But like many smart Americans, I know the odds of winning are less than those of my getting struck twice by lightning. And I view the lottery as the poor man’s voluntary tax. You’re essentially willingly giving money away to the government, and the people who buy these tickets are generally those with low socio-economic status–those who can least afford to give spend that money down the lottery drain. Still it’s fun to play occasionally and dream about “what ifs.” But longtime readers know that I recognize that lottery “what ifs” coming true are usually disasters.
I’ve put up many posts about big lottery winners, who always seem to end up worse off than if they had never won. It seems to be a curse for most of these people to have won piles of money. Several of them died or went to jail for committing crimes against others. Others have simply spent it all on stupid, wasteful purchases for themselves and assorted hangers-on.
The problem with winning a huge pot in the lottery is not just that the endless harassment bordering on stalking by friends, relatives, and complete strangers seeking a handout. And it’s not just that most of these people never had money before and get out of control when they get a ton of it. Even a West Virginia man, Jack Whittaker, who’d been a millionaire prior to winning had his life ruined by post-lottery behavior. There is even a blog (which I can’t seem to find now–if you have the URL, please send it to me) that documents the disastrous post-lottery win lives of those who have the winning numbers.
Is it the lottery win that ruins these people’s lives? Or is it their lack of education and critical thinking, coupled with the sudden huge infusion of cash, that makes them that way? People who buy lottery tickets are generally people who throw away money they need for life’s necessities on a worthless peace of paper with numbers on it. If they’ll take that uncalculated risk before getting a pot of gold, the pot of gold won’t likely end that kind of proclivity after the pot of gold arrives.
Why so many lottery winners’ lives are ruined would make a great topic for yet another useless, waste-of-money, tax-funded study by Ph.D.s at some college.
But, now, there is an exception to the death, taxes, and ruined lives of lottery winners inevitability. Chris and Tina Crane won $42 million in the Megamillions lottery. And, while they haven’t bucked the harassment of moochers (they had to move and keep their new locale a secret), they seem to have bucked the trend of losing everything. They’ve got the ethic that so many lottery winners did not and are passing it on to their kids:
After Chris Crane won $42 million in the Mega Millions lottery, his kids were thrilled.
“Dad, we are rich,” they said.
“No, dad’s rich,” Crane said. “You guys still have to work for a living.”
Crane quit his job, left Michigan and bought several small farms in Georgia. Now, most of his children and several relatives work on the farms, baling hay, riding tractors.
“We don’t need the money,” Crane said. “I … do it more for the kids than I do for myself. I wasn’t just going to give them money to sit around all day. They are all into farming now.” . . .
Chris Crane gets up before the sunrise, makes breakfast and does some paperwork. Then he goes into the sweltering hot Georgia sunshine and puts up a fence or clears some land or cuts some hay or works with the cattle.
And then, the next day, he does it all over again.
This is what retirement looks like for the eighth-richest lottery winner in Michigan history.
Life is just about perfect, he said. His family is together in a small Georgia town, his kids are working and he’s doing what he wants to do: farm.
“We don’t have to worry about retirement. We don’t have to worry about a job, but I probably work harder now than I ever did,” Chris said.
Chris, 52, won $42 million in the Mega Millions lottery on Oct. 3, 2008. Instead of taking the cash-out option, he gets payments of $1.625 million before taxes annually for 26 years. . . .
“We saw how many people had won and within a year or two, they were broke and had to go back to work again,” Chris said. “There are a lot of stories out there like that. That was the reason behind doing it the way we did, and I still feel that was a good decision.” . . . .
Like most lottery winners, the Cranes have been overwhelmed by people who ask for money. They agreed to talk . . . on the condition that the newspaper not identify the name of their Georgia town to minimize the calls and letters.
“We are down to one letter a week from beggars,” Tina said.
Looks like the Cranes won’t end up like most big lottery winners. But since they only won the lottery a year ago, it’s not a sure bet how they’ll be five years down the road when farming continues to be tough and costly and they’re itching to get the next annual installment on their pay-out. Many lottery winners who chose an annual payout instead of a lump sum later go broke and end up selling out their future years of payouts to a third party for an instant lump sum that is pennies on the dollar.
Kudos to the Cranes, for, so far, getting things right after their incredible stroke of luck (or, in many case, misfortune). But they are, sadly, the exception, not the rule.
Still, I wouldn’t turn down $42 million. Who would? Money may bring new problems, but it’s better to have than not to. And it’s power and freedom in a lot of ways. Wouldn’t want to have to live in stealth like these people do. On the other hand, I have a more serious reason to worry about outsiders than these people do:
I’d take their lottery moochers any day in trade for the death, rape, and torture threats I regularly get from extremist Muslims (one of whom lives nearby and whom the Justice Department refuses to prosecute for politically correct reasons). Sadly, my stalkers don’t come attached with multi-millions of dollars.
Tags: Broke, Chris and Tina Crane, Chris Crane, disasters, farm, farming, Georgia, Jack Whittaker, lotteries, lottery, lottery winners, Mega Millions, Megamillions, Michigan, poor man's voluntary tax, post-lottery win disasters, Ralph Stebbins, ruined lives of lottery winners, Tina Crane, Willis Willis