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January 10, 2018
by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW

To Play or Not to Play: The Lottery

January 10, 2018 21:01 by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW  [About the Author]

This is a good time to think about playing, and, of course, winning, the lottery. After all, the holiday cycle has spun and cold, dreary winter days lie ahead. It would make sense that fantasies of lottery success would brighten the scene. After all, most people, when they buy a ticket have an inkling of a smidge of a belief that they just might win.

Lottery players, as a rule, have some idea of what they would do with their winnings. It’s fun to fantasize about that home on the beach, six sports cars in the garage and what, if anything, you would like to just give away.

The accepted rule of thumb is to do nothing for a while other than select a team of advisers such as: financial planner, tax attorney, and a CPA. Sometimes it makes sense to have more than one person in each of your chosen segments of financial experts. In that way, more information and ideas will be generated. The winner must have a team that can work together. Competition within the advisory squad will further confuse an already confounding situation. Add to this the inevitable assault from friends, family, institutions who all want a piece of the winner’s luck. It is understandable that even the most stable winner will find him/herself in an unfamiliar and chaotic situation.

An absolute avalanche of individuals will believe that this type of newfound wealth that came easily (not earned) is, or should be, up for grabs. Winners must be prepared to shield themselves from those who wish to stir up guilt in order to gain. This is a good time to remember that just because guilt is thrown does not mean that it must be caught.

This is a perfect time to time to take a look at personal values. It has proven to be foolish to rush into decision-making of this magnitude. Determinations can effectively be made over time as the victor (victress?) learns more about which options are valid. There will be no shortage of proposals coming in and it will likely be hard for the lottery winner to comb through all of them and to discern which ideas mesh with his/her own principles.

Jack Whittaker won 314.9 million dollars in 2002. At the time, it was the largest win ever. Whittaker already had a net worth of about $17 million. He did make substantial donations to his church and endowed his own charitable foundation to help the poor with his jackpot. Some of his other decisions proved to be disastrous.

Less than a year after winning the Powerball, Jack had $560,000 stolen out of his car while he was visiting a strip club. When asked why he had that much cash on him his response was “because I can”

Six months later, $200,000 was stolen from his car. It was later recovered, but, many found it remarkable that Jack had, once again, appeared to treat his fortune in a way that appeared to be so careless.

He accumulated a number of DUI’s that were recorded. Real tragedy struck on December 20, 2004 when his granddaughter, Brandi Bragg, 17, was found dead with cocaine and methadone in her system. On July, 5, 2009 his daughter, Ginger, 42, was also found dead. No attribution was made as to cause.

Caesar’s Atlantic City sued Jack for $1.5 million in bounced checks. On September 11, 2006 Jack claimed to be broke because thieves cashed twelve separate checks at twelve separate branches of his bank and cleaned him out.

Finally, on December 2, 2016 his uninsured home burned to the ground. Whittaker maintains that everything that happened was caused by his lottery win.

The National Endowment for Financial Education reports that 70% of lottery winners go broke within seven years. There is agreement that no one can be prepared for the upheaval that follows a lottery win.

Some lottery winners hire a private PR consultant. This person can assist in maintaining privacy. Winners are advised to NEVER post on social media about prizes won. Often the PR person helps them to surreptitiously move to another location, change their phone number and other information that would allow easy access.

Great “highs” are, unfortunately, usually followed by lows. No one can maintain the excitement that comes in the aftermath of a win. The high school king and queen have been known to find the rest of life to be rather disappointing and unexciting. The old saw about shedding more tears over wishes granted than denied is true. When there is a belief that a material achievement will provide lasting contentment, disillusion is certain to follow.

As attractive as it sounds, attaining all financial desires has never proven to bring peace and happiness along with it. If there is nothing left to long for, of a financial nature, what does one aim for? If one can have that Porsche always dreamed of, and another, and another ad infinitum, what happens to the thrill? Money is not always helpful in curing medical dilemmas. It has been well-documented that riches do not lead to genuine love. Look at some of the vastly wealthy families like the Gettys, the Hearst's, Aly Khan. Plenty of money but a shortage of family love and loyalty.
Of course, some lottery winners such as Brad Duke of Idaho, have stuck to a well thought-out plan. His goal is to grow his fortune to $1billion. Despite disappointing losses in the housing market, he has managed to attain nine figures. He is channeling his contributions to charity through the successful Duke Foundation. Duke is concerned with his legacy and his wish to make a real contribution.

If the “impossible” occurs and the bounty is won advisors with a proven track record (and payment based on successful investment strategies) along with the ability to delay gratification are essential consorts. In this situation, better to be the turtle than the hare.

Chan, M. (2016, January 13). Here's How Winning the Lottery Makes You Miserable. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from

Greenberg, J. (2016, January 14). You Just Won The Lottery. Now Here's What You do: Nothing. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from

Martin, R. (2013, August 11). Lottery Winner Stays Grounded After $220 Million Jackpot. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from

McGee, S. (2016, January 13). How to Protect Your Money, Privacy and Yourself if You Winn the Powerball. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from the

Murray, T. D. (2016, January 14). Why Do 70% of Lottery Winners End Up Bankrupt. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from

Single winning Ticket For $450 Million Mega Millions Draw was Sold in Florida. (2018, January 6). Retrieved January 10, 2018, from

Wattles, J. (2018, January 6). Mega Millions Drawing:One Winner in Friday's $450Million Jackpot Lottery. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from money.cnn

About the Author

Ruth Gordon Ruth Gordon, MA/MSW/LCSW

I bring with me +30 years of experience as a clinician. My Masters degrees are from: Assumption College, Worcester, MA, Master of Arts in Psychology & Counseling/ and Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA, an MSW in Clinical Social Work. This is the 11th year I have written a monthly newsletter that is sent to approximately 500 individuals. The archive can be found on my website,

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