Winning the Lottery May Not Help

December 14, 2011

Who hasn’t fantasized about winning the lottery when you are cash strapped? It seems that winning the lottery would solve all of your financial problems.

Not so fast.

A March 2010 study by economists at the University of Kentucky, University of Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt University suggests that winning the lottery does not reduce the likelihood of a future bankruptcy. The study examined data from 35,000 winners of Florida’s Fantasy 5 lottery from 1993 to 2002, and compared this information with state bankruptcy records. The economists found that more than 1,900 lottery winners filed for bankruptcy relief within five years after winning, a rate double that of the general population during the study period. “The results show that giving $50,000 to $150,000 to people only postpones bankruptcy,” the authors concluded.

Not every lottery winner will act like Callie Rogers, winner of a $3 million UK lottery in 2003. Callie spent every dime of her winnings on shopping, cocaine, friends and breast augmentation, and two years ago she was working as a maid. But then, Callie was probably not a skilled money manager, like the three co-workers who won a $254 million Powerball lottery in Connecticut. If you are lucky enough to win a large lottery, these professionals offer a blueprint on how to protect your money from yourself.

Financial management may seem like common sense, but Americans have many pressures to spend now and worry about the consequences in the future. It takes a reasoned approach and discipline to make a budget and stick to it. To help educate individuals and combat financial illiteracy, Congress amended the bankruptcy laws to require debtors to complete a course in financial management before the completion of the bankruptcy case. The hope is that by providing a bit of education, the debtor will take a more active interest in managing his or her finances and avoid future costly mistakes.

If you are battling insurmountable debt, don’t wish for a magical cure. Take charge of your finances and educate yourself about your options. Speaking with an experienced bankruptcy attorney is a solid first step in taking control and building a better future.

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