June 21, 2001

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if he or she had procrastinated just two more days? I'm sure the individual who recently claimed the $46 million jackpot in the Big Game Lottery in New Jersey is going through a lot of "what ifs". That's right, the winner reportedly took a stack of tickets into the convenience store to check for winners on June 7, just two days before the one-year old winning ticket was set to expire.

But the story gets even better. Apparently the machine did not indicate the ticket was the big winner, but simply stated it was a winner. The clerk told the customer to mail the ticket to lottery headquarters for verification and then their prize would be mailed out. Evidently the 363-day wait to check the ticket did not carryover into the mailing process, as the winning ticket was mailed in that day.

Here is a big what if I'd be asking. What if that ticket had been lost in the mail? Or worse yet, what if it had been sent to the wrong place, and didn't arrive at lottery headquarters until the day after the deadline? I'll just say he's lucky it wasn't handled like a newspaper, because it sometimes takes as long as two weeks for the Memphis Democrat to be delivered to subscribers in other states.

Now, obviously most people that play the lottery don't honestly expect to win the big prize. Sure it might be a little fun to think about what you would do with all that money (buy a huge fishing boat and travel to every body of water in the U.S. that holds fish) but then again who really expects to win the big bucks. But can you imagine how you would feel, if you found out that you had won the grand prize, but had failed to realize it in time, and thus could not collect.

Fortunately for the New Jersey individual they will not have to go through that emotional trauma. Instead they will have to fight off all of the long lost friends and "good cause" charities that want a little piece of the pie.

Yet another what if going through the winner's mind has to be regarding the payoff. The individual checked off the lump sum choice, meaning they will take the payment all up front, which ultimately reduces the overall pay out down to just $23.7 million. Yes I said JUST. If they had accepted payments over a period of time, the accumulated winnings would have totaled $46 million, or nearly twice that amount. I don't know what kind of investments most people are involved in, but if you can double your money (guaranteed) over a relatively short period of time, I believe most investors would jump at that option. Then again, most people don't expect to win, so does it really matter whether you check off the lump sum option on the ticket.

Of course all of the questions and worries don't mean a thing right now, because the winner was presented the $23.7 million dollar check on Friday. I suspect most of the what ifs will turn into simple "whats", as in what shall I buy with all my money?

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