CPAs May Make the Best Lottery Winners

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By Teresa Ambord

You've heard the horror stories of lottery winners who blow through their winnings without seeking financial advice and end up worse off than ever. That probably won't happen to Chesapeake, Virginia, lottery winner Randy Latham.
Latham is a CPA, so the advice is free. Just days ago, after he bought a Maximum Millions scratcher that won him $1 million, he didn't rush out to quit his job and drive home in a new red Corvette. Latham is kind of a quiet guy. Instead of setting off fireworks he said, "I'm just going to put this in my pocket and go home and talk to my wife." Smart man. Actually, he said he planned to retire next year anyway, so the timing is good.
Latham purchased his ticket at a 7-Eleven store in Chesapeake. Thanks to his winning, the store received a $10,000 bonus. The state lottery sponsors dozens of scratcher games, with prizes ranging from $20 to $1 million. Latham was the twelfth million-dollar winner. Three top-prize tickets remain unclaimed.  
Latham had two choices for collecting his prize. He could've taken one before-tax payment of $564,000 or the full million over a period of twenty-five years. No doubt he ran the numbers before he and his wife chose the cash option. With his financial background, he'll likely fare better than most lottery winners. 
Here's Another Smart CPA
In 1990, a Sherman Oaks, California, accountant, fifty-eight-year-old Ralph Laird won $27.58 million, which made him the largest single lottery winner in California at that time. Plus, out of the twenty-six tickets he bought in that game, he also had five tickets that correctly named five of the six winning numbers, adding another $16,354 to his already substantial jackpot. 
How did he do that? He's a numbers guy. He told Los Angeles Times reporters that a year or so earlier he "just looked at the previous winning Lotto numbers" and chose ten that he said seemed to come up more often than the others. Then he designed a program to scramble them into every possible combination. A lottery official at the time discounted his method, assuring the public that "any statistician can tell you . . . that lottery draws are totally random." Still, his win is pretty impressive.
The Lairds collected $1.34 million, before taxes, each year for twenty years.
On the night they won, Laird's wife was in another room when the winning numbers were announced on TV. She knew they'd won when she heard four simple words from her husband: "The fat lady sang." 
Yet, according to the Los Angeles Times, they maintained their composure. They quietly retired from their jobs, helped their adult children with careers and finances, and made one big splurge for themselves. They remodeled their bathroom. 


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