A few of the first words that came to mind when I finished watching the documentary Lucky. When I first read the synopsis about the movie I figured I would get a few stories about people who’ve been happy with their winnings, were saved, or screwed up their life after falling into so much money. While I did get all of that, the most interesting part of the movie to me were a few of the offhand remarks littered throughout the movie.
The most interesting to me were by a former math teacher and by a couple. The math teacher felt that after winning the lottery he lost his identity as person. All of his life he and his ex-wife (she shortly divorced him and took half after he won) were working saving up a fund for retirement and then suddenly he won. What to do now? Obviously at first he was excited about all the fun toys to buy, but reality set in on him. Why would he buy a Ferrari if he couldn’t even drive the thing down the street without messing it up? What was he going to do now that he now longer had to work towards an end goal? I believe he thought, like many do, that when he finally had enough money set up to retire that he would be too old to want to do anything else but sit back and just enjoy not working. But now being in that position, with 10 times the money, what was he to do know? Still relatively young. During one of his interview portions he is on a bench talking to another math teacher who says he would rather figure out a math theory than win the lottery. The lottery winner admits as much as well, even before he admitted to having pride in earning his money than being in the position where it falls in your lap, but he later shrinks back to the fact that having actual won the lottery is just too damn good to throw away in exchange. We’d all would be hard pressed to give that money away honestly, so I can’t bring up much effort to hate him for being honest about that fact.
The second interview that stuck out to me was the couple that won $112 million. While also enjoying so much money, and who wouldn’t, they also shrank back when having to admit to old friends, and new neighbors, about how they got their money. When they first won the lottery they stayed in their old home with their old friends. Unfortunately, but predictably, an uneasiness crept upon them. They couldn’t relate to their friends anymore. The usual talk, prior to the cashflow, was talking about things that needed fixing or about how work was that day. Now that they won, what could they talk about? They no longer shared the same problems or experiences. The couple later moved to a more affluent neighborhood buying a boat, several Porches and Ferrari. They had to sit their kids (15 and 17) down, when first winning, to discuss pre-nups. The older male said on camera that he doesn’t date, because he’s uncomfortable with how much money he has and saying he was trying to get a job at a guitar store. While the couple was happy with their new-found wealth, they are still embarrassed by the fact that they constantly make up stories about how they got their money. One of the funnier ones being that the wife is the heiress to a Peanut Butter empire (PB being at the bottom of their pool really standing for Power Ball).
Obviously, neither of the parties mentioned would not give their money back, but it’s interesting how hollow and embarrassed they feel about their wealth because of how they obtained it. The only way they can fill fulfilled is when they donate time/money to charities. Ironic the thing that can at times make them loathsome about themselves is also the only thing that makes them feel useful, after hedonistic things of course.
There were two happy parties in the documentary too. The Vietnamese emigrants being one. They left the country during, presumably, the Vietnam War. After years of working in America, they won 12 million if I remember correctly. After winning they bought a new house and built a huge one (housing 50-70 people!) in Vietnam for their entire family. The other happy winner was the rags to riches story that the media likes to pick up on when someone wins. Was a 40 year old cat man that was in a depression after his mother and father, that he took care of his entire adult life, died. After winning all he would do now is feed his 9 cats and relax in a hotel. Never spending too much money. Simple life and all that jazz.
For those that were happy or relatively happy, the only one they were able to deal with this new found life was to share their wealth with others. The couple seemingly had only been friends with their neighbors because of the shared misery of their poverty. While I would like to say it’s shallow to lose friends because of money, reality dictates overwise. Granted going up to a different tax brachet doesn’t change your character, it just puts it under a microscope as evident by every single celebrity and professional athelete ever, it does ring sad to me that the only way you’re able to identify with yourself (nevermind anyone else) is with the hope that life can change for you. People really do wish to be ordinary. Or rather, they realize how ordinary they are when they finally have the opportunity to do whatever they wish in life.