On the eve of this past Friday’s Mega Millions lottery drawing, The Atlantic Wire published an article that supplied readers with all sorts of horror stories about lottery winners whose lives seemed to take noticeable turns for the worst following their good fortune. Whenever a particularly high lottery jackpot is up for grabs, we always see stories like these rolled out that seem to suggest that lottery winners are doomed, and, paranoid extremist that I am, I usually conclude that the motivation for writing them is to further demonize the wealthy. These stories don’t have anything to do with the perceived immorality of playing the lottery or anything like that, but rather, are about the hard luck stories that seem to befall so many lottery winners once the dust has settled and it’s time to live as Daddy Warbucks.
Money is like booze; having a bunch of either dumped on your doorstep does not change who you are, but rather, reveals who you really are. I roll my eyes whenever I hear someone frustratingly describe a friend or loved one who, they claim, “changes into someone completely different” whenever he drinks to excess. News flash: He’s not changing into someone completely different; he’s giving you a good look at who he really is, while the alcohol is keeping his inhibitions and willingness to maintain social conventions at bay.
The same thing applies to money. If you are a prudent, sensible person at pre-windfall, you won’t become a whacked-out, boundless, spendthrift once you’ve received your cash. However, if you have a history of making bad decisions, and find yourself as the one with the right five numbers in a given week, your bad decisions will now become bad decision on steroids…and God help you and those around you.
I’ve never been drawn to lotteries or gambling, in general. It’s not so much that I take a strident moral position on the practice, although I surely believe that less, not more, gambling is in the best interests of society at large. Honestly, the whole thing just violates my (mildly) parsimonious inclinations. That said, whether a windfall finds its way to you from the lottery, a settlement, or some other kind of lump-sum payment, I will remain confident that whatever decisions you make afterwards are reflective of who you really are…and nothing else.