November 5, 2009, - 12:31 am

Big Lottery Winners Who Buck the Death & Destruction Trend

By Debbie Schlussel

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.

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22 Responses

There’s an old joke about this that I can’t quite remember well enough to tell, but it sort of goes like this (it’s an old, old joke).

Mac is on his job fixing potholes in the street one day when a fancy lawyer approaches him and tells him that his rich uncle had died and left him a fortune. Mac quickly spends all his newfound wealth and is soon back to fixing streets for a living. The same lawyer finds him again and tells him that his rich aunt has died, leaving him a fortune. Once again Mac lives the life of Riley until he is penniless and finds himself fixing streets to make a meal again. The fancy lawyer finds Mac hard at work a third time to tell him that his rich grandfather has passed away leaving him a fortune, but before he can get out the words, Mac climbs out of the hole he’s digging and smashes the lawyer on the head with his shovel saying, “not this shit again.”

That being said, I would love to win the lottery. I only have two friends anyway and I can lie to pretty girls as well as they can lie to me.

Finally, I said it was an old joke, not a good joke.

Richard on November 5, 2009 at 12:39 am

For what it’s worth, Debbie, most of our rabbis have ruled that gambling is a sin and brings spiritual woes on those who do it. They were talking about the idea of Casinos in Israel, G-d forbid and I’m not sure about lotteries but when you see the poor buying handsful of tickets on every payday, you have to wonder what the government is promoting here.

MK: “Most of our rabbis”? Hardly. Many rabbis not only say it’s just fine, but in fact, in ancient times, some rabbis–even well known great Jewish scholars–partook. Some are against. Some are not, including my rabbi. DS

MK750 on November 5, 2009 at 4:19 am

    The New Testament says gambling is a sin and it’s ill-gotten gain. I never partake.

    goldenmike4393 on November 5, 2009 at 5:36 pm

It depends whats inside a person at the moment they win. I remember watching a documentary on one winner that was also in his middle age years when he won huge. He spent his time going to childrens hospitals and paying peoples bills that needed paying. Him and his wife were doing this for a few years and had loads of money, living in a great big house but living like they wanted to not like some roc star. It was truly touching to see them walk into a hospital room and make the day for a sick child and their family.
I always take my own tickets home with me and check them on the internet before shredding them. If that guy was dumb enough to trust a total stranger with a ton of money, it was for the best,lol.

Joe on November 5, 2009 at 8:43 am

Along with a few co-workers, I put a few bucks in an envelope twice a week-someone goes and buys non-winning tickets. It’s social, something to joke about, breaking the tedium at work.
Debbie, it is sad to see so many people at casinos chasing the jackpots that happen only to others. I lived in Vegas for years, and saw firsthand how casinos sell the ephemeral while taking in the actual. The saying out there is that Las Vegas was not built on the backs of winners.
If someone needs more negative examples of what having too much money can do to people, look to Hollywood or Hollywood East, (Washington DC). I saw a news blurb that Nic Cage now has money problems. Contrast his eaxmple with that of Paul Newman, who not only managed his money well, but set up profitable charities which have helped many people.
I’m happy being relatively poor. Contentment IS Jackpot.

D: I’m with you 100%. Other than the occasional lottery ticket for fun, I don’t gamble. Can’t afford to. And I’m much happier the way I am. DS

Douglas Q on November 5, 2009 at 10:22 am

I don’t have the blog, but I found this:–gallies.pdf

It’s a paper on the post-award work behavior of lottery award winners.

cirrus1701 on November 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

There’s nothing wrong being rich. Its not about how much money you have – its what kind of person you are. A lot of money hopefully won’t change what good about you but never forget that money changes the way other people see you – and not necessarily to your benefit.

NormanF on November 5, 2009 at 11:54 am

I can’t speak ill of the lottery, after all, I hit the jack pot last Nov. But then again, it’s not really working out so well….

OsamaHusseinIslamObama 2012?
(the terrorist-Uighur-ACORN-media choice)
-It’s never too early to campaign-

Barry Soetoro (King Of The World-D) on November 5, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Every so often when I wander into the Indian Mafia Outlet in the lobby of my building (aka newsstand) I must wait for the lone clerk to finish the transaction of one of the “numbers ladies” (and it always is ladies)… with these lists of numbers they call out while the clerk furiously punches keys and the machine “gidgits” out tickets, mumbling things of which I have no clue (i.e. “straight” and “boxed”). Sort of reminds me of the old spy numbers stations I would listen to on shortwave radio (… anyway, I digress… the Numbers Ladies are always less “well-to-do” individuals, and I can’t believe striking on one of these daily tickets would do much to improve their lives.

But yes, I do occasionally buy a quick pick on one of the big ones. Cause I’m tired. I don’t wanna hafta get up at 4:45 AM anymore to work for someone else. But I will to work for myself.

Doda McCheesle on November 5, 2009 at 2:28 pm

worthless peace of paper with numbers on it? Isn’t that a Federal Reserve Note? lol
Doesn’t the IRS take more than 55% of anything over 550k each and every year?
With “duties” like that, it’s a wonder it takes them 5 years to go broke.

Me, Myself & I on November 5, 2009 at 5:35 pm

God says it best: by the sweat of your brow shall you live.

It’s His way.

goldenmike4393 on November 5, 2009 at 5:35 pm

If I win a lottery that has a lot of money involved, I would do my damnedest to be an exception to the rule. I would never let it goes to my head and think of a bigger picture. All that sudden wealth won’t change an iota of my principles and modesty, I would enjoy my life but no big fancy mansion, many cars, and high living for me.

Bobby'sBrain on November 6, 2009 at 12:01 pm

I won the lottery 44 years ago on Nov. 20…. Her name is Annette

Scott on November 6, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Aw, that’s sweet, Scott!
    He who finds a wife, finds a good thing, and receives favor from the Lord.

    Mimi on January 8, 2010 at 10:48 am

    That’s precious! I’m sure she feels the same… Congratulations to you both! <3

    the dr. is in... on August 16, 2011 at 4:24 am

I find it absurd the heavy references to most lotto players being “broke and stupid”, basically.

Very ignorant and very uninformed.

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