Book Review – How Winning the Lottery Changed My Life

Winning the lottery. Most of us have contemplated the possibility (and a depressing number of people are counting on it to fund their retirement). But while we may imagine an endless party where we can spend thousands of dollars each day and never run out of money, what is winning the lottery really like?

How Winning the Lottery Changed My Life attempts to answer that question, looking at how the life of one winner of the April 2006 Missouri Powerball drawing, Sandra Hayes, has changed since winning. As the subtitle, ‘Windfall: A Blessing or a Curse?’ might indicate, it’s not all champagne and luxury cars. Is the book a worthwhile read next time you’re ready to head out to buy some lottery tickets? Let’s read on and find out!


How Winning the Lottery Changed My Life opens with a short chapter (all the chapters are fairly short) discussing how Hayes and her fiancee were sharing an evening watching a television program about her life since being part of a group that won the Missouri Powerball lottery. The second chapter then flashes back to shortly before the winning occurred, discussing how the author felt overwhelmed by her chronic disease and the need to get a second job to cover her bills, particularly her second Master’s degree student loans. She discusses how she made some deep prayers, looking to God for guidance.

The next few chapters then describe how she entered into the lottery with her coworkers (as is fairly common in some offices, at least when the amount of prize money to be awarded gets particularly large), discovered that they had won, and then went through the process of collecting their money. There is discussion of the process of verifying their winnings, as well as deciding how to receive their payments.

The next section covers the actual receipt of the money, as well as some of the problems that can arise with with such a large (and well-publicized) windfall. From having to hire a whole team of money managers to help her handle her new wealth, to quitting her job to help cut down on the number of people calling for a hand-out, there are numerous issues discussed that might not be apparent to the typical lottery player. This section does end on a positive note, discussing how Hayes was able to set up college funds for her grandchildren and donate to a charities, particularly one that had helped her in the past.

The book then covers how Hayes was approached by a television station that wanted to film a reality show about her and several of the other lottery winners called Million Dollar Christmas, documenting their first Christmas as millionaires. She agreed, although as result of some of the ways in which she was portrayed (and some of the responses some of her friends and family gave to the television show questions), she expresses some regret in having gone through with the show.

The final portion of the book covers how Hayes’ life has changed, and what her life is currently like. It discusses how the Missouri Lottery Association holds a three-day event called ‘The Millionaires’ Reunion’, where past winners are given a chance to mingle, work to support charities, and learn how to manage their money. There is the discussion of how she met (or re-met, as they had known each other when they were younger) her current husband. The book closes with a discussion of how winning the lottery has been largely a blessing, but there are a few negative elements that have come with it.


How Winning the Lottery Changed My Life provides an interesting behind the scenes look at the life of a lottery winner. Both the good and the bad aspects of having won are included in the course of the book, helping to provide a more balanced view on what winning is like.


The book is very, very short (under fifty pages, and maybe a half hour read or so). There’s not much advice that would be of use to a new lottery winner. Even as strictly a bibliographic account, it’s shy on the details of how things have changed for Hayes after her win, sticking to generalities and not getting into much detail of her personal life.  (The discussion of her husband, for example, was limited to one chapter, itself only two pages long.)


How Winning the Lottery Changed My Life provides an interesting look at a lottery winner’s life. That said, there’s not much included in this book that isn’t mentioned in most magazine or newspaper stories about lottery winners. Add in the very short length, and it’s probably better to just read about lottery winners’ lives online.

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