West Virginia Lottery players, you better get your tickets soon. The Powerball jackpot is growing fast with an estimated $550 million up for grabs. The next drawing is at 10:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.
If you were to stack $100 bills on top of each other, $550 million would be as tall as Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chigaco, IL. In case you were wondering, that is 1,729 feet tall! Now you know.
West Virginia Lottery’s latest Powerball winners
Over 6,000 lottery players in West Virginia won a cash prize in the March 16 drawing. However, no one even came close to winning the jackpot. The largest price won was $200. You can do better, West Virginia.
A player did come close in January, though.
Stanis Tabler of Charles Town won $1 million when he correctly matched all five white balls.
He delayed telling his wife, though and asked the Lottery to play along. The formal announcement came a few days later on his wife’s birthday.
Tabler spoke to Herald-Mail Media:
“I took her out to breakfast for her birthday on Saturday and had balloons for her. I gave her a framed photograph of me holding the giant check and told her, ‘Happy birthday.’ This is what every woman wants. A picture of me. She was shocked and couldn’t believe it when I told her. She said it was the best birthday ever.”
Not all lottery winners are winners, though
Since 1992, West Virginia has had eight Powerball jackpot winners. Of course, who can forget Andrew Jackson “Jack” Whittaker, Jr. winning the 2002 Powerball?
Whittaker made national news by holding a winning ticket worth $315 million. At the time, it was the largest jackpot ever won by a single winning ticket in the history of American lottery.
Ask Whittaker today, and he will likely tell you winning the lottery was a curse, not a blessing.
After winning the big one, Whittaker promised to start a charitable foundation to help the needy in West Virginia.
West Virginians saw Whittaker as a hero. He sounded so sincere and well-intentioned people began suggesting he should be the next governor of West Virginia.
He gave money to and bought a house and car for, Brenda, who made his favorite biscuits at the convenience store he frequented.
But things turned ugly quickly. People started waiting for Whittaker at the convenience store. They loitered in the parking lot waiting to pounce on him and ask for money.
Brenda spoke about the never-ending requests for money to Washington Post.
“A lot of them, they had cancer, or their child was dying. Different stuff like that, which was heartbreaking. It would even make you want to reach in your own pocket.”
Whittaker had to stop going to the convenience store. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop people from asking him for money.
The never-ending requests for money and visits to the casinos and strip bars affected his marriage and tore his family apart. In fact, several altercations with the law ensued.
Even his longtime biscuit-maker, Brenda, saw the change in Whittaker’s demeanor, noting:
“It seems like money brings out the ugly in people.”
However, Whittaker did keep his promise to build a new church. The new Tabernacle of Praise has 500 seats and not nearly enough people to fill them. Many locals won’t come into a church that was paid for by Jack Whittaker.
Upon reflection on the family’s hardships, Whittaker’s wife, Jewell, said:
“I wish I would have torn the ticket up.”
Don’t be like Jack; What to do if you win the lottery
To avoid Whittaker’s fate don’t brag about winning the lottery – especially before talking to experts. And in case you didn’t know, the first thing you should do is sign the ticket.
A lottery ticket is similar to cash in that it holds the value. Whoever signs the ticket owns the ticket. If you lose the winning ticket and someone else finds it and signs it, it’s theirs. Losers weepers, finders keepers and all that.
Here are some other tips for avoiding the pitfalls that can befall a big windfall.
Bragging about winning was Whittaker’s first and most critical mistake.
Anonymity is available in West Virginia – use it! You don’t want the whole world asking you for money or to have to hire private security for you and your family.
Choose annuity payments over a lump sum
Another of Whittaker’s big mistake was giving away too much money without proper vetting.
With a lump-sum payment, you can invest the money now and earn a return. But, there is a risk in investing and you might be tempted to spend far more than you should. An annuity will limit foolish spending and your exposure to too many “hardship” requests.
Assemble the right team
Besides giving away too much money, Whittaker also spent too much money on the wrong things.
With money comes complexity and temptation. You need a plan for your money. A team of financial and legal experts, not family members, will protect you. It will help you avoid scams, deal with taxes and investment, and help keep you from spending too much and spending on the wrong things.
What are your odds of winning the Powerball?
So, what are the odds of winning 1,729 feet of 100 dollar bills?
Honestly, they are not good. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are just 1 in 292.2 million. Here is a complete breakdown of the odds for each prize.
Numbers Matched Prize Amount Odds of Winning
5 + Powerball Jackpot 1 in 292,201,338.00
5 w/o Powerball $1 million 1 in 11,688,053.52
4 + Powerball $50,000 1 in 913,129.18
4 w/o Powerball $100 1 in 36,525.17
3 + Powerball $100 1 in 14,494.11
3 w/o Powerball $7 1 in 579.76
2 + Powerball $7 1 in 701.33
1 + Powerball $4 1 in 91.98
Powerball $4 1 in 38.32
West Virginia lottery players have until 9:59 p.m. on March 20, to buy their ticket. Click here to locate a WV Lottery retailer near you.