Young and Rich: Powerball Winner Neal Wanless

For anyone dealing with financial struggles, winning the lottery would literally be a dream come true. Unfortunately, the odds are often against anybody who plays the lottery, as everyone’s holding onto the same dream. Some people are definitely luckier than others, but most of us never truly expect to win big. The same can be said about Powerball winner Neal Wanless, who was struggling to pay his bills when he stumbled into his good fortune.

Powerball Neal Wanless with Oversized CheckA Cowboy’s Big Win

When 23-year-old South Dakota cowboy Neal Wanless bought his winning lottery ticket, he’d been down on his luck for quite some time. Though his community considered him to be a kind and giving soul, he never had much to his own name. His work didn’t bring in a lot of income, and at the time, he was struggling to even pay his property taxes. While running errands in a town coincidentally named Winner, Wanless bought a Powerball ticket from the Ampride convenience store with high hopes that his luck would finally kick in. He paid $15 for five plays and used the birth dates of his loved ones as his lucky numbers. Incredibly, the risk paid off.

The night before the May 27, 2009, drawing, Wanless was joking with his parents that he’d need to drive into town to cash his big cheque the next day. Of course, there was no expectation of this actually becoming his reality. However, when Neal woke up the next morning and checked the winning numbers, he was stunned to find out that he’d just hit the jackpot worth $232 million. He and his family were so shocked that the winner waited an entire month before claiming his prize winnings so that he could formulate a plan. When he did, he left with a lump sum amount of $88.5 million after taxes.

How Did Neal Wanless Spend His Winnings?

After cashing his cheque, Wanless made it clear that he had no plans to retire from his job at the ranch. He was committed to his work regardless of his newfound wealth, which proved just how passionate he was. He wanted to upgrade from his 320-acre family ranch, so he purchased 23 square miles of land for $9.9 million. This came as no surprise to the public since he was adamant about investing money into his work. This amount of land would allow him to continue his dreams as a cowboy.  

Beyond that, Wanless didn’t have many plans for himself. Given his kind nature, he was largely focused on giving back to his community in a big way.

Where Is Neal Wanless Now?

Neal Wanless has kept mostly out of the public eye, so unfortunately there isn’t much information out there about the winner. His lawyer likewise indicated that he prefers to keep under the radar, to the point that he refused to respond to interview requests. Because of this, there’s no way to know all that he’s done with his winnings or how he’s doing now more than a decade after his win. Regardless, it’s clear he values his privacy, which is uncommon for most young lottery winners. This demonstrates just how responsible he likely is.


While we can’t all be lottery winners, stories like Neal Wanless’s should give us some hope. Despite the troubles he had faced in life, he always persevered and clung to his passions without wavering. Even becoming a multimillionaire didn’t change these things about him; in fact, it only intensified them. This should inspire us to realise that there’s more to life than money—but it sure would be nice to hit the jackpot just once.

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