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Lottery Winners Who File for Bankruptcy

If you happened to win the lottery, your financial situation would improve, right? Actually, according to a recent study, the answer is maybe not. Three economics professors wrote a paper titled "The Ticket to Easy Street? The Financial Consequences of Winning the Lottery." Their research tried to address the following questions: Does a lottery windfall have a permanent impact or does it merely postpone financial pain? Does getting a "boatload of money" solve people's financial problems or just push those problems down the road?

The professors obtained a list of winners for a Florida lotto game called Fantasy Five. Then they compared those names to Florida bankruptcy records to see how many winners filed for bankruptcy and when. In the first couple of years after winning a jackpot, people who won small amounts were more likely to file bankruptcy than people who won larger amounts. That makes sense. Someone with a large amount of money can initially weather a bad time or keep creditors at bay.

But after three years, large lottery winners were more likely to file for bankruptcy than small winners. The people who won larger sums did not use their new wealth to pay down debt. Financial consultant Don McNay concludes, "Winning the lottery did not help people increase their net worth. They needed to have set goals and an understanding of finance to make their lives better. It appears that [the lottery winners] did not have those fundamental tools."

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Gambling—the negative effects of gambling; (2) Budgeting; Debt; Finances—Most of us don't just need more money; we need "those fundamental tools" that will help us get out of debt and manage our money wisely.

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