"The world's original hard luck story and a hard time losing man."
- Jim Croce
In light of increasing media cost consciousness, news outlets can save money by pre-arranging a "fill in the blanks" news story.
It would say:
Powerball winner ______________ is in trouble with the law again. This is the _____ time the jackpot recipient has been arrested.
There are reports that he/she has spent all of his/her money in _____ years. There have been ______ lawsuits filed against him/her and family members in the past year.
The media should have the story ready. They are going to use it over and over again.
The most recent chance to "fill in the blanks" came from Powerball winner David Edwards, who hails from Ashland, Kentucky.
Ken Hart at the Ashland Independent newspaper has written a number of articles about Edwards and his wife Shawna.
Edwards won a $41 million Powerball and took home $27 million in August of 2001. Six years later, the money was apparently gone.
Edwards was evicted from his $1.2 million home in Palm Beach Garden, Florida for not paying his association dues. Shortly thereafter, Edwards was evicted from a storage unit that he was apparently living in. The items in storage were auctioned to pay Edwards' storage fees.
His wife was arrested for not paying $17,000 in back child support. She was released and then arrested again; she missed a court date and failed a drug test.
You would think someone who won the lottery would get it right.
About a week after Edwards won the lottery, I watched him on television and predicted that he would run through all the money. He had every red flag for disaster. An out-of-work ex-con, Edwards immediately acquired an entourage and went on a buying spree. He was all over the media, and I remember him saying that he was going to meet with financial advisors.
If I had been Edwards' financial advisor, I would not put it on my resume.
I am not sure that even the best advisor could have kept Edwards from running through the money. However, there would have been several options to try. Before Edwards started spending like a drunken sailor, an advisor could have placed some of the money into a trust and some into annuities that would have paid over Edwards' lifetime.
It did not happen, and Edwards became another "shake your head" kind of story.
I saw Edwards on a show called The Curse of the Lottery. The show's premise was that winning the lottery was a curse, not a blessing.
Receiving a life-changing amount of money is not a curse as long as the receiver takes steps to keep him or herself under control.
Most people have built-in controls on their finances. They work for a paycheck and pay their bills. They have a budget based on the steady amount of money coming in.
When people get "sudden money" from an inheritance, lottery or other source, they often do not know how to handle it.
It makes them easy prey to family and friends wanting a "loan" and prey to the temptation to spend their money on unnecessary items.
There is a whole economy built around people who let money run through their fingers.
I have noted a ton of advertisements aimed at "helping" people spend their tax refunds. A tax refund is not manna from heaven. A refund means that the government took more money out of a person's paycheck than needed. People should be saving that money for a rainy day instead of blowing it on a trip to Las Vegas.
If people cannot handle a tax refund, imagine what they would do with $27 million.
It is actually easier to handle a large amount of money than to manage a small amount. With large amounts of money, there is a point where all your immediate needs can be met. You can buy a nice house and car and not have any debts. You can go anywhere you want and do what you want.
After that, everything else is just showing off.
It is the showing-off part that gets lottery winners into trouble.
The less flash they have with their money, the less likely they are to be part of a "fill in the blanks" media story.
Edwards is another lottery hard luck story and a hard time losing man.
Story Behind the Song
The Hard Way Every Time
Jim Croce is one of my favorite songwriters. He died in a plane crash in 1973 but his stuff sounds fresh and new today. He, like Steve Goodman, another writer who died too young, could do deep songs, silly songs, romantic songs and songs that made you laugh. I do not use Croce often but could probably find a lyric of his to match every column I write.
Croce will best be remembered for his hits like Bad Bad LeRoy Brown and I've Got A Name but some of his lesser known songs like Age, Lovers Cross, Hey Tomorrow, and The Hard Way Every Time, are the ones I like best.
Note from Don
Al Cross runs an outstanding blog as part of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues based at the University of Kentucky. I get a lot of ideas for columns from the blog.
The enclosed story headlined, "Gonzales aide told OxyContin prosecutor to slow down, put him on hit list" is an absolute must read. It is based on a front page story in the Washington Post.
The following are the results from last week's poll:
How many books did you read last year?
More than ten - 79.2%
Six to ten - 12.5%
One to five - 8.3%
None - 0.0%
This week there are two poll questions:
Do you buy lottery tickets?
Would you hold a news conference if you won the Powerball lottery?
To vote in this week's poll follow the link below. The poll will be on the left hand side of the web page.
Don McNay is author of the upcoming book, Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do if you win the Lottery. You can write to him at email@example.com or read other things he has written at www.donmcnay.com.