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Mo' money, mo' problems: Lottery $$ can cause woes

NEED TO KNOW
  • Wednesday night's Powerball jackpot was a cool $579 million
  • For the lucky winners, life may not be easy street
It is common for lottery winners to fall on hard times

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Just because lottery winners have millions of dollars doesn't mean all their troubles vanish. For some, instant riches can be fraught with issues many jackpot winners are unprepared to handle.

As Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy once said, "Mo Money, Mo Problems."

Was money the motive?

Abraham Shakespeare won $31 million in the Florida lottery in 2006. He took a $17 million cash payout and shortly after that, a woman named Dorice "Dee Dee" Moore befriended him.

Moore is now on trial for allegedly killing Shakespeare. She's pleaded not guilty.

Police say Shakespeare was killed on April 6 or 7 of 2009. His body was discovered in January 2010 buried under concrete in Plant City, Florida. 

Jury selection for Moore's trial began Monday in Tampa, Florida.

The road to ruin


Then there's the story of Alex and Rhoda Toth. The Toths were living in poverty before they won $13 million in May 1990, but the money didn't seem to help, according to Alex Toth's obituary in the Tampa Bay Times.

The Toths were plagued with financial problems and family disputes despite $666,666 in annual lottery payments for 20 years.

READ MORE: If you had $550,000,000...

In 1997, Rhoda Todd told the Tampa Bay Times, "Sometimes, I wish we could give it back." Alex died in April 2008, apparently penniless.

Capitalizing on trouble

It is common for lottery winners to fall on hard times, and need a large lump sum of money to bail them out. In fact, it's so common, there's a whole industry willing to buy out your lottery payments. These firms make a profit by offering lottery winners a lump sum amount that's less than their total winnings.

A simple Internet search can find plenty of companies in the business of buying lottery winnings. Woodbridge Structured Funding, LLC claims to be a pioneer in the field of buying lottery winnings.

"Woodbridge Structured Funding, LLC can help you sell lottery payments for the highest lump sum cash payouts available today. Whether your numbers finally came in, or you broke the bank in Vegas, nothing is more exciting than wining BIG. Suddenly, life is full of opportunities. Yet many lottery and jackpot winners have to wait decades to receive the full value of their jackpot -- even though they have big dreams for today," says a statement on the company's site.

Edward Ugel did just that for seven years when he worked for a boutique lottery finance company.  He wrote the book, "Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions."

READ MORE: What to do with your losing lottery ticket

Ugel told NPR that winners should take the lump sum from a lottery organization instead of annual payments if they're given the option.

Lottery winners who successfully manage the transition into fortune get financial advisers immediately, according to Ugel.

"They get a good financial team and listen to that team right away. That may seem logical, but when your entire background — financial, cultural — is catch-as-catch-can, hustling your entire life to get by, working hard, but never enjoying the luxuries of life, you make different choices. If you look at the way the lottery presents winning, it’s, 'Hey, you’re a millionaire, and now it’s easy street for you,'" he said in an interview with Worth magazine.

"Lottery winners believe that hype; they listen to their friends and family rather than to solid financial advisers who will put them on a budget — not just saying yes to everything," Ugel said.

Most people who win the lottery have no idea of how to manage their wealth, he said.

Mo' money, mo' problems.

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