Editorial: Good luck also needs good management

Last updated 12:30 05/05/2012

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OPINION: An instant fortune, unfortunately, is not something many of us have to worry about.

Unlike Trev from Te Kauwhata who won $26.5 million, the third largest lotto prize in New Zealand history a month ago.

The checkout operator from the tiny Waikato town boldly went where few big winners have gone before – into the public spotlight.

He would be back at the checkout for his 5am shift the next day, he said, despite having a bank balance as long as a phone number.

This week it emerged that Trev did not manage to complete that shift as his supermarket became a magnet, and not for the groceries.

Trev's brother-in-law, who wisely did not want to be named, described chaotic scenes as people turned up not just to shop but to see Trev. You can imagine that some were there not just out of curiosity, but equipped with sob stories, investment ideas and newfound family connections.

Trev is now keeping a low profile in Auckland, working part-time in a vehicle service shop, and planning a trip to the United States.

Like too much of anything, sudden riches can cause problems, even though they are those many of us would like to have.

While Trev is in the States, perhaps he could head to the small South Dakota town of Winner to find cowboy Neal Wanless. The winner from Winner won an US$88 million lottery and said he wanted to help those who needed it most.

Within hours he became the target of pleas to help recession-hit families, and suggestions he could help out the town by paying for a new swimming pool. Wanless bought a ranch but has largely kept out of the public eye since.

More sobering is the story of Jack Whittaker who won US$113m in 2002 but was dogged by family deaths, burglaries, lawsuits, and problems with alcohol and nightclubs. He regards his big win as a curse.

In New Zealand the Lotteries Commission has guidelines on how to cope with the initial exhilaration and shock, pointers on who you should tell, how to deal with the media and financial advice.

Winners are counselled to let the euphoria of the windfall pass before spending any of it, although some financial advisers have advocated a small splurge to get it out of your system.

One Christchurch instant millionaire last year decided to tell his wife, but no-one else, including family. His reasoning: "If nobody knows that you have won, then your choices are infinite."

When you think about it, there are any number of decisions to be made with new-found wealth. Among them is whether you turn up for work the following Monday. Surprisingly, a survey of big New Zealand lotto winners found only 4 per cent had retired, while 88 per cent carried on in the same job.

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For those that do gleefully tell their boss they won't be coming in, there is the question of how to fill in all that free time. Surely even travel, shopping and dining out would get dull if there wasn't some other, higher purpose?

And where do you draw the line at helping others? Just your immediate family, or other relatives? Then there are friends who need a helping hand, and hospitals, charities and underprivileged children.

It makes you almost feel sorry for the more than 4000 first division winners since lotto started in 1987.

Almost.

- The Nelson Mail

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