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So, who wants to be a millionaire?

Susan says

April 04, 2012 - Chances are, you didn't win the $640-million lottery jackpot last week. Yeah, I didn't either. If I had, I wouldn't be writing this. If you had, you wouldn't be reading this.

Did you play? Not sure what the odds are on that, but I'd say better than average. According to news reports, Americans spent about $1.5 billion on tickets for the March 30 Mega Millions drawing. My husband and I spent $10. Our 19-year-old daughter bought her first lottery ticket ever for $1.

We are not regular lottery players, but like lots of people, we get caught up in the hype when the jackpot gets huge. And it's funny to me—why do we only play when the lottery tops a quarter of a billion (or in this case, more than half a billion) dollars?

It's not like you need $200-plus million to make an extreme change in your life. It's probably safe to say $1 million would make a very significant change in most people's lives, even with that number cut way down after the government takes their share through taxes.

Regardless, we played. Even though we knew the odds were astronomically against us. My husband heard on the radio he had a better chance of dating a supermodel or playing on an Olympic basketball team than winning the lottery..

But someone has to win, right? And it's fun to dream. You buy a ticket or tickets, and while you're waiting for the drawing, you're kind of like Charlie Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as he holds the chocolate bar before he unwraps it. Are you holding the golden ticket? And if you are, what will this mean for you?

Maybe you're dreaming of a mansion overlooking the ocean, a collection of expensive sports cars, world travel, never having to work another day in your life.

If you're like me, you might be looking forward to paying off bills, not having to worry about the new transmission the car needs, or all the work that needs to be done on the house, or fully funding your daughter's college education and your retirement.

You know it's not likely you will be the winner, so maybe you don't think about some of the possible downfalls to winning or tragedies that have befallen some of the people who had "luck" on their side in the past. Or maybe you don't think about it because the idea of never having to worry about finances again is too enticing to consider a possible downside.

I thought about it. I'm not sure if I thought about it because I'm an optimist ("hey, maybe I'll win this thing") or because I'm a pessimist ("hey, maybe I'll win this thing"). Or maybe I thought about it because I think it would be fascinating to interview people who have won the lottery and learn how it changed their lives, for good or ill.

Because while there would be a definite bright side to winning, there would be a dark side, too. There's a reason why lottery winners want to remain anonymous. You know that most people you know (and people you don't know) will be looking for you to share the wealth. And of course, if you win millions, there's a lot to share and you want to make others happy, especially the ones you love. But for these people that win the lottery—do they start questioning who really loves them and who just loves their money? Isn't it possible that much money could change your relationships? Change not only your family and friends, but yourself, in a negative way? Make you suspicious or paranoid or incredibly lonely or aimless?

I was curious to know the answers to these questions, so I did some research and found estimates ranging from one-third to up to 70 percent of lottery winners go broke. Some of them end up divorced. Some of them indulge in really bad behaviors including substance abuse, excessive gambling, and adultery. Some of them have committed suicide or had to fend off hitmen or watched their loved ones come to an untimely end.

I didn't win the lottery last week. I have all the same car problems, all the same house problems, all the same financial burdens. But, I know who loves me for me. I'm feeling lucky today.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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