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A Routine Win

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Steve Jensen has 2.2 million reasons not to get up every morning to prepare for his swing shift at the Anaheim Post Office. But the 38-year-old Fountain Valley man, whose family won $6.5 million in the California lottery last year, remains a creature of habit.

Jensen and his older brother Scott each received a third of their father’s winnings. For Jensen, that translates into roughly $80,000 a year after taxes for the next 20 years.

But each weekday he still rises at 11 a.m., drinks a cup of Lipton tea to jolt himself awake, turns over freshwater fishing innovations in his mind and drives a half-hour to perform his duties as a distribution clerk from 3:30 p.m. to midnight.

“I just think you can only have so much free time,” said Jensen, explaining why he kept his $38,000-a-year job after his father picked six matching Quick Pick numbers in November.

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A 15-year veteran of the Anaheim Post Office, the reluctant rich man said he plans to continue sorting for the next five years. “My goal is a round 20 years, then maybe I’ll reassess,” Jensen said.

“Everybody thinks they want all the time in the world off, but then you sit down and think about it, and it’s idle time. What are you going to do?” Jensen asked. He said his job allows him “flexibility of the work schedule, a different set of hours and really good benefits.”

His post office colleagues were thrilled for Jensen, but some were puzzled that he returned.

“He’s the type of person who is set in his ways and does things a certain way,” said John Ingerson, the office’s supervisor of distribution operations. “He doesn’t go extravagant whether he has a lot or just a little.

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“That kind of money would probably change me,” Ingerson joked, “but it hasn’t changed him.”

Though eight months have passed since he began collecting his money, Jensen said his only major indulgence has been fishing. Jensen can now frequent Captain Hook’s Sport Fishing Center in Dana Point for chartered trips, learning the ways of deep water angling.

But his job and home remain the same.

Jensen lives with his parents and brother in a modest house on a quiet Fountain Valley street. It’s been their home for 30 years. Aside from a framed oversized check written from the California Lottery that leans against one of the living room walls, there’s little evidence that this is home to several millionaires.

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The living space is neat and spare, the matching couch and love seat show some telltale signs of the family pet, a cat named “Cat.”

“I love the area [and] don’t need to move to Beverly Hills,” Jensen said. “I like the neighbors around here. I wouldn’t trade it.”

A friend who grew up with Jensen said he wasn’t surprised that Jensen decided to keep his lifestyle.

“His budget’s changed a little bit, but . . . he’s just now starting to figure out he has money,” Jensen’s longtime neighbor Glenn Stanton said. “He’s a very level-headed individual, very methodical.”

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Since his windfall, Stanton said, Jensen has “started working on the house a little bit, decided to get a new carpet in the house, mostly the type of things you would do if you took a home loan.”

For Jensen, apparently, old habits die hard.

“I was just going out the door with his brother to get a Subway sandwich, and all of sudden Steve said, ‘I think there’s a coupon on the counter for one of those things,’ ” Stanton said. “I thought, ‘You’re worried about a 50-cent coupon when you’ve got millions of bucks?’ ”

Stanton added: “It’s weird to know somebody who’s won. But it’s nice to see that they didn’t become any different from it.”

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