My personal retirement plan has a few complications

Point of No Return

So, I was standing there with my retirement advisor the other day, when it hit me like a bolt of lightning: I might need to start considering a different plan.

Well, let me go back a little bit so we can then go forward with this notion.

My “retirement advisor” is actually the lady who sells me my lottery tickets, and I’m starting to have my doubts about her ability to get me where I need to be. I go in, I plunk down my investment and I just don’t see much return, if any.

I even diversify my holdings — I buy both Powerball and Mega Millions. It just seems that no matter what I do — random number-generator, seances with dead previous lottery winners, etc. — nothing works. I am no closer to retiring today than I was when I first signed on to this retirement plan 25 years ago.

So, yeah, I’m starting to get a little frustrated. And I was beginning to turn a little skeptical about the whole lottery process. Do people really win this thing, or is it just the bait on the end of the hook to lure us into dumping our hard-earned money on hopes and dreams? Being a community-minded journalist, I raced off to the Google machine to investigate the legitimacy of lotteries, so as to share that information with you, our loyal readers (Hi, Mom!).

And, it would appear that people, in fact, do win lotteries.

Take Tom Vilsack, for instance. The former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, as well as the former governor of the great state of Iowa, hit for $150,000 in the Jan. 22 drawing of Powerball numbers, per a story from UPI. Vilsack said he forgot about his ticket for about 10 days after the drawing before checking his numbers online and discovering he had hit for a nice chunk of change. Vilsack said he is an occasional lottery player, but that occasion was a good one this time around.

“Occasionally, when the Powerball gets above $250 million, I think, ‘What the heck?’ You know, you can dream, like everybody else,” he explained. “And I also know that the chances of me winning anything are next to none, and so the money is going to go to education or veterans or the state fund for natural resources or infrastructure, or all the good things that the lottery does. So, I figure it’s a good contribution.”

Yeah, let’s go with that. We all play the lottery because it’s basically a charitable donation to help with infrastructure. It’s not because we want to flip off our bosses and walk off our jobs or buy massive boats with helicopter pads and other slightly-smaller massive boats as dinghies. No, we want to help our state put up another “squiggly road ahead” sign.

Some people win and have very clear and definitive plans for their winnings. A South Carolina man, who kept his identity hidden, won $100,000 in a Palmetto Cash 5 drawing at the end of January and plans to use the money for charitable donations and to start a college fund for his grandchildren — notable and admirable goals, for certain.

Of course, with the way college costs are exploding, the $100,000 might be enough to pay for one Modern Art textbook and a cup of coffee. But that’s still $100,000 more than most of us have lying around. And $100,000 more than this individual almost had lying around.

According to another UPI story, the anonymous winner nearly tossed his fortune away. In fact, he kind of did. The man said he threw his ticket into the trash after checking the numbers and not finding a match. A few minutes later, while sipping his coffee, he realized that he had made a small error.

“I checked the results for the day before,” he said.

Throwing caution, and proper hygiene, aside, the man dug out his ticket from the trash and realized he had hit all five numbers — earning him that aforementioned $100,000. And, probably, a shower.

Of course, not all lottery stories are happy lottery stories. William “Bud” Post III passed away from respiratory failure at the age of 66 in January 2006. What made Post notable to many is that he hit the lottery in $16.2 million in the late 1980s, being paid $498,000 in annual payments — after taxes. But things didn’t go that well for Mr. Post after winning the lottery.

“For the lack of a better term, he was like the ‘Beverly Hillbillies,’” said John Lacher, a bankruptcy lawyer who helped Post out in the 1990s, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He was the last guy in the world you would expect to win the lottery. He did everything you would expect of a guy who became a millionaire overnight.”

In fact, Post had apparently pooled his money together with his sometime girlfriend, who ended up being awarded a third of his winnings. He was also convicted of an assault charge after he allegedly fired a shotgun at a man trying to collect a debt from him. His brother reportedly tried to hire a hitman to kill Post and his sixth wife, in hopes of getting the cash. And he bought a twin-engine plane, though he didn’t have a pilot’s license. Within three months of winning the lottery, he was $500,000 in debt.

I might need a different retirement plan.


By Darin J. McCann
Executive Editor