When someone wins the lottery, do you ever wonder: What separates the winners who live “happily ever after” from the ones who wind up broke, in jail, or worse?

According to psychologist Stephen Danish, it boils down to having goals. In fact, when the Virginia Lottery hired Danish to counsel lottery winners, he found that he could often tell how well – or how badly – somebody would handle their money, just by asking about their goals. Because it’s usually the people who have a plan, long before they buy a ticket, who go on to lead successful lives. While the winners who talk only about their next spending spree, usually end up in trouble!

By the way, Danish says that pattern’s true for anyone who comes into a financial windfall – whether it’s from the lottery, or a raise at work. That’s because people with a plan are the ones most likely to view money as something that can be used for a practical purpose - like buying a dream home, paying off debt, or starting a business.

Danish says a lot of people assume that winning the lottery will instantly put them on Easy Street.  But the reality is that winning can be hard, because you’ll be bombarded by people trying to do whatever they can to take your money! And Danish says unless you have a plan that gives you a reason to say “no” to people, you’ll end up broke.

Or, at worst, you’ll end up like the Florida man who won $30 million a few years ago, and then vowed to give it all away to random people who asked for it. That led him to meeting a woman who’s now serving a life sentence in prison. Why? Because instead of taking just some of his money, she tried to get it all, by killing him!


 

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