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Prompt: What are the upsides and downsides to winning so much money?

By: Jason Li

What would you do if you won the lottery? Well, hitting the jackpot is generally considered a great thing. It can change your life in more ways than one by giving you good financial security, by simply giving you the funds necessary to launch your business, or anything really.

However, if you ponder that question for more than a few minutes, you may have come up with arguments that lotteries are detrimental to a person’s overall health. There are two sides to every story, and this one is no different.

One argument that winning money is good for you is that it can pull you out of a bad financial situation. For example, if you’re broke, and desperately need a break, it can get you out of that rabbit hole, and into that uber-rich upper-echelon social class that everyone dreams of.

William Post sure knows this. He had less than three dollars in his bank account, so he pawned one of his possessions, and spent it all on lottery tickets. The result? 16.2 million dollars. If you are smart enough with your money, you could theoretically invest your money, and stay in that top 1% or even grow your fortune. Jason Fry invested his 14 million dollar win into multiple businesses, including a golf range that he bought for 50,000 dollars, which is currently earning him 300,000 dollars a year.

You could also help people out. You could help a family friend who desperately needs that financial support that you couldn’t give before your big win, or a charity that supports the homeless or the needy, like Feeding America. That way you could spend all that excess money for good use after using it on necessary logical expenses, instead of spending it all on fancy cars, and gambling. Gerald Muswagon is a perfect example of what not to do, as he lost all 10 million dollars, and seven years after his big win hung himself in his parent's garage.

You can also get your lottery winnings as an annuity, instead of that lump sum most people take. (An annuity pays you annually over time, while a lump-sum distributes all of the money at once) That way, as Robert Pagliarini states in an interview with the New York Times, “The great advantage with an annuity is you get to make some very poor financial decisions throughout the year, and you get a brand-new start the next year.” [I still think you should end this paragraph with a sentence or two analyzing this quote in your own words. It’s good practice to not end a paragraph with a quote usually!]

Unfortunately, most people don’t take that annuity, and 70% of all those who take a one-time lump sum go broke within 7 years. [Feels like you need a transition here between going broke and gambling! Gambling might be one specific reason people go broke but without a transition you leave that connection unclear.] Roughly 1% of the American adult population has a gambling problem. Also, your previously modest personal life could be bombarded with long-lost friends, family members, or even random strangers that try to make you give them that money you earned.

[This paragraph could use some separating since it gets a bit long and entangled!] William Seeley wishes he got his old life back. According to NBC News, “They arrived after his TODAY appearance, a cavalcade of long-lost relatives, sympathetic beggars and what felt like every reality TV producer in the country. ‘I pulled a .357 magnum on the last fellow who came walking up the driveway,’ he said. That seemed to work, but the phone won’t stop ringing.

National Geographic, A&E, Ryan Seacrest Productions — Seeley said he’s heard from them all.” They could try to track you down and find your address. Abraham Shakespeare and Jeffery Dampier Jr. got it worse. They were killed for their money, and Shakespeare even was quoted as saying “I'd have been better off broke,” and "I thought all these people were my friends, but then I realized all they want is just money."

They could ruin your reputation online, target your house or steal your fancy sports car. Jack Whittaker sure knows this all too well. One day, when he was visiting a club, someone stole about $500,000 from his car. In another incident, $100,000 was stolen from a different car.

And when you have no money left, you could be left drowning in debt, with a mountain of lawsuits from people hungry for your money that they say is rightfully theirs, but you can’t pay for that lawsuit, leaving you with an enormous amount of debt that you just can’t pay off. The lottery could ruin your life or put you back where you started.

But this is all hypothetical, of course. What happens can’t be predicted by numbers or anything. So, it all really boils down to you. Do you think that winning the lottery is good for you? Well, the around 90 million people that play the lottery annually seem to think so.

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