Past Lottery Winners' Advice: How to Beat the Lottery Curse

Winning the lottery may seem like a dream. However, if handled in the wrong way, the dream of financial security and freedom can very quickly turn into a nightmare. Therefore, quite a few people have released guidelines to follow if you ever happen to be lucky enough to strike it rich. While these guidelines are generally sound and do offer great advice, they often lack the personal knowledge and experience of the journey that one embarks on after winning.

For that reason, the best place to get advice is generally from somebody that has been through the experience. In this article, we will look at past lottery winners’ advice and see not only how they dealt with their win, but also what mistakes they made and how to avoid them.

#1: Don’t Rush

Don't Rush Clipart of Man RunningAfter realising that you are now a member of that highly coveted club that all jackpot winners are in, you may be impatient to come forward and claim your prize—or at least share your news with your friends and family. However, this is possibly the first mistake that you may make. Winners Al and Carmen Castellano who won $141 million playing Mega Millions have openly stated that first thing you should do when winning is slow down. The couple, who took four days to come forward and claim their prize, say that the most essential thing that you can do is relax and clear your head before claiming your prize or letting anyone else know that you have won.

There are, however, apparent exceptions to this rule of staying silent. During the four days before claiming their prize, Al and Carmen discussed their win with their three children. This calmer way of dealing with the win and first calmly talking it over with those closest to them helped the couple to come forward to claim their prize without the shock of the win overwhelming them. The two had openly stated that due to their slow approach, by the time they were ready to collect their prize they were already comfortable with the fact that they had won and were confident that they would be able to manage everything that comes along with the win easily.

#2: Protect Your Ticket

This may seem like an obvious step, but we are mentioning it regardless. During your joy and elation, it may be rather easy to lose your ticket—or not to notice it slipping into somebody else’s hand. A spokesperson for the New York Lottery, Carole Hapeman, announced in 2016 that one of the most important things that any lottery winner can do is ensure that they protect their ticket until they come forward to claim their prize.

Protecting your ticket does not, however, merely mean putting it safely in your pocket. As explained by Carole, only by signing the back of your ticket can you ensure that it cannot be used by anybody else. Therefore, if you see that you are a winner—after you have calmed down slightly, of course—ensure you sign your ticket and put it in a safe place until you are ready to claim your winnings.

#3: Look for Professionals to Help You

Client Shaking Hands with a Financial AdvisorRichard Satnick won $7 million by playing New York Lotto, which may not sound like that much in today’s terms when compared to the astronomical jackpots common to Powerball or Mega Millions. However, considering that Richard won it back in 1999, $7 million was no small amount. He, like so many other lottery winners, still insist that one of the most important things that you can do when winning a lottery jackpot is seek professional help.

According to Richard, the dream team that you should be looking for will usually consist of one financial adviser and one lawyer. Between the two, your professional aid should be able to quickly and easily draw up a plan that will help you feel confident in claiming your prize—knowing it will be protected and will be well managed. As you may have figured, Richard insists that this dream team must meet with you before you claim your win, not after. This is to ensure that you already have a plan in place when you receive the money.

Another thing to note is that you should always seek the help of qualified professionals that you trust. Needless to say that after winning the lottery, you will be approached by many people offering advice—including friends and family. Unfortunately, as the sad story of Gloria Mackenzie taught us, trusting friends and family or people who are not qualified to offer financial advice may result in you losing a big chunk—if not all—of your winnings.

#4: Consider Setting Up a Trust to Claim Your Prize

If you live in a state, province, region, or country that gives lottery winners the option to stay anonymous or you opt to do so by setting up a lottery trust to claim your prize for you, it’s an excellent idea to do so. This is because despite all the fun that the sudden publicity and newfound fame might be, it can come with a wide range of troubles—some of them serious.

On the lighter end of these issues is harassment from long-lost friends and family members who suddenly remember who you are and will contact you to help them with their financial problems. For Craig Henshaw, these problems became so big so quickly that he had to quit his teaching job, which he loved immensely, because even his co-workers immediately started treating him differently and asking for favours.

Equally frustrating is all of the lottery scams associated with your name that will inevitably emerge. These scammers, who usually contact victims via email or social media, generally pretend that they are you and that you are giving away some of your winnings. They prey on people’s gullibility in hopes of stealing their money, private data, or both. The Mavis Wanczyk scam is one infamous example of this.

On the more sinister and dangerous side of the scale is you might become a target for people who want to kidnap, harm, or even kill you for your money. If you are worth a lot of money and your name and face are all over the media, such situations, though rare, are certainly possible. The most extreme of these cases that we have heard of is that of Craigory Burch Jr., who was murdered in his own home by a group of assailants who demanded his money.

#5: Stay Employed and Let Your Money Sit

Two Men Working on ComputersWhile quitting your job may be one of the first things on your list, previous lottery winner Annette Baranovich, who won a share of a $25 million jackpot, says that this may be the worst thing you can do. Annette has openly stated that lottery winnings can disappear much quicker than you expect them to and that the money usually does not stretch as far as you may think it will.

For this reason, Annette recommends continuing your life as normal and keeping to your usual routine of waking up and going to work each day. During this time, allow your money to sit quietly in investments or even just a bank account that you have set up with your advisors. Do this for a few weeks or even for a few months. During this time, let it properly sink in that you have won such a large amount and think about the things that you would really like to do with the money.

Annette says that at the end of this period, you may have a proper plan in place that you can move forward with. This plan may or may not still include leaving your employment but will at least give you a sense of direction as you adjust to being financially secure.

#6: Pay Your Dues

Lawyer Deborah Jacobs has seen many people gain windfalls while working as a columnist for Forbes. One of the biggest things that she recommends to any lottery winner is to pay off any debts that they may have. This can happen immediately or once you have followed step #5 above.

While financial advisors may recommend still servicing your debt as you have been doing and instead invest your winnings, Deborah argues this by saying that each dollar you invest is not guaranteed. You could either increase its worth or decrease it. As an alternative, it is essential to realise that every dollar that you pay off is a dollar that you no longer owe somebody else. By doing so, you’ll know exactly how much money you actually have at your disposal.


Winning the lottery certainly comes with a wide variety of rewards, but it also comes with a unique set of dangers and challenges. Each player that has won the lottery has had to go through these challenges, and each has found a unique strategy that makes dealing with the journey more comfortable. Therefore, the above steps that have been mentioned by previous lottery winners and experts in the industry may be the lifeline that you need if you are ever lucky enough to be a jackpot winner yourself.

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