Instant Wealth

Feb 5, 2001
How would instant weath change your life? It seems this guy can not handle it.I have a frind from Beckly WV were he hangs out and he is always telling me about his exploits.

No fairy tale life for lottery winner
By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY
HURRICANE, W.Va. — Despite having millions, Jack Whittaker lost what he prized the most: His granddaughter.

Jack Whittaker celebrates with his granddaughter Brandi Bragg at West Virginia Lottery headquarters in 2002.
AP file

Jack Whittaker is the biggest lottery winner in U.S history. But after the latest episode in a long, dazzling reversal of fortune, few of his neighbors would call him lucky.

Since Christmas 2002, when he hit a record $314.9 million Powerball jackpot, Whittaker has had hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash stolen from his cars, home and office. He has pleaded no contest to assaulting and threatening to kill a bar manager. He has twice been arrested on drunken-driving charges and was accused of groping women at a racetrack.

This week, he lost what he said he valued most. His 17-year-old granddaughter, Brandi Bragg, was found wrapped in a tarp under a junked van outside her boyfriend's house near Scott Depot. State police said her body had been there for weeks but would not comment on a report that she died of a overdose. Her funeral will be Christmas Eve.

It has been an unlikely odyssey for a lottery winner who seemed better prepared than most for sudden wealth. Already a successful builder, Whittaker pledged a tenth of his winnings to the church and millions more for the poor.

This week's tragedy "doesn't seem fair," said his pastor, the Rev. C.T. Mathews, for whom Whittaker is building a $4 million church on a hilltop here. "Jack is devastated. That was the apple of his eye. She was his only grandchild."

Brandi's inspired pity even in those who had tired of Whittaker's problems.

"Instead of symbolizing the carefree happiness of wealth, the Whittakers are truly objects of public empathy," the Charleston Gazette editorialized Wednesday. "Poorer folks feel their pain."

Whittaker lives in Putnam County, a fast-developing area west of Charleston. Everyone here, even those who never met him, refer to him simply as "Jack." And everyone agrees on his problem: too much money.

Whittaker, 57, did not speak to reporters. But last week, when his wife, Jewel, appealed for information about their missing granddaughter, she said she wished her husband never won the lottery. Had she known what was ahead, "I would've torn up that ticket."

Good intentions

Whittaker bought that ticket for $1 at the convenience store where he stopped mornings to buy breakfast. He checked his ticket after the drawing on Christmas night two years ago but went to bed thinking he'd missed by one digit. The next day, hearing the winning ticket had been sold at the store, he double-checked. He had won the biggest undivided lottery pot in American history.

He appeared at a news conference with a big smile and a big black Stetson. He chose a one-time payout: $114 million, after taxes.

When Whittaker flew to New York City for TV appearances a few days later, Brandi came along. She had blond hair, hazel eyes and the same big smile as Grandpa.

"This little means the world to me," Whittaker said. When Brandi said she was afraid of flying, Whittaker replied, "I'll hold your hand."

Whittaker said he didn't want or need the money himself but was looking forward to seeing it enjoyed by his wife, daughter and granddaughter. Brandi's needs, at the time, were simple: She wanted a new car, and she wanted to meet Nelly, the hip-hop star.

Whittaker made good on his philanthropic promises. He formed a foundation that launched a campaign to eventually feed and clothe poor people in each of West Virginia's 55 counties. He also gave a total of $7 million to three preachers and began to build two churches. Whittaker has given about $20 million to charity, according to his lawyer.

The 10% tithe — giving back to God what God has given — is a biblical concept. But soon Whittaker's life began to evoke the Old Testament's trials of Job. It started in August 2003, when Whittaker had $545,000 in cash and cashier's checks stolen from his SUV outside a strip joint called the Pink Pony. His image as a drinker, gambler and carouser was established.

Through it all, Whittaker neither apologized nor explained. Not after his first drunken-driving charge: "It doesn't bother me, because I can tell everyone to kiss off." Nor after he was criticized for driving a gas-guzzling Hummer: "I won the lottery. I don't care what it costs."

Feeling overwhelmed

He made one concession. "If I had to do it all over," he told the Associated Press a year ago. "I'd be more secluded about it."

Meanwhile, relatives who were supposed to enjoy the jackpot weren't. Jewel Whittaker felt overwhelmed by the demands of philanthropy. A day rarely passed without at least one stranger coming to the Whittakers' door with a story and a request. For Brandi, the money was too much too soon. She got her car and, by some accounts, five or six others.

In the AP interview, Whittaker said Brandi had lost most of her old friends. "They want her for her money and not for her good personality," he complained. "She's the most bitter 16-year-old I know."

Jewel said Brandi, whose mother is ill, would disappear for days at a time. In September, one of her teenage friends was found of a overdose in the Whittakers' home while Jewel and Jack were away.

On Dec. 9, the Whittakers reported Brandi missing. The family had last seen her alive on Dec. 4. Police found her body Monday under an old red van turning to rust in an overgrown, snow-covered yard.

It was the property of Steve Crosier, father of Brandi's boyfriend, Brandon Crosier. The elder Crosier said Monday he was told Brandi died of a overdose. He said his son panicked and moved her body outside. An Tuesday found no sign of , and police said they do not suspect foul play.

Before Wednesday night's Powerball drawing, the jackpot stood at $30 million — a pittance compared with Whittaker's pot. Even so, the store where he bought his fateful ticket had plenty of lottery players. "A lot of them say, 'Jack this, Jack that,' " store clerk Stephanie Kidd said. "They want to win like Jack."
Feb 3, 2001
You don't own the money it owns you, we all think that kind of money wouldn't change us, but what it really does is change the people around us.

Still all in all I'd like the opportunity to prove that theory wrong,


Musical Director
Mar 22, 1999
The average chance of going bankrupt in the US in the next five years is about 1 in 7000. About 1 in 7000 Americans will go bankrupt in the next five years.

Among those who receive unexpected cash payments (be it lottery, legal settlements, unexpected inheritances, etc.) in excess of one million dollars, two of three are bankrupt within five years.

It makes no sense. Receiving a million or more bucks INCREASES your chance of bankruptcy from 1-in-7000 to 2-in-3.

Notice, also, the lack of "old money" in America. Oh, there are examples, sure. But you just don't see very many families that have been rich for generations. There's an old saying, "In America, the first generation earns it, the second generation preserves it, and the third spends it."

The majority of Americans are simply unable to deal with large sums of money.

Esav Benyamin

Apr 6, 2000
"Easy come, easy go."

What old money there is -- and there is -- doesn't talk about it.
Jan 31, 2001
Gollnick said:
The majority of Americans are simply unable to deal with large sums of money.

Well, there are very good reasons for that. They didnt earn it, so why not spend it on instant gratification for themselves. They think it is so easy to make the money work for themselves, not remembering the trouble that small amounts of money are is only multiplied when applied to large sums.
Nov 25, 2000
akivory said:
This week's tragedy "doesn't seem fair," said his pastor, the Rev. C.T. Mathews, for whom Whittaker is building a $4 million church on a hilltop here. "Jack is devastated. That was the apple of his eye. She was his only grandchild."


I don't know why the preacher would say that. It's not like a bunch of natural disasters hit him in succession. I could sympathize with that, but everything that's happened has been a direct result of his, or her own actions.
Feb 2, 2002
I would buy about 50 Randalls, 50 Busses, and a unique example of every Chris Reeve folder I could find. After that, chances are I would be bankrupt.


Musical Director
Mar 22, 1999
In general, most of the taxes we have in the US are essentially taxes on intelligence. You can point to many examples to the contrary, but generally-speaking, people who earn higher incomes tend to be either star atheletes, Hollywood stars, or people who are intelligent. So, the income tax tends to tax people who are intelligent. It's a tax on intelligence. Property taxes are similar. People who own big, fancy houses tend to be more intelligent. Ditto luxury taxes. Sales tax works similarly.

But the intelligent people in America have said, "No More!" So governments had to some up with some way to tax supidity. The answers are legalized gambling and lottery.

Lottery, it's a tax on stupidity.

Years ago, I was having my breakfast at a local bar/grill when a man stumbled out of the video poker room and sat down at the bar and declared that he'd just lost his last dollar on video poker. He came in short on money to pay his rent, so he intended to play video poker and win enough to make it up. But, instead, he lost it all. The bar keeper offered him a complimentary bud. I probably made my usual, "Lottery, a tax on stupidity," comment and the next thing you know we were squaring off for a fight. Seriously, I was convinced that I was gonna have to fight this guy. Then, the music played, the special music that only plays when someone hits the biggest possible jackpot in Oregon lotto, $6000. I love that music because the winner always buys a round for everyone. A joyous people streamed out of the video poker room obviously centered on one man.

"Which machine?" my would-be boxing partner demanded.

"Second from the right," came the reply.

"That was MY machine! I've been playing that machine all morning! That's MY money!"

And my boxing match was abruptly canceled as my opponent took off after the other guy but was restrained by several members of the crowd.

Anyway, overall I think I'm the biggest real winner in the Oregon Lottery since everytime someone hits a big jackpot on those video poker machines, he buys a round for the house.
Sep 16, 1999
Gollnick said:
... So, the income tax tends to tax people who are intelligent. It's a tax on intelligence.

...Lottery, it's a tax on stupidity.

If someone with a bit of intelligence were to win big, they should be able to come up with a plan. With my measley IQ, here's my plan:

1. Call the phone company, remove my phone number from the listing.
2. Call a family friend who happens to be a lawyer and get a referral for a tax attorney.
3. Call an old friend who is a Certified Financial Planner.

With the right planning, someone who gets a lump sum of 6-7 figures should be able to set up a very comfortable lifestyle, preserve capital, and minimize taxes - without ever worrying about having to work again. Some $$ could be set aside to splurge. As long as you don't go nuts on splurging, you should be OK.


Oct 21, 1998
My uncle won a Missouri lottery, just over $2 million. He opted for the 25 year payout ($85,000 per year) rather than the lump sum (about $800,000). He is 56 with 20 years as a social worker with the city jail. He decided to retire (duh!) and lives comfortably with his full pension and annual lottery payment. He bought a Honda Accord and a new house (pure middle class, not a mansion at all) and baby sits his granddaughter as often as possible. He seems very content and thanks God every day for his situation.
Feb 27, 2001
I come from a family of money. My FIL is a billionaire. This xmas he gave my wife and I a very large sum of money. In the past he has given us gifts of $50,000 or more. Yet I think my FIL is one of the most miserably unhappy people in the world. What I think is that money is money. The more you have the bigger your bills become. My wife and I have always tried to work hard. Earn our wages and live by the simple rule ..

save some
spend some
give some away.

When you live modestly there is great joy in life..saving for that sebenza, is half the fun of owning it. But when money becomes your master suddenly and almost unperceptibly the vacation at the state park isnt good have to ski at steam boat. and your old school isnt good enough for your kids and they have to attend a private academy where the parents are interviewed and the name of the school is in latin. Does it all make sense..not in my cant take it with you.Edited to add Jack W. story is one reason I never play the lottery...
Sep 2, 2003
It's not just in America where this sort of thing happens. Right here in good old Oz there are any number of stories of big lottery winners who end up bankrupt not too long afterwards. It seems that people who have never had much money just don't seem to be capable of handling it when they suddenly get it. Maybe if they've worked long and hard and earned it they learn how to appreciate and handle it, but not sudden wealth.

I know if I won a lot of money the very last thing I would do is tell anyone. I don't suddenly need hundreds of new "friends".
May 17, 2002
IMO money owns the weak. If you can't handle it it's nothing but your own fault. It obviously makes many things easier unless you consciously decide to make your situation worse.

The appeal of wealth has made many people turn this subject into a philosophical discussion, but it is what it is: a certain good making one's everyday life more convenient compared to a middle class citizen's life.
Dec 28, 1999
money is a social represation of the life energy we as humans exchange in order to barter for those things that susstain life. In truth though it is the nature of our lives to have such an amount of money is obcene, but it results from the wager if what some consider an insigficant portion of their life (current min income rate 5.25 ph) about 20 min. to get the chance to get unbelivable returns. The same mass exchange occurs thoughout our society, the few sell to th masses who exchange a little for something they are inticed to desire.
Sep 2, 2004
I'd risk it. I worry all the time about having enough money to live on, retire on and send my son to school on. I worry about my Mom living on a tiny social security pension. I've got plenty of money to live on, but if something happened, I don't have much of a security blanket.

I wouldn't drive around with a half million dollars in my truck, though :rolleyes:
Mar 28, 2004
There are so many instances of this in the UK there was a whole TV programme a few weeks ago looking at all of the 'lottery failures'

I think most people think they could handle it, but I guess we dont know until we try.