When lady luck smiles it feels like a miracle. But for too many with the golden ticket, winning big is a blessing, and then a curse.
“There's a great American myth that money is great and more is better. The truth is a windfall can cause as many problems as it can solve,” says Susan Bradley, a financial planner who often works with lottery winners. “A big lottery win usually starts off with a lot of extreme behavior.”
Oftentimes, it ends that way, too.
Since Jack Whittaker's $113 million payout in 2002, he's been charged with assault and drunken driving. He lost his marriage and even his 17-year-old granddaughter, Brandi. The teen disappeared last year after reports of drug use and was later found dead.
In 1998, Phyllis Klingebiel sued her own son, Michael, claiming he failed to share the $2 million dollar jackpot he won.
She eventually settled out of court for about twenty percent of the prize money.
Lewis Snipes picked the winning numbers for his wife in 1988. They won $31.5 million, but she and her sisters wanted the payout.
After four years of litigation, the former family split the winnings — and split for good.
Paul McNabb, Maryland's first lottery millionaire, endured kidnap threats to his children, repeated break-ins, and ended up driving a cab in Las Vegas.
“Viva Las Vegas, as Elvis would say. There she blows, baby,” proclaims McNabb.
So if the winds of good fortune blow your way, experts say take some time to focus on the things money can't buy.
Bradley says, “It starts with the interior, helping people discover who they are, what their family story is and what they want it to be.”