$24M Dayton lottery winner’s advice: Don’t make impulse decisions

D.J. Gels just wanted to win enough money to buy a pickup truck to start his own business when he decided to buy a handful of lottery tickets in spring of 1999 at a Meyer store in Englewood.

But when the former maintenance supervisor, who still lives in the Dayton area, discovered he had won $24 million in Ohio’s Super Lotto, his ambitions changed.

“After I won, I didn’t buy the pickup truck. I just retired,” said Gels, who spoke by phone Tuesday afternoon between rounds on a golf course in Florida.

Gels, who was 43 when he won, insists he didn’t retire on impulse, but only after carefully weighing his options and considering how he would collect his winnings — a strategy he advises potential winners of today’s billion-dollar-plus Powerball drawing to heed.

Tonight’s drawing has grown to $1.5 billion because of increased sales. The odds of matching all six numbers to win the jackpot are one in 292.2 million.

The $1.5 billion prize would be paid in annual payments over 29 years. Or the winner could opt for a lump-sum payment of $930 million.

“You have six months to collect, so take your time and think about it,” said Gels, who decided to claim his winnings as annuity in 26 annual installments, rather than a lump-sum payment, in part, to make it harder on himself to squander his fortune.

“You’re not going to get the full amount, anyway, after taxes and withholdings, ,” Gels said. “I got $17 million by taking an annuity, compared to about $11 million if I had taken a lump sum. Every June, a check is directly deposited in my account. That way, I can’t run through it all at once.”

Gels also advises future lottery winners to follow his lead and maintain a low profile to avoid the wealth managers and investment advisers offering to tell them how to manage their money.

“When you win the kind of money I won, you don’t need advice on how to invest because you already have more money than most people make investing in a lifetime,” Gels said. “You don’t have to worry about investing, but you do have to protect what you’ve won.”

Still, Megan Dalton, a certified financial adviser and president of the Financial Planning Association of Southwest Ohio, said lottery winners often come to Dalton Wealth Management for assistance figuring out what to do with their winnings. Dalton’s No. 1 piece of advice for lottery winners: don’t tell anyone that you have the winning ticket, and put it in a safe deposit box as soon as possible.

“The owner of the ticket is the winner, so the first thing I would do is sign the back of it and put it in a safe deposit box, because anyone who gets their hands on it would get the money,” Dalton said. “I would not trust anyone. People can be greedy, unfortunately.”

Dalton then recommends the winner take a photocopy of the winning ticket to his or her team of financial advisers, and not make any decisions about the money until he or she consults with a professional.

“Then they’ll need an estate planning attorney, a CPA to take care of the tax, and a CRP and even a CFP for getting into investment,” Dalton said.”They will need to identify their personal goals and the goals of their loved ones and children.”

Lois Wagner of Greenville receives about $10,000 a year in installment payments from her late husband’s share of a $4 million Super Lotto jackpot he split in 1996 with 10 other men.

“It’s been like a bonus,” Wagner said. “Once a year I get this check, and I don’t need it to live on. But if I need something for the house, like a new roof or a new driveway, the check takes care of it.”

Compared to Wagner’s winnings, the prize money for today’s Powerball drawing was almost unfathomable to some people, including Waldo Cox, who was among the throngs of customers who descended on Party Lane Carry Out in Dayton to buy lottery tickets Tuesday afternoon.

“You’d have to share it, I mean spread the wealth around, no one can sit on that kind of money,” Cox said.

Those buying Powerball tickets included customers who don’t usually play — a sign that everyone wants a piece of the huge jackpot, according to store owner Dave Dediemar.

Several drawings without a winner has sent the Powerball jackpot soaring over a billion dollars for the first time in U.S. history.

“I kind of figured we’d get a billion-dollar pot eventually, but wow,” Dediemar said.

Whoever wins will have to pay 39.6 percent of the prize in federal income taxes, and any state taxes. Lottery officials expect at least 80 percent of the 292.2 million number combinations will be purchased before Wednesday’s drawing. That increases the chances — but doesn’t guarantee — that someone will win the jackpot.

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