Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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The price of winning the lottery

by John Halverson

December 06, 2012

"Feeling lucky?" my girlfriend's e-mail asked. "Buy a lottery ticket — did you hear the amount it's up to?"

I wouldn't want it, I answered. Really.

First, you have to agree to divulge your name to the world and be interviewed. People would look at you differently, wouldn't they? Wouldn't you look at someone slightly differently if they were worth a half billion dollars overnight?

You'd have people approaching you with "worthy causes" and some not so worthy. Would you feel vulnerable knowing everyone would know what you're worth ... and what they could take or sweet talk you out of? Could you walk the streets safely ... or would you need bodyguards? Philanthropists know how it feels to be stalked by people because they hadn't been given the money they requested.

When a friend shared a dream, would you think they were hoping you could buy it for them? Would old friends call to congratulate you and talk about how nice it would be to get together? Would you always look in their eyes and wonder if they were sincere? Would they laugh too loud at your jokes?

Would you move from the house you love? How much more can you do to it? A new truck? Maybe a different color, then what? A cabin up north? An apartment in the city? And where would you put your stuff? There'd always be something left at the other place. Of course, you could go out and buy something new. Then you'd have clothes all over the place and your favorite keepsakes somewhere else.

Would you spend hours accumulating just because you could?

Would all that money separate you from those making far less? If you traveled to Europe, would you travel first class? Might as well. If you walked around giving huge tips it would make you separate from the mainstream, the salt of the earth you come from. It might appear condescending.

Would you feel just a little superior? Or would you feel winner's guilt — that squirmy inkling that you didn't earn it?

Would you quit your job? What about the friends you've made there, the daily action and how good you feel when the day turns out better than you thought it would? Or would you keep your job and stealing that opportunity from someone who needs it far more than you?

Would you be tempted to pay off your daughter's college loans? If so, would you feel obligated to buy a new house in the suburbs for your other daughter? Would that be the right thing ... for them?

As for you and me, would it seem silly for me to pay our way for those trips on my money when you'd have so, so much? Then I'd be a kept man. Wouldn't like that.

Maybe there should be a $75,000 cap on lotteries. That's the amount of money people need to be happy, the sociologists say. I've known as many sad rich people as I have sad middleclass people. Granted, most of us don't make that much, but isn't a half billion dollars a mite gluttonous?

How many great jeans, fitted bras and scented soaps can you buy? Then what?

Then what?

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.