John and Lisa Robinson’s lives were turned upside down last Wednesday night.
The small-town Tennessee couple overcame odds of one in 292 million to win a portion of the record high $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot.
They claimed their winnings in a lump sum of about $327 million, the Associated Press reports, rather than receiving 30 annual installments which would have totaled an estimated $533 million.
“We’re going to take the lump sum, because we’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” Robinson told AP. “We just wanted a little piece of the pie. Now we’re real grateful we got the big piece of the pie.”
As history assures us, a big piece of the pie does not guarantee happiness — and in some cases, it leads to the opposite. Consider the many people whose lives took a turn for the worse after winning the lottery.
As Robert Williams, a professor of health sciences and gambling studies at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, told Business Insider’s Shana Lebowitz, perhaps the biggest problem with modern lotteries is how they portray the effects of winning.
“They deceptively convey the notion that life will improve,” he says, when in fact, “we adapt to our material gains.”
“In other words, while you might be happy for the first few months after you hit the jackpot, eventually that elation will wear off and you’ll have new concerns, like the stock market,” Lebowitz writes.
Another problem that sudden wealth can lead to is lack of structure in your daily life, warns Robert Pagliarini, author of “The Sudden Wealth Solution,” who has spent 20 years working with sudden wealth recipients.
“We are used to having structure in our day. We get up, go to work, look forward to the weekends. We have challenges and goals we are pursuing,” he tells Business Insider. “Sudden wealth can flip all of this on its head. When we have more money than we could ever spend, most people quit their job — but the job provides many of us with structure, a sense of purpose, and a great deal of our social interaction. Remove this and it leaves a big void.”
That doesn’t mean sudden wealth is always a problem. While a cash windfall can turn into a nightmare overnight if you let it, “it can also be an opportunity to re-shape your life and to help family, friends, and your community,” emphasises Pagliarini.
For now, the Robinsons have no plans to quit their jobs (She works at a dermatologist’s office and he is a warehouse supervisor) or leave Munford, the small Tennessee town where they both went to high school.
They don’t even plan on buying a new house. “Big houses are nice,” the couple told AP, “But also you gotta clean ’em.”