Skip To Content

    10 People On How Winning The Lottery Changed Their Lives For Better Or Worse

    One major chance moment can change your life forever.

    I grew up getting scratch-off tickets at the corner store instead of candy, so needless to say, I'm fascinated by the idea of winning the lottery.

    NBC / Via giphy.com

    It's wild to think of all the little chance moments that have to come together for you to win.

    GIPHY News / Via giphy.com

    According to Investopedia, the odds of winning a Powerball drawing are 1 in 292.2 million, as of November 2021...not great considering you're more likely to get struck by lightning.

    MUCH / Via giphy.com

    Still, I think of the "Conners won the lottery" season of Roseanne and wonder... Would it really change everything?

    Wind Dancer Production / Via makeagif.com

    To find out, I found some stories about real-life lottery winners and how things turned out for them. Here we go!

    1. "The first thing I did was hire lawyers in New Mexico, Delaware, and Wyoming and had each of them set up anonymous LLCs in their respective states for me," one lottery winner revealed on Reddit when discussing his strategy for handling his winnings.

    Universal Pictures / Via giphy.com

    "I transferred the winnings to the LLC in New Mexico. I then set up a trust with the Wyoming LLC as the trustee and myself as the beneficiary. Using funds from the first LLC, the second LLC set up an immediate unqualified annuity to pay me a certain amount every month for the next 20 years, adjusted annually for an assumed inflation of 3.25%. I then changed my legal name. I use the Delaware LLC to make financial transactions, buy property, register vehicles, etc. I moved to a modest four-bedroom on a cul-de-sac in a quiet suburb in northeast Ohio. I am as effectively hidden as the law allows."

    u/2ndChance_1stMistake

    2. One woman's life was quietly made, then almost ruined, by keeping her winnings quiet.

    NBC / Via giphy.com

    "The lottery winning took place back in August 2014. Mike and I were married in October 2014. It wasn't a fortune, but enough to make a difference. After taxes, it came out to right around $480,000," u/[deleted] wrote.

    "Most people would be over the moon, but I panicked. I didn't want our life to turn upside down because we had extra money now. I was still legally single at the time, so I was able to accept it anonymously without the need to tell anyone else. So I didn't. Tell anyone else. Not a single soul. Not my husband, my parents, siblings, best friends, etc. Only the state and federal governments."

    "I opened a new bank account with a national credit union and deposited the check. Got started with a financial advisor (Keith), who guided me into investing in local businesses and real estate. And that's that. It's been sitting there ever since, just growing," they continued.

    "Flash forward to today. I'm doing dishes getting ready to start making dinner, and my phone rings. I can't get to it but figure I'll call them back. Then I get a text. No big deal. I'll get to it in a minute...but my husband came into the kitchen and glanced at my phone to let me know who text me and called me ... It's Keith. He called me to let me know my account just hit $1 million after one of the energy companies I invested in soared recently.

    "My husband is stunned. Has no clue what to even say, staring at me until he says, 'We have a million dollars??'"

    Showtime / Via giphy.com

    Thankfully, OP's husband was able to forgive her decision because of the greater good.

    3. Another woman was not so lucky with her husband's reaction. Denise Rossi hit a $1.3 million jackpot in 1996 in the California state lottery. She kept the secret to herself, even divorcing her husband of 25 years 11 days after winning. She decided not to list the winnings among her assets in her divorce.

    It was only a matter of time until she got busted big time. Her punishment for lying about her assets was to pay every cent of her winnings to her ex.

    FOX / Via giphy.com

    4. A waitress who got a lottery ticket as a tip couldn't believe it when she won $10 million. It began years of heartache.

    When all was said and done, Tonda Dickerson agreed to take $375,000 over 30 years. Her fellow waitstaff wasn't happy for her and sued her, claiming she agreed to split those winnings with her team if she won.

    When she got through that legal battle, the man who gave her the ticket reappeared and said she promised him a truck if she won.

    Days after Tonda got the claim dismissed, her ex-husband,  Stacy Martin, kidnapped her and drove her to an isolated boat jetty in Alabama. A struggle ensued and when she got his gun, she shot him through the chest.

    5. Neal Wanless was one of the poorest ranch owners in one of the poorest areas in South Dakota when he won a $232.1 million Powerball prize in 2009.

    NBC / Via giphy.com

    "I would like to thank the Lord for giving me this opportunity and blessing me with his great fortune. I will not squander it," he graciously said when accepting his check. And he didn't. He used those winnings to pay off his existing debts and buy his ranch, nearly 50,000 acres. 

    Over the years, he built two luxury homes for himself and his mom on the land, as well as smaller homes for ranch hands and guests.

    He helped not just others in his family, but his community as well. Recently, he and his wife moved to her family's cattle ranch in British Columbia, listing the ranch for over $40 million.

    6. John and Linda Kutey were among a pool of office workers in New York who won a $319 million Mega Millions jackpot. Their share of the jackpot when all was said and done was $28.7 million.

    La Cabane Productions / Via giphy.com

    Nine years after their big win, the couple decided to honor their parents with a big donation of $250,000 to their hometown's new water park.

    The spray pool was officially dedicated to Edmund Ostrowski and the late Gertrude Ostrowski, and Joseph and Mercedes Kutey in July 2013.

    7. Garbageman Michael Carroll won a £9.7million from a £1 ticket when he was 19-years-old in 2002. He put nearly £1 million of it into a home that he later sold for less than £200,000.

    PBS Kids / Via giphy.com

    He also got into a lifestyle of partying, prostitutes, and drugs that cost him his wife, the house, and all his winnings, filing for bankruptcy in 2013.

    He only got one of those things back. He reconciled with his wife in 2021 and remarried.

    8. Another lottery winner was estranged from his family after a difficult childhood and time in the military when he won a comfortable amount and decided not to tell them.

    "I won the type of money where you could pay cash for a three-bedroom, two-bath house with .36 acres in a county where housing prices were below the national average and then have nothing left. Yes, it's specific because that's what I did. I never told any family ... The purchase of that home happened when I was 25, so 11 years ago. Since then, I got married and had a kid and have an all-around nice and pleasant life."

    "About a year ago, my oldest sister was going to be near where I lived (several time zones away from family) for work and she wanted to visit me so she could meet my daughter and catch up. Against better judgment, I agreed ... At one point during dinner on the 2nd night, she asked about what my mortgage must be like, since she paid $900 in rent for something much smaller and with no yard. My wife scoffed briefly, unaware that my family didn't know of my financial windfall."

    "I am not great at lying, improv, or doing anything without excess planning. I sat stupified while trying to figure out what to say before my wife said, 'Well he used his winnings to just buy the house,' thus setting off the chain reaction of questions that culminated with my sister finding out I made six digits for free while 'attending college for free' and 'getting rent paid while not doing any fucking work.' She was absolutely livid and left for a hotel."

    NBC / Via giphy.com

    "About two hours later the phone calls began from every member of my family accusing me of cutting them off so I wouldn't have to share this gift from god. The sister I got along with even got angry at me for keeping it a secret, but she understood that it would have put her in a bad position of lying to family. My phone, email, and wife's phone began blowing up for the next week while family tried to get money from me and not understanding that there wasn't any left."

    u/[deleted]

    9. William "Bud" Post III's whole life fell apart after winning $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in February 1988.

    He pawned a ring to buy 40 tickets, with another 20 added by his landlord/ girlfriend, Ann Karpik. A year after the win, Karpik sued Post and claimed he had agreed to split the money. In 1992, she won her suit and was given 1/3 of the jackpot, which amounted to $5.3 million.

    Years later, Post was the subject of an assassination attempt when one of his brothers hired a hitman to kill Post and wife in hopes of collecting the rest of the earnings, which were paid out annually.

    This is despite Post attempting to set up businesses and lending money to family members to try to keep them all afloat.  Later legal troubles would end up depleting the rest of the cash.

    10. Les Robins was a substitute teacher at a junior high school in Wisconsin when he won $111 million in the lottery in 1993.

    He instantly knew he wanted to use his winnings to make his community a better place.

    Robins built Camp Winnegator, a day camp for children on 226-acres that includes a mini-golf course, a pool, riding stables, and more. He wanted to see kids getting outside and doing the kinds of activities he enjoyed in his youth. At just $250 a week, it wasn't designed to make money, but to make memories.

    What do you think you'd do with lottery winnings, given the chance? Share in the comments!