From the sudden wealth syndrome files I offer Powerball winner Christopher Shaw: Slabbed by too much of a good thing?

Christopher Shaw / AP Photo

It is said a picture is worth a thousand words and I think that is the case today as I get a chance to indulge one of my intellectual passions in behavioral finance and its kissing cousin behavioral economics and introduce Missourian Chris Shaw to the Slabbed Nation. Chris, hit the last powerball jackpot catapulting him to the ranks of the hectomillionaires and the top 1% of this nations wealthy. Chris is truly blessed right? Probably not due to a phenomenon termed Sudden Wealth Syndrome but first lets start with the Sarah Wire’s AP report courtesy of Yahoo:  

A Missouri man who won a $258 million Powerball jackpot and plans to use some of the money to pay bills and take his children to Disney World says he hasn’t decided yet if he’ll quit his job at the convenience store where he bought the winning ticket.  

Chris Shaw — a 29-year-old tattooed father of three who was raised by his grandparents in rural southern Missouri — came forward Thursday as the winner of the 10th-largest Powerball jackpot ever. Shaw said he had just $28.96 in his bank account and recently bought a 1998 Ford Ranger from a friend who agreed to let him pay off the $1,000 price $100 at a time. Now, he said, he no longer has to worry about how he’ll pay his friend — or his utility bills.  

“We didn’t come from money. For us it’s just going to be a huge relief to know I’m going to be able to pay my electric bill, my gas bill,” Shaw told the Associated Press. “It’s like a weight lifted. I had bills at home I didn’t know how they were going to be paid.”  

So far so good right? Most everyone dreams of financial independence, especially those on the bottom rungs of our economic ladder. But money invariably changes the equation and there has been no better researched facet of this overall topic than NFL players. In fact  diehard fans witnessed 32 new millionaires made just last night via the first round of the NFL draft. Let’s visit with NFL retiree Martin Chase who wrote a very good article which descibes the process:

One of the questions people always ask me about being an NFL player is, “what is it like making so much money at such a young age?”

I have to say that it is very difficult to go from being young and having no money to being young and a millionaire because you do not know how to be financially responsible. It’s just like winning the lottery, and as you know from reading about lottery winners, most lottery winners go broke within 10 years after winning the lottery. Well, it is not that much different with professional sports players. The reason for this is most professional athletes, and lottery winners, were never taught money management skills. Going from being broke one day to being a millionaire the next day is a huge change in your life, mostly because once you have money, everybody wants you to give it to them, and most of the time you do.

I came from a single family home without a father, which is something many professional NFL players have in common. I am also African American and my family did not have a lot of money, which is also very common among NFL players. Because of this, I was never taught how to manage money responsibly and plan for my future. I went from being broke one day to being drafted into the NFL and becoming a millionaire.

A huge problem with being young and having a lot of money is the pressure by just about everybody including fellow players to spend a lot of money very quickly. When you are rich, everybody wants your money, especially your family and friends. My mother, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc. all wanted to borrow money from me. And of course I gave it to them. Then, you have girlfriends and wives who want you to buy them lots of expensive presents like cars, jewelry and clothes because you are rich and they want to show off to their friends. You also have charities, investors, and businesspeople all asking for your money–and you end up giving it to them.

The problems are actually worse in the NFL because of peer pressure as Martin continues:

But possibly the worst of all is the other players because when it comes to money it is the blind leading the blind. We all spend our money as if it will never run out because we are uneducated in financial responsibility. For example, for you to be cool and respected by the other players, you have to keep up with them. So, if one player buys a new SUV, you want to buy one too. I mean, you can’t be an NFL player and drive a normal car like a Honda Civic. You have to drive an expensive Hummer, Cadillac Escapade, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, etc.

You also have to have a huge expensive house. All the other players do and if you just live in an average house, they look down at you. So, we spend a fortune buying huge houses for ourselves and for our parents that we do not need. And of course there is the jewelry. We spend so much money on jewelry it is insane. It is nothing for a player to spend $100,000 a year or more buying jewelry, and that is just for us. That does not include all the jewelry we buy for our family, wives, and girlfriends. It is all extremely irresponsible. But, when you have so many people putting pressure on you every day to buy things and keep up with the other NFL players, it becomes much easier to say yes than to say no, even as you are watching all of your money disappear.

We see this play out real time and while I’m not much on ballroom dancing this topic is what I think about when Mrs Sop is tuned into the popular TV show Dancing with the Stars Monday and Tusday nights as the following youtube embed showing NFL receiver Chad Ochocinco blowing 5 figures on a diamond ring illustrates. Chad no doubt blew the money in an attempt to get to know his instructor Cheryl Burke on a more personal level and such behavior is why I feel confident in saying he will be broke within 3 years of leaving the league.


And this bring us back to Chris as one naturally wonders if he will be able to avoid the pitfalls we’ve described. I found a good bit with a simple google search but this Boston Globe article tells the story of lottery winners Pat and Erwin Wales who beat the odds that stands out among the links I viewed along with this story from MSN which offers tips in dealing with becoming wealthy overnight. I thought the most valuable tip in that piece was taking a time out. For finanical advice I would find an advisor that is “fee only” and I would begin my search for an advisor in the economics and finance departments of the Universities there in Missouri. We’ve profiled one such person from Missouri here on Slabbed in Dr William K Black of the University of Missouri Kansas City. Even if Dr Black doesn’t do personal wealth managment I bet he could recommend someone good who does (and would happily do so).  Good luck Chris and congratulations.


14 thoughts on “From the sudden wealth syndrome files I offer Powerball winner Christopher Shaw: Slabbed by too much of a good thing?”

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  4. I haven’t won anything since I hit the jackpot at the county fair when I was in 5th grade – a ten year subscription to the Farm Journal! Not exactly “sudden wealth” but it was years before I stopped filling out forms at every booth.

  5. The mega millions jackpot has renewed interest in Sudden Wealth Syndrome. I have my 10 quickpicks and am ready to test these theories first hand.


    1. i was behind a guy at a gas station tuesday. he bought 5 megamilllions at $1per and added the multiplier at $1per. i felt the need to ask this guy, 70 or so, if he felt the $350million would not be sufficient but bit my tongue. …is there much of a statistical advantage of buying more than 1 ticket?

  6. Bet ya’ Mr.Shaw has a new set of pearly whites cept’ he probably can’t whistle thru his teeth to call the chickens to feeding time round his gold plated double wide.

  7. Hey Christ,I wouldn’t drive through (spit) Mississippi on your way to Florida with the family. You’ll be labled then you’ll be robbed of everything, just saying.

  8. this is the best rgs to riches story everr

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