Huge Powerball win in Zephyrhills creates buzz
By B.C. Manion
The sale of the winning $590.5 million Florida Powerball ticket at a Publix in Zephyrhills created quite a stir – but experts say that such instantaneous wealth comes with its own set of problems.
As of press time, the winner of the single largest Powerball prize in U.S. history had not stepped forward to claim the winnings, but that is expected at any time. Florida law requires the winner to file a claim within 60 days of winning, in order to receive a lump-sum cash payment.
When the winner comes forward, he or she will be stepping out of the shadows because once the claim is made, the winner’s identity is public record.
Winning such a huge financial windfall is like flipping a switch in life, said Rhonda Cameron, a psychologist at Premier Community Healthcare Group, Inc., in Dade City.
“It’s the old, ‘Be careful what you wish for,’” Cameron said.
“All of us have fantasies,” Cameron said, but becoming instantly wealthy won’t solve all of life’s problems and, indeed, it creates some new challenges.
Suddenly, the winner’s privacy will be gone, the psychologist said.
“Their picture is going to be emblazoned across every newspaper,” Cameron said, not only in the U.S., but in other countries, too.
An ordinary trip to the grocery store will be a thing of the past, she said. “People will pay attention to you. … They’ll point at you and talk about you.”
Some winners wind up moving to a new locale, changing their way of life and going underground, she said.
It’s not unusual for people who encounter such a major change in life to undergo a range of emotions, the psychologist said.
In some cases, Cameron said, “They’re grieving their former life, when they were just a regular, normal Joe.”
In other cases, they encounter hostility from people who are not happy that they won the huge cash prize.
“Some people are going to hate your guts,” Cameron said. “It’s the envy turned into anger (response). Maybe they don’t view you as a good person,” she said. They’ll wonder: “Why did it happen to you and not me?”
Winners will also find themselves viewing people in a different way than they did before, Cameron said. They’ll have to be more guarded to make sure that people who are interested in being close to them are interested in them, not just their money.
“Your phone is going to ring off the hook,” Cameron said. The calls asking for help will come from family, friends and strangers, alike. People will line up, vying for a piece of the action.
“You are going to have to figure out a way to protect yourself,” Cameron said. “There are gold diggers of every stripe.”
There are also those who will feel guilty about coming into so much money, Cameron said. “They’ll ask, ‘Why me?’”
They can address that guilt by sharing their wealth, but then the question becomes with whom do you share your fortune, and how much should you give?
The winner will have to think about the consequences of actions in virtually every arena of life, including emotional, spiritual, financial and legal, Cameron said.
“How do you deal with your kids? How do you deal with your grandkids?’
“The ones who do the worst are the ones who are very impulsive. They have no game plan. They go out and buy five cars. They fritter it away. They end up worse than they were before,” Cameron said.
Cameron’s No. 1 piece of advice? “Come up with a game plan.”
Planning is essential, agreed Christine B. Cooper, a retirement income planner, who has practiced in Tampa Bay for 19 years.
Cooper, who is president and owner of Cooper Financial Services in Land O’ Lakes, said she routinely tells clients to call her cell phone or text her within the first five minutes of learning they have received a financial windfall.
She wants to make sure they take steps to protect their best interests.
“You need to have the right kind of specialists on your team,” Cooper said, noting in that case it would likely include a financial planner, an attorney and a tax specialist.
The winner will have to pay taxes when he or she claims the prize, but the idea is to take steps to pay no more than legally required, Cooper said.
The specialist’s role is to help the client achieve his or her dreams, Cooper said.
To use a football analogy, she sad: “We’re the coaches on the sideline. You’re the quarterback.”
When the winner works out a plan, he or she should be addressing such questions as: “Why are we doing this? What is our goal? How are we going to get there?”
Most people don’t even consider the possibility of needing to have a plan for handling millions of dollars, Cooper said.
She thinks one reason many people who come into sudden wealth wind up losing it is because they lack a plan.
It’s also hard to resist helping others, Cooper said.
“It’s human nature to give,” Cooper said. “We all, deep down underneath, we want to help one another,” she said. “We put everyone else’s needs before our own.”
Jeff Aman, an attorney in Lutz, said he wouldn’t rely entirely upon himself if he won a huge cash windfall. “I wouldn’t want to try to figure it all out,” said Aman, who specializes in estates, trusts and real estate.
What the winner should do depends on the winner’s goals and desires, Aman said.
“It’s a very individual kind of thing,” Aman said.
It’s important to understand tax consequences and to protect assets, Aman said.
“If you’re doing serious tax planning, you’re also doing asset protection. It goes hand in hand,” Aman said.
Hiring a team of experts is important, but requiring that team to be accountable is essential, too, Aman said. “You still need to maintain your personal sense of responsibility.”
Stories abound about lottery winners who go broke.
Aman doubts they had a team of specialists helping them manage their money.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.