The Curse of Too Much Money
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) An unknown gambler won the second-largest jackpot playing Lottery Treasure Hunt in Pennsylvania last weekend. While the retailer who sold the ticket will receive a $500 bonus, the $235,387 winnings are currently unclaimed -- and that may be a good thing.
"So-called lucky winners are usually heavily targeted by investment scammers worldwide and are immediately deluged with offers from financial planners, friends and family to invest," said Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago-based attorney who has represented multiple lottery winners. "Most do not have much experience with managing money and lack basic investing skills."
Wealth, whether it's through the lottery, inheritance or just plain hard work, is often dreamed about and even pursued but can be detrimental.
"The nouveau-riche are more likely to fall into the trap of losing sight of the meaning and purpose of life," said Paul Alnez, author of Reincarnation for Skeptics (Axa Verita Publishing 2014) That's when fame and fortune can be a curse."
To alleviate the curse, Glen Mills, Penn.-based financial planner Dan White advises having fun only after everything else is in order.
"Evaluate your situation in terms of debt and potential taxes to determine the amount of your actual windfall," White told MainStreet. "And plan your estate so that leftover assets are distributed as you want them to be."
The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) estimates that as many as 70% of Americans who experience a sudden windfall will lose that money within a few years.
"Newly-minted high-net worth individuals, such as professional athletes, encounter unique financial challenges," said John Karaffa, founder of ProSport CPA, a boutique accounting firm for professional athletes. "That wealth becomes an overwhelming focal point of their lives and tax authorities tend to place much greater scrutiny on their financial affairs and take larger cuts of their wealth."
In addition to tax authority examination, when someone is widely known to be wealthy, they make an attractive target for lawsuits.
"To guard against high stakes personal liability lawsuits, the most prudent approach is to secure enough umbrella liability coverage to match your net worth and future income stream," said Gary Raphael, senior vice president of risk consulting with ACE Private Risk Services. "Damages awarded for serious bodily injuries can be in the tens of millions of dollars and if your insurance falls short, you could be forced to sell off assets and give up a portion of future earnings to make up the difference."
People handed a hefty check can experience erratic emotions ranging from elation to resentment to anger, according to the NEFE.
"Anyone who receives a substantial inheritance, lottery award or stock windfall, should immediately hire a trustworthy team of professionals to assist them with all the many challenges and potential pitfalls ahead. This includes a very good lawyer, accountant, financial advisor and stock broker," said Kevin Spencer, an estates and trust attorney in Dallas.