Who wouldn’t want to win the largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history, now that the Powerball jackpot has topped $1.3 billion and is quite likely headed even higher?
Sure, it would be fun at first. But striking it rich so suddenly may not turn out to be so lucky after all.
Here are 5 reasons you really may not want to win the lottery:
1) The advertised jackpot amount is wildly inflated. You won’t REALLY get $700 million anyway, if you choose to collect it in a lump sum, as most winners do. The amount will immediately shrink to just $428 million, then the IRS will carve off another $107 million in withholding taxes, taking your winnings down to a paltry $321 million, and you’ll still owe a hefty income tax bill next April. Hardly worth it, right?
2) Your relationships with family and friends will change, and not in a good way: From jackpot day forward, you’ll always wonder: Are they being nice to me because I’m their family member or friend, or are they buttering me up because they want something? And keep your eye on your drink at all times …
3) It won’t make you happier, part I: A study published back in 1978 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology a few decades back, when lotteries were still fairly new, compared the happiness levels of Illinois State Lottery winners and non-winners. They found little difference. And when it came to rating everyday happiness, the lottery winners took “significantly less pleasure” in the simple things like chatting with a friend or reading a magazine, according to NBCNews.com.
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4) It won’t make you happier, part II: More recently than the ’70s research detailed above, a 2008 University of California study measured people’s happiness six months after winning a relatively modest lottery prize — a lump sum equivalent to about eight months’ worth of income, according to NBCNews.com. “We found that this had zero detectable effect on happiness at that time,” Peter Kuhn, one of the study authors and a professor of economics, told the network in 2012.
5) One name: Jack Whittaker. The poster child for lottery misery is a West Virginia businessman who won a $315 million Powerball jackpot in 2002, at that time the largest in U.S. history. A decade later, his daughter and granddaughter had died of possible drug overdoses, his wife had divorced him, and he had been sued numerous times, according to Joe Nocera, writing for the New York Times opinion pages. Once, when he was at a strip club, someone drugged Whittaker’s drink and took $545,000 in cash that had been sitting in his car, Nocera wrote. The lottery winner later sobbed to reporters, “I wish I’d torn that ticket up.”
But wait, here’s the good news: With the chances of buying the winning ticket somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in 292.2 million, you are not really going to have to worry about any of these negative outcomes — just about the money you spent on non-winning tickets.