With all that lottery fever we experienced several weeks ago, I think the story that interested me the most was a sidebar story I read a few days after three people produced winning Powerball tickets to divvy up a billion and a half bucks.
It seems that Frederick Walker waited, as many do, until the hubbub over a monster cash grab reached a crescendo before playing the lottery for the first time. Of course, at 19 years old, there’s probably a lot Walker is doing for the first time. I always laugh when I see the lines for lottery tickets at places like Speedway when prizes grow to megamillions. They are lines I know are occupied by several first-timers who would never bother to stand in line for just a few measly million but hundreds of millions or maybe a billion? Now, that’s a bundle worth a $2 ticket!
In case you missed the story, Walker, from Sanford, Florida, purchased his ticket at Sav-A-Ton (apparently we, in Ohio, only Save-A-Lot whereas …) in nearby Lake Mary after, get this, someone filled out a Powerball ticket but apparently didn’t like the looks of the numbers and left the un-purchased ticket on the counter. Walker picked it up, made one minor revision by adding an optional add-on for an extra buck called Power Play, and reached in his jeans for three Washingtons.
The numbers deemed not good enough to play for one — in a classic one-man’s-trash-is-another-man’s-treasure tale — turned out to be plenty good enough for Walker. While he didn’t match the Powerball that would have made that $1.5 billion a four-way split, he did match the other five numbers and also the add-on to snatch a very teenager cool $2 million.
I had two thoughts when I heard the crazy tale. My first, of course, was, since the story went national, there’s a good chance whoever filled out that ticket read the details of the story, remembered a certain ticket filled out and then left at a certain Sav-A-Ton, in, I don’t know, say LAKE MARY, FLORIDA, and immediately developed a stomach ache the size of Florida’s largest lake, Okeechobee, as in about 731 square miles worth of roiling bile.
The second thought I had was that of being 19 again and coming into that much money. As many teens, in my youth, I really wasn’t all that good with money of any amount. And, on a larger scale, a quick look shows there have been legions of young athletes who did such a poor job of managing the wealth bestowed upon them by their preternatural athletic talents that they wound up bankrupt following ephemerally short playing careers.
While Walker’s windfall at such a young age may seem quite unique, he is not alone. Take the case of Britain’s young lottery winner, Callie Rogers, who, at just 16 in 2003, won the Euro equivalent of almost $2 million. Within a decade, she’d managed to burn all but around $2,000 on parties, drugs and cosmetic surgeries, according to an article by Eleanor Harding of the Daily Mail.
Looking back, Rogers said, “It was too much money for someone so young. Even if you say your life won’t change, it does — and often not for the better. It nearly broke me, but, thankfully, I’m now stronger.”
Even for those young winners who try to be more prudent, stars can misalign, as noted on the website “Lottery Post.” Take the case of then 19-year-old Towson University sophomore Louis Jay, who won a million dollars in 2008 on a scratch-off ticket.
After a large slice of his pie went to Uncle Sam, the pre-business major found a financial planner with a similar vision for growing wealth as he did and invested the remaining money in a stock market that was at an all-time high, that is until, just a couple of months later, the largest Wall Street collapse since the Great Depression occurred and most of the money was lost. Fortunately, he didn’t lose it all, and hopefully, over time, the financial gods have begun to smile on someone once young who really did try to do the right thing.
What direction Frederick Walter takes with his winnings, let’s hope he finds a path that will allow him to have a little fun now yet still have quite a few acorns stashed in the hollow of a tree for the inevitable rains that will certainly come.
In the case of money in the pockets of the young, I suppose there are no guarantees, just as there are no guarantees that just because you fill out a Powerball ticket, you’ll necessarily buy it!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.