“Did you ever advise big lottery winners during your career?” Paddy asked.
“Yes,” I answered. “Over the years I had seven big lottery winners as clients. Why do you ask?”
“Well,” Paddy replied, “I read an article about how big winners often blow it all. This one was about a woman who blew over ten million bucks, and I was wondering if you had ever been involved with anyone like that.”
“No one like that,” I said. “As far as I know, all my big winners turned out just fine. I think the fact that they immediately sought professional advice was a good indication that they weren’t going to do anything stupid.”
“What’s the biggest problem big winners face?” Paddy asked.
“That’s easy,” I replied, “It’s thinking they can handle their new-found wealth all by themselves without getting sound, professional advice. And I don’t just mean financial advice; they also need professional life coaching to help them understand that they can’t immediately start living the lifestyle of wealthy people accustomed to having wealth.”
“Like what?” Paddy prodded.
“Like moving from a modest neighbourhood to an elite part of town,” I explained, “and expecting right away to move in their new neighbours’ circles. Winners who do that usually find that their relatives and old friends don’t relate to them anymore; and their new neighbours may not readily accept them either.”
“Surely, you’re not suggesting that winners shouldn’t upgrade their lifestyles, are you?” Paddy said.
“Not at all,” I answered. “Upgrade by all means, but do it slowly and carefully, not all at once and impetuously. You have to resist those initial urges to go out and buy fancy cars, yachts, and big mansions. Don’t make a bunch of rash decisions.”
“Easier said than done,” Paddy observed.
“It is,” I agreed.
“So,” Paddy went on, “What do you recommend they do?”
“Step number one,” I said, “is to pick up the money as soon as possible. Even if you’re going to take your time using and investing the money, it’s a mistake not to collect it right away. Even at today’s almost invisible interest rates, ten million dollars will earn about $500 a day.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Paddy challenged, “but that’s chump change to a ten million dollar winner.”
“It’s not the amount,” I countered, “it’s the principle of protecting the principal.”
“And then what?” Paddy prodded, completely ignoring the bad pun.
“Pay off all debts immediately.” I said. “It’s a mistake to continue paying more in interest than the money you’ve just won is earning.”
“How, specifically, did you guide your winners in those situations?” was Paddy’s next question.
“After paying off all debts, I had them put all the money, except for $30,000 or so, into a combination of three-month guaranteed term deposits, guaranteed investment certificates and treasury bills,” I said.
“Why $30,000 and why three months,” Paddy inquired.
“Strictly arbitrary,” I admitted, “and they’re really two different strategies. I always suggested the winner use the $30,000 to take their immediate family for a relaxing two or three weeks to an upscale resort somewhere they’ve always wanted to visit. This will help avoid the storm of publicity with all its temptations and dangers.”
“And the three-month period,” Paddy prodded.
“After the shock and euphoria of winning wears off they’ll be in a much better frame of mind to decide exactly what to do with the money; what to buy, how to invest, how much to give away, and to whom” I explained.
“Okay,” Paddy went on, “what’s their next biggest problem?”
“Forgetting that there’s more to worry about than just dealing with the money,” I said. “A big winner can’t escape publicity. The lottery corporation has the right to publicize the win; and they will. Then a horde of money chasers will flood the winner with requests for cash. They’ll be approached by beggars, crackpots, charities, salespeople, investment advisors, hopeful entrepreneurs, less fortunate relatives and friends, and possibly even extortionists. Big lottery winners need help in this area as well as with spending and investing. That was another reason for tying up the money for three months. I could put off people by saying the money was tied up. By the end of three months other winners would have become targets.
“How does a winner go about getting all the right kind of advice?” Paddy asked.
“The best way,” I said, “is to get referrals from people whose judgement you respect. Also, I think a big winner should choose as their financial quarterback someone who is with a large reputable organization, such as one of the major banks, a trust company, or a law or accounting firm that has a good track record advising wealthy people.”
“Did you continue to look after your lottery winning clients’ investments, taxes and so on like you did with your athletes and entertainers?” Paddy asked.
“No,” I answered, “I just looked after them for the first three months or so. I had rosters of investment advisers, lawyers, bankers, insurance brokers etc., and when I thought the winners were ready I set them up with the professionals I felt would be the best fit for them.”
“I see,” Paddy said, then after a pause asked, “Any advice regarding a more modest win, say, $250,000?”
“Yes,” I assured him. “Although $250,000 won’t fulfill your dreams of wealth and luxury, it could bring a measure of security. Just as with the monster win, there are a few things to do, and some not to do.”
“Go on,” Paddy urged.
“OK,” I said, “For example, unless you’re very close to retirement age, $250,000 is not enough to retire on. Also, although $250,000 is enough to give a person a nice head start in life, it’s not enough to change a lifestyle or to run wild on for any length of time.
“That kind of a win should be used to improve, not change, an existing lifestyle. Pay off debt. If a person is debt-free they might want to buy a vacation property, or go back to school. Maybe buy that car you always wanted. Have a little fun with it, but be prudent. $250,000 simply isn’t enough money for drastic changes or dramatic spending.”
“Well,” Paddy said as he left, “I’m off to the lottery kiosk.”