What would you do if you won $4.3 million in the lottery? Would you immediately get on the phone and quit your job and without a moment’s hesitation, book a flight to somewhere exotic, first class all the way, so that you can spend a week or two or three on a sun-drenched beach, sipping glamorous concoctions with little umbrellas in them while contemplating outrageously decadent ways you would spend your windfall?
Or would you be more cautious, contacting several financial advisors, brokers, bankers and lawyers for carefully considered investment advice, that would protect your newfound wealth, much of which would end up going directly to the advisors, brokers, bankers and lawyers in the form of something they euphemistically refer to as “fees.”
Or would you be the altruistic type? These types of lottery winners, bless their hearts, find all kinds of generous ways to give much moola to good causes, thereby making the world a better place. And in the process making many people believe they are truly nuts.
I must admit, I’ve thought about it. Seriously, thought about it. As a freelancer, self-employed right-brained economically incompetent member of the so-called “arts” side of the work world, the concept of such financial stability as “pension”, “savings” and “Freedom 55” are even much further away from reality than actually winning a lottery.
As a matter of fact, at this late stage in the game, my sole retirement financial strategy is what I like to call the Lotto Max Pension Plan. My alternate Plan B, is the Lotto 6/49 Lotto Investment Portfolio. I’m counting on it. And when I’m an elderly greeter at a large department store, handing out shopping baskets in my shiny uniform, I’ll no doubt still be counting on it.
I’m sure we’ve all thought about what we’d do with a big lottery win — it’s part of the fun to let our imaginations run rampant with the ridiculous notions that life is fair and something really good involving large pots of money is going to happen soon.
That kind of delirious deliberation was no doubt swirling dizzily in the minds of Jim and Dorothy Sprague of Pueblo, California last Sunday when they checked the local newspaper (The Pueblo Chieftain) and saw that they had the winning ticket in the Colorado Lottery: $4.3 million dollars!
In an afternoon of absolute joy and incredulity, they phoned their children to tell them the good news, and then they immediately moved to a private island in the Bahamas.
Just kidding about that last part, because this story has a very different ending. Soon after they told their children the good news, Jim and Dorothy found out that the paper had printed the wrong lottery numbers by mistake.
The Chieftain had inadvertently re-printed the winning numbers from the Friday lottery instead of listing the new numbers from the Saturday draw. Jim and Dorothy’s ticket was for Saturday — and was therefor a losing ticket.
According to the internet site FoxNews.com the newspaper printed a retraction on Monday, blaming the error on “misinformation and an oversight”. As for the disappointed lottarians, Jim Sprague said it was a case of “going from rags to riches and back to rags again,” but he’s still hoping to hit the right numbers “one of these days.”
A lesser man might have a much different quote, especially south of the border, something like: “I’m going to sue the pants off of somebody!”
When it comes to lotteries, I guess the only thing worse than not winning a lottery is thinking you’ve won one, and finding out you didn’t.
But we can’t forget Allen and Violet Large, who have been dubbed the Nicest Canadian Couple in the World by Yahoo News. You may remember their story. Last November the retired Nova Scotia couple won $11.3 million in the lottery — and gave virtually all of it away.
The down-home folks took care of family first, and kept about 2 per cent for “a rainy day,” and then made up a two-page list of charities, churches, hospitals, fire departments, and much more and proceeded to donate to their hearts’ content.
“We haven’t spent one cent on ourselves,” said 78 year old Violet, who is fighting ill health. “It made us feel good… there’s so much good being done with that money.”
They say they’re just happy to have each other, and — putting her money where her mouth is, and proving an old cliché to be true — Violet summed it up: “We live in the country and we’re proud of it. Money can’t buy you health or happiness.”
So the lottery can be a good thing in ways unexpected, revealing people like the Spragues who can good-naturedly remain optimistic in the face of a huge financial flip flop, or folks like Mr. and Mrs. Large who make me smile with a renewed faith in human nature and then smack my palm to my forehead as a reminder of what the real priorities in life should be.
That’s not to say my personal retirement plan has changed however. I still buy lottery tickets, and still cross my fingers. And I hope I’ll remember the right priorities, should I win.
But lately I’ve begun to diligently practice the phrase: “Would you like fries with that?” Just in case.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.