September 14, 2014

Florida's Lottery Winners

A-Lotto Money

The financial adviser for a mother and son who won the $590.5-million Powerball in May has seen his life change nearly as much as theirs.

Lilly Rockwell | 10/3/2013

Taking His Own Advice

Long before he became a financial adviser, David Rush was a network correspondent for NBC News. Over his career, he covered parts of three presidential administrations and financial affairs and co-produced a radio documentary on lottery winners.

"One lady won a million bucks," Rush says. "So she bought a $2-million house." She also purchased an expensive Cadillac, he says. "The first thing she did was not make the payments, and she went bankrupt."

Rush says that convinced him that "if I ever win the lottery, I know exactly what I am going to do." After leaving NBC News in 1987, he become a financial adviser in Naples.

Over the years, he advised four lottery winner clients, and in 2002, he got the chance to follow his own advice, winning $14 million as part of a $104.5-million lottery jackpot.

"It was quite a shock," Rush says, speaking from his summer home in North Carolina. "I started hearing from people we hadn't heard from in years, congratulating us, or from local people who wanted us to donate to their cause." He was inundated with letters. "I got 1,500 letters asking for money and 102 marriage proposals. I finally stopped taking any mail if it wasn't from somebody I knew," Rush says. He even had one stalker, he says.

Despite the distractions, Rush was able to stick to the plan he had formulated more than 20 years before, which revolved around "church, charity and children and grandchildren."

At 71, he was already planning to retire soon and did the following year. He set up college funds for grandchildren and great-grandchildren and gave his own children their inheritance early. "We gave 85% of it away originally," he says, to family and also to "food programs, housing programs and some people we knew casually who got into financial problems. They didn't ask us for money. We gave it to them." That left him with $2 million, which he wound up giving away within five years.

"I was better prepared than most because I was a financial adviser," says Rush, now 82.

His life isn't much different now than it would have been without the lottery, he says. "It enabled us to retire a little more comfortably," Rush acknowledges.

The main difference, he says, was that now he was branded a "lottery winner" and became the subject of gossip and incorrect assumptions among neighbors in his close-knit community of Marco Island, which is just south of Naples. "People are funny about money," Rush says.

Tags: Banking & Finance

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