Sudden wealth can be a gift and a curse. What you should do, financial planners say

70% of lotto winners end up broke in 5-7 years, finance experts say

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – After years of winning small amounts of cash on her favorite Florida Lotto scratch-off game, Michelle Graf Dixon had one of those magic moments: she hit for $20,000.

“It was amazing, a little shocking, I’ve always wanted to win,” she said.

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Dixon, founder and owner of the Heart 2 Heart Birth Center in Sanford, told News 6 she had previously won small cash prizes that totaled a cool $8,000 in winnings. The veteran midwife said it allowed her to continue her three-times-a-week ritual playing Gold Rush Supreme Lottery tickets.

“I screamed and my husband couldn’t believe it, he had to look at it (the ticket) twice,” a grinning Dixon recalled .

It has been six weeks since that strike-it-rich moment, and she admits the temptation of things she could buy with her sudden wealth flashed before her as she stared at that big money win.

“My first thought was ‘Well let’s see, there’s a bunch of purses I would like to get,’” she said. “I love Tiffany jewelry but I wasn’t going to do that.”

Instead, the 50-something woman thought about her eight-year marriage, the future, and retirement.

“I deposited the check in the bank, waited for it to clear five days and went to see Nancy,” she recalled.

She is talking about Nancy Hecht, a veteran financial planner with Certified Financial Group in Altamonte Springs.

Hecht said depending on the amount of money, a little buying spree is fine, but the bulk of the money should be invested.

“When it comes to sudden wealth, it’s not the bucket that you have, it’s how you’re spending money out of the bucket,“ Hecht said.

After taxes, Dixon walked away with $15,000, not the millions so many others have won but enough to give her retirement portfolio a “little bump.”

Dixon said she talked with her husband about a possible strategy of “paying down a bill or two,” but her major focus “was our retirement.”

“I would never accept lottery winnings in my own name. Set up a trust and then accept the winnings under that name” Hecht advised. “That way, you have a veil between you and the public knowledge of you winning and how much you won.”

Hecht suggests any sort of sudden wealth — from a bonus, family inheritance or a lucky lotto ticket — needs to be handled carefully, “take a step back.”

“You can pay off bills and loans and make those payments to yourself,” Hecht said. “Because you’re not used to having that money, you can put it into a long term investment for yourself and then the rest you have to be judicious with.”

That’s the moral of this story, your money should be invested for your future. Many times, people will hand money over to friends and family and, depending on the cash flow, end up flat broke.

According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 70 percent of lotto winners end up broke within five years.

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About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.