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I won the lottery -- and I'm keeping my job

Now that we suddenly had more assets, we had to worry about protecting them.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 12, 2011 8:16AM

This post by "Tina" originally appeared as a reader story at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


Although I know the schadenfreude of reading a lottery winner's tale of woe, I want to share a more positive perspective. I also think that windfalls are more common than we realize, whether they come from inheritances, settlements or tax refunds. So here's my windfall story.


The year 2009 was a rough one financially for my husband and me. We dealt with a job loss, the birth of our first child, a very expensive medical emergency, and an unexpected move across country for a new (much lower-paying) job all at once.


Fortunately, we had a 12-month emergency fund ready, no debt, and knew how to adjust to more frugal living. (We're longtime Get Rich Slowly readers.) We surprised ourselves by how calmly we accepted the drastic changes to our circumstances.


But you never know what life has in store. Post continues after video.

My husband settled into his new job and joined a $5-a-week state lotto pool with a few co-workers. Yes, I know that the lottery is a fool's tax with astronomical odds (1:~5,000,000 in this case) but he viewed it as a bit of fun at an otherwise stressful job. My view was that it was $5 down the drain, so imagine my shock when he called to tell me the office pool had won the jackpot.


After going through a roller coaster of emotions, we met a fee-only financial planner and devised a plan.

  • First, we avoided publicizing our name by claiming the win with a trust. (Tina isn't my real name, in case you were wondering.)
  • Then we planned for taxes. The initial prize was over $10 million, but after taking the lump sum, dividing it among winners, and setting aside 40% for federal and state income tax, we were left with $1 million and some change. Not enough to retire on when you're 30 (we're keeping our jobs), but we can't complain.

Now that we had more assets, we had to worry about protecting them.


I work in a medical field with some chance for litigation, so I greatly increased liability and umbrella insurance. We set aside one-third of the cash to custom build our dream home (not a McMansion; a 2,500-square-foot ranch home on a half acre). Then we maxed out a 529 college fund for the kids. (Bonus: The contribution is tax-deductible in our state.) A portion was allotted to charity and we were left with quite a bit of cash to invest.


We decided on an 80% stock/20% bond allocation (we went more aggressive because we are relatively young and have no mortgage). We had always maxed out retirement accounts, but now needed to start taxable investing. We're using a passive, indexed approach; our retirement accounts are composed of a total bond market fund, and the taxable account is split among a total U.S. stock market fund, an international fund, and a tax-exempt bond fund.


It has been an adjustment to watch our balance fluctuate by $50,000 when we have a volatile week in the market, but the plan is to stay the course, rebalance when needed, and do lots of tax loss harvesting (we need it this year).


I've read the studies that have found no significant increase in happiness for lottery winners. Overall, I agree. We really are just as happy as we were before all this, and our lifestyle really hasn't changed. However, it's very nice not to worry about finances if we have an unexpected car repair or want to take a family vacation.


The lesson I've learned is prepare for anything. Just when you think you have life on autopilot, life throws some turbulence your way.


More on Get Rich Slowly and MSN Money:

Sep 13, 2011 3:13PM

Though I think the author and spouse were smart winners, I am a bit amused at how they and some other posters, say they are not happier or their lives have not really changed. That is of course ridiculous. SInce the author described her previous circumstances as difficult and her husbands job as very stressful (one of his reasons for playing the lottery) I find is dishonest to say he is not less stressed and they are not lighter on their feet, every time they walk into their no mortgage, brand new dream house. And how about the poster who said they were in similar cricumstances and take their children to experience new cultures but are no happier. Really? I think being able to travel and explore new cultures wiht your children must be a source of great happiness not available to folks who can not afford to do so. Yes, others find simpler ways of enjoying their chidlren etc. but certainly you are not taking these travels because they are just ho hum, middle of the road, every day occurances that are easily replaced.


Come on folks. Financial relief is a positive influence on feeling happier. And since as much as 57% of divorces are blamed on financial problems, I am thinking that removing those problems has some inflluence on being happier. Let's not be sore winners. I agree money isn't everything. But is it way ahead of whatever is in second place!

Sep 12, 2011 8:37PM

When I saw the headline on the main MSN page for this article, I thought they were talking about someone who had really won big in the lottery - and I was going to go off on the person for being selfish and keeping a job he/she didn't need when so many people are in desperate need of jobs. However, after reading the article, I don't think "Tina" is selfish at all. If she and her husband only ended up with a million dollars, she's right - that's not enough for a 30 year old to retire on.  Now if it was me, at 57, and being as frugal a person as Tina is, I probably COULD retire on a million - but it certainly wouldn't last her and her husband for 40-50 years.

Sep 13, 2011 2:43PM
good for them, glad there going to keep on working
Sep 13, 2011 4:51PM

Several people have posted mentioning the couples should "step aside" and let someone else have their jobs.  NEWSFLASH:  If you think that, then your skills, your education, your training, and your opinion are quickly becoming IRRELEVANT and UNNECESSARY.  You WILL be outsourced to China.  Do like my Grandmother used to say and light a fire under yourself and get after it. Do like my Mom and Dad used to say and get out there and HUSTLE.  No one owes you anything.


Figure out how to solve someone's problem.  That's how you get a job.  Nobody wants to hire a whiner who can't figure things out for themselves.  Learn a trade.  Get a relevant degree.  Take a second job, if you have to, for GASP, MINIMUM WAGE.

Sep 13, 2011 3:53PM
I find it funny how some people say that the people in this story are selfish because they don't open a business, or they don't quit their jobs.  Do those people not know anything about economics?  By participating in the stock market and investing in bonds, they are helping people get jobs.  The money people spend on stocks gives the companies capital to expand, give pay-raises, (more often than not, those pay-raises go to CEOs), and by extension, this gives other people jobs and better paying jobs to go and improve the economy.  What these people did was the right thing.  If you don't reward yourself with the little things, you aren't going to enjoy life.  Like they said, they didn't buy a mansion, just a large-ish home.
Sep 13, 2011 4:16PM
How can anyone be anything but happy for thes people.  Quit worrying about what they do with their money.  Its their business.  Sound like a lot of jealousy to me.  Congratulations!
Sep 12, 2011 8:41PM

I hope if anyone posting here wins a lottery they consider that buying a larger, newer house will increase other bills too...heating/cooling, property taxes, lawn care, maintenance, higher insurance.  The same goes for buying a new fancy vehicle...higher insurance, higher tag prices, higher maintenance fees.


Put your money to work for you by investing and live off the proceeds.  That makes more sense than blowing it!

Sep 12, 2011 8:30PM
Do you people know how to read. They won $1 million, not $100 million. A previous post "make jobs for people". Are you stupid? $1 million isn't doing anything except for making your own life a little more comfortable.
Sep 13, 2011 3:38PM

Wow, these posts calling them selfish for keeping their jobs are...well, the selfish comments. Even better, risk the million and start your own business. Unfortunately, 1million in today's world is not enough to retire. It is the equivalent of about a $50,000 dollar job for the next 35 years. Without healthcare. If they were older, it might have been enough, but even so, it would not have been selfish to keep a job. Jade_dragon is the um, bad word.


Sep 12, 2011 6:36PM
i (my husband and i) won a substantial sum in 1995.  he jept working and so did i... no joke.  you can find out about it in the national inquirer.... aug or sept issue.  no biggie.  still working and will as long as i can.  people are so stupid about money....  my tract house (bought in 1996) is paid in full.  have lots of $$$ in "investments" squirreled away.  have since gone back to school and now am working as a certified nursing assistant - a person that does what no one else wants to do in caring for a person.  imageine all sorts of bodily fluids and death...  i love my elder/hospice patients and will till the day i can't work anymore. 
Sep 12, 2011 6:12PM
I think I would be slightly more happy then I am now if I was living in my custom built dream house, completely paid for.
Sep 13, 2011 4:39PM
Congratulations!  I applaud your wise planning.
Sep 12, 2011 9:08PM

You know what? When I read the blogs, most information is guesswork, assumptions and information that does not relate to the subject at hand.


We Have an annual income of $72,000 dollars and an investment income of $40-45,000 per year.  The investment income is from Fixed annuities, Corporate bonds and a real estate income trust fund.  Our investment principal over the last five years (Volatile market) has gone up or down in actual liquid worth no more than $12,000 dollars.  We live on income and investments and retired at age 56 and 53.  After deductions we pay 17% Federal tax.  These young people will have amassed a pretty penny in about 15 years.  They can then retire and live off the money the money makes if invested wisely and never touch the principal.


What is erroneous is thinking when you have a million, you spend the million with no interest and/or dividends from the money making money.


Good for them!!!!

Sep 12, 2011 6:23PM
Good advice and smart thinking, they didn't go crazy and get ahead of themselves...they sat down like mature adults -devised a plan, discussed all options and made their money work for them wisely.  Bottom line is after taxes and unexpected bills, the general population would not take everything into account and realize you do not have as much as you thought you did and keep getting taxed on it as spendable income for years to come...Thanks for sharing!!  "Tina"
Sep 13, 2011 4:06PM
Excellent job! I'm  really impressed with the homework you've done.  I know two people who hit the lottery for $'s similar to yours and are broke and debt. People just don't understand money isn't what it used to be. Congratulations
Sep 13, 2011 7:05AM
WOW - smart Thinking Tina!  The people who have posted about quitting her job, shame on you, she is in a field helping people, and the medical field always has openings, they hire non-stop, so if someone REALLY needs that job, they are available. If you do not have the education to do the job, then don't complain. I personally do not anyone with the proper credentials for medical work that is out of a job right now.  With that said. The other point is why should she quit her job, she didn't win enough to live off, she is smart by investing and also she is teaching her children not to count on money.  To work for your living, not depend on someone else. That is wonderful, and a very important lesson to the next generation. 
It's easy to judge some one else when jealousy guides you. Congrats Tina , and thank goodness someone with some sense won this money. :) I wish all the best to you and your family! 
Sep 12, 2011 7:22PM
If I won the lottery I think I'd have a significant increase in my overall happiness.  I'd keep working but definitely quit my job and go back to what I really love.       

Sep 12, 2011 10:08PM
Very logical people.  She has given some very good advice.   I'm in a similar situation financially but with not quite as much money. It is nice not having to worry about finances and I do love taking my teenagers on vacations to different cultures. However, it is true; I'm not any happier because of the money...just more relieved. Happiness in an "inside" job!
Sep 13, 2011 6:33PM
A million is not that much. it does not shock me that she is going to keep her job
Sep 13, 2011 5:45PM

Enjoy your new found fortune! You should definitley not worry about other people. Take care of your family. That's all that matters...

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