Larry Ross Lottery Winner, One of the most interesting things I learned back in college is that Larry Ross and his family may not be as happy with their new fortune as people might think.
Ross is the 48-year-old pool installer from Michigan who won half of the $363 million Big Game lottery. He’ll share the biggest lottery paycheck in U.S. history.
But will he be happy? My college psychology professor said that’s not very likely. Most of us would be more than willing to take a chance on the unhappiness that winning $181.5 million might bring. But the truth is that winning an unimaginable sum of money places unimaginable stress on the lives of people who just aren’t prepared for it.
Lottery winners tend to be blue-collar people from blue-collar neighborhoods with blue-collar friends. They buy a few tickets every week and hope lightning strikes.
Ross owns a pool company. Two years ago, 13 Ohio machinists won the $295.7 million Powerball jackpot.
I have nothing against people from blue-collar backgrounds. My dad was a postal worker and my late father-in-law was a pipe-fitter.
But when these nouveau riche quit their jobs and sell their houses and buy expensive new houses, they have very little in common with their rich neighbors. And that can leave them feeling alienated.
Staying at their old jobs is hard, because they no longer have the money motivation, and co-workers tend to make snippy comments and expect them to buy lunch.
Lottery winners face plenty of pressure to give money away. Money Magazine published a piece last year profiling an Ohio couple, John and Sandy, who were among the winners. They got calls from a woman who wanted $56,000 to escape her abusive husband, parents who wanted to put their kids through college, and inventors who wanted money to fund their creations.
They became frightened of people breaking into their home and stressed over the prospect of managing their winnings: the $161.5 million lump sum split 13 ways came to $12.4 million. Their kids lost their old friends. They didn’t use their last names for the Money piece, and they didn’t disclose the location of their house.
In talking with the other members of their winning lottery group, some said they wish it had never happened.
It’s odd, in a culture that values money as much as ours, to think people would rather not win the lottery. I’ve heard since I was young that money doesn’t buy happiness. I also know that lack of money can bring a lot of unhappiness.
But as I watched the hoopla build over the Big Game, I thought about that day, 22 years ago, when I learned that becoming instantly rich can ruin your life.
ADOPTION UPDATE. A few weeks ago I wrote about efforts around the country to unseal adoption records for adult adoptees, such as my wife Nancy, who in most states have no right to learn their medical histories or the identities of their birth parents.
Since then, the open records movement has enjoyed a major victory and suffered a major loss. On May 15, one day after Mother’s Day, the Alabama Senate approved a bill that, if signed by the governor, would allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates and other documents relating to their birth. The bill passed by a 26-2 vote, after being approved 92-0 in the Alabama House. But it was closer than the vote would seem. A powerful legislator almost kept the bill off the Senate floor, which would have killed it.
In Missouri, an open records bill failed.
Alabama would join Tennessee and Oregon as the only states to unseal adoption records. Two other states, Kansas and Alaska, always have had open records.