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How to Be a Happy Millionaire: First, Win the Lottery . . .

I know better than to write about the state lottery, because it only dredges up all the pettiness, envy and resentments I’ve built up over a half-century. I’m so warped that I’ve merged the worst of both worlds: I never buy a lottery ticket but still get ticked off when someone else wins.

While on vacation last week, I saw that another lucky slob won the big prize. This time, it was a regular guy from Anaheim, and he raked in $40.6 million. Naturally, that made me feel awful, but I was buoyed somewhat by early reports that the winner might be tormented by his windfall.

The tip-off was when he broke the news to his wife by saying, “I have a problem.” Imagine her reaction when she found out he hadn’t run out of razor blades.

With his wife in the loop, the man waited several days before revealing himself to lottery officials--almost like the fugitive who’s decided he can’t live on the lam any longer. He showed up at a local lottery office and then asked if he had to identify himself by name.

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Yessirree, the lottery people told him. They love to trumpet millionaires, all the better to reel in future suckers. They asked the Anaheim winner to express his joy, but all he gave them was a no-comment and a where’s-the-door exit line.

Since then, the new rich guy has stayed undercover. He let it be known, however, that he’s worried that sudden, ridiculously over-the-top wealth might goof up his previously uneventful life. Odd that such a question doesn’t occur to people before they buy a ticket, but, honestly, who really expects to win?

Not to worry. The lottery people have an answer for everything.

The organization offers a Winner’s Handbook for all the new millionaires, a number that has now risen to 1,432 since the California lottery began in 1985. The number of losers is not available but is greater than 1,432.

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The 12-page handbook begins with words most of us will never hear: “Congratulations, you’ve won the lottery.”

It then poses this seemingly superfluous question: “So what happens next?”

The handbook, however, lists 20 questions it believes newly minted millionaires want to have answered. Aside from tax advice and payment schedules and what happens if you croak before collecting everything, the handbook asks and answers such queries as:

* What Should I Do With the Prize Money While I’m Seeking Professional Financial Advice?

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* How Do I Find Reputable Advisors?

* What Personal Information Is Subject to Public Disclosure?

The answers are straightforward, but that isn’t the point. The problem is that the handbook doesn’t ask the right questions.

Here are some more likely scenarios for people whose lives have been turned upside down by excessive wealth:

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Q: My boss has treated me like dog food for the last 16 years. Now that I’m a millionaire, how should I break the news to him?

A: Wait until you’re asked to do a particularly odious or demeaning task. Respond with a smirk and say, “I presume you’re joking.” When he presses the issue, end the conversation with, “Oh, I guess you didn’t get the news.”

Q: My brother-in-law reminds me that five years ago he drove 15 miles out of his way to give me a lift when my ’73 AMC Gremlin broke down. Now that I’ve won the lottery, he wonders if I could give him $10,000 to take his family on a Swiss skiing vacation. Do I owe him?

A: Yes, you owe him. Repay him by giving him the Gremlin. With your winnings, you buy a new car.

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Q: I won the lottery a week ago but am experiencing winner’s remorse. I haven’t lived a virtuous life and don’t believe I deserve millions of dollars. Is there a more deserving person to whom I can transfer the winnings?

A: Yes. Contact the individual whose name appears below. Put your complete trust in him and do whatever he suggests.

Dana Parsons’ column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers can reach Parsons by calling (714) 966-7821, by writing to him at The Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or by e-mail at dana.parsons@latimes.com.


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