What Would You Do If You Had Won the $559M Powerball Jackpot?

Do higher ed people do lottery winning differently?

January 7, 2018

The good news is that the winning ticket for the latest $559 million Powerball ticket was sold in New Hampshire.

The bad news is that I didn’t win.

According the the online Powerball Tax calculator, the after-tax lump same payment on a $559 million winning ticket is about $260 million.

So let’s say that you just won Powerball, have paid all the taxes, and now there is $260 million sitting in your checking account.

What would you do?

I’m curious if higher ed people are any better equipped to deal with lottery windfalls than those outside of academia?

Google "nightmare lottery winning stories” and you get over a million results. One list of bad lottery outcomes highlights: divorce, fire, murder, gambling, hookers, thieves, suicide, taxes, and crack.

So I’m curious about how you would change your life after winning $260 million?

As for me, I’d like to think not all that much.

From reading the stories on where lottery winners go wrong, it seems as if the worst thing you can do is to radically change your life. The secret to success for lottery winners seems to be in setting up a long-term plan for giving, and to give as much of the money away as possible.

Where lottery winners seem to go wrong is thinking that happiness will come with spending.  Economic security is a key to happiness, but nobody needs $260 million to be economically secure.  Much better to have a plan to donate the money to institutions and causes in which you strongly believe.

What winning $260 million in the lottery would do is create space to follow your passion.  My guess is that higher ed people are pretty good on the passion side of things.

Higher education is not a profession that you go into if making money is your goal. Academia is more a calling than a normal job.  One has to be incredibly stubborn in the face of the labor market and compensation evidence to pursue a life in academia.

What other profession require so many years in school for such a small chance of landing, and keeping, the sort of work that you are trained to do?

The irrationality of pursuing an academic career just might inoculate higher ed lottery winners from the worst results of winning.

Academic lottery winners, no matter where they are in relation to the tenure track, can now basically give themselves tenure. Losing the tenure lottery but winning the Powerball lottery is probably not a bad trade.

For all academics, tenured or non-tenured, winning the lottery could mean being able to say no to serving on one more committee. A $260 million nest egg would probably be enough to decline all tasks that take academics away from their teaching and scholarship.   

The folks that I know in higher ed love their teaching and their research. They just want time and space to create new knowledge and to help pass what they know along to their students.

My guess is that the lottery winning academic would not work less, they would just have the freedom to work on the things (scholarship and teaching) that gives them great joy.

Has anyone actually studied academic lottery winners?

How will you change your life if you win Powerball?


Be the first to know.
Get our free daily newsletter.


Back to Top