As I write this, the per capita income of Chino Hills has remained steady.
That’s because the winner of the billion dollar lottery jackpot whose winning ticket was bought in that fair city has not come forward.
No matter. He, she or they will emerge soon enough. There’s a lot of work to be done in preparation to be unimaginably wealthy.
There are accountants and financial advisers and lawyers and public relations specialists and security firms to be hired.
There are phone numbers to be changed, mail to be redirected to post office boxes, social media accounts to be closed.
When you have a few hundred million in the bank, you’ll make thousands of new “friends.” To put it bluntly, you will be stalked. And even though anonymity is not an option in this state, keeping a low profile is.
Of course, that’s assuming that the winning ticket wasn’t wrapped up inside a Taco Bell napkin and tossed in a trash can. After all, an astonishing $2.04 billion went unclaimed in one recent year.
Whatever the outcome, I was reminded of the pitfalls of sudden wealth when I read about the Tennessee couple who won a share of the Powerball lottery worth a cool $327 million.
John and Lisa Robinson said they plan to pay off the mortgage on their small house in Munford, Tennessee, pay off their daughter Tiffany's student loans and go back to work. They appeared at a press conference with their dog.
John, a warehouse supervisor, and Lisa, who works at a doctor’s office, said they hoped the family could now enjoy their good fortune in peace.
“We’re common people,” John, 58, said. “We’re just like y’all are.”
Not any more, John. Y’all have ceased to be common.
The guys down at the warehouse will slap you on the back and congratulate you. Before long, some will approach you with a tale of woe about their financial situation and ask for money. More will follow. Others will try to get you involved in a hair-brained investment scheme.
Your church pastor will wonder if you will tithe 10 per cent of your income. Your daughter will receive marriage proposals and wonder if it’s about love or money.
You will be rich beyond your wildest dreams and, like to or not, it will define who you are.
Yet, other rich people will keep their distance. They will consider you a nouveau riche rube who fell into a fortune. Your middle class friends will drift away. No more chat about where to get the best price on a pickup truck or a new refrigerator. You’re not one of them anymore.
But hopefully you will find satisfaction in giving back to your community and supporting worthy charities. A lot of them will be knocking on your door.
It remains to be seen if you develop a taste for fancy cars, mansions, private jets and other trappings of wealth. You seem like down-home folks but money has a way of altering life styles.
Be wary, however. According to a study by researchers at Vanderbilt University, the University of Kentucky and the University of Pittsburgh, the more money you win in the lottery, the more likely you are to end up bankrupt.
Among other things, researchers also found that lottery winners tended to have below-average education and income, which might translate into lower financial literacy than the average not-so-financially-savvy person.
That fact is underscored by these chilling tales:
In 2003, Callie Rogers was 16, living with foster parents in the U.K. and working as a shop clerk. And then she bought a lottery ticket.
She won $3 million in the National Lottery and, despite early insistence that she would continue to live frugally, bought four large homes, several new cars and had two breast augmentations. She admits to spending freely on cocaine. It wasn’t long before the money was gone and Rogers ended up working as a maid.
With less than $3 in his checking account, Bud Post pawned a ring for $40 and spent the proceeds on Pennsylvania Lottery tickets. When he walked away with a $16.2 million jackpot, it seemed as though his luck had changed.
But no. His brother hired a killer to take Post's life (but only after Post purchased businesses and cars for him and his siblings). Post also made some questionable financial decisions, like buying an airplane he could not fly.
To clear other debts, Post sold the rights to his remaining lottery payments, but ended up spending his last $2.65 million on two homes, several motorcycles, three cars, a truck and a sailboat, among other things. He racked up seven marriages, too.
Post eventually was arrested for firing a gun at a bill collector and was charged with assault. Nearly penniless, the lottery winner eventually served the sentence and then lived on a $450 disability payment until he died at age 66, eight years after winning big.
On the other hand…
Allen and Violet Large made headlines in 2010 not only for winning $11.2 million in the lottery, but also for giving most of it away. When the Canadian pair, in their 70s at the time, received the money, they decided that others needed it more. After setting up their family members financially, the Larges chose to donate the majority of their winnings to hospitals and other charitable organizations.
When Les Robins won the $111 million jackpot in 1993, it was the highest Powerball jackpot to date. It's likely that his background as a middle school teacher inspired Robins to use a large portion of his winnings to build a day camp for children. Camp Winnegator is still going strong.
One winner, former Georgia truck driver Ed Nabors, decided to take a simpler route than most when he claimed half of a $390 million prize. He chose to call it a day and go fishing.
It may have been the best decision of all.
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.