Powerball-winning millionaires: It's still 'unreal'

Nov. 28, 2012 at 11:19 AM ET

Brian and Mary Lohse, who won the Powerball jackpot in September.

There could be worse troubles than becoming instant millionaires. But problems arise. 

For Brian and Mary Lohse, one of those is dealing with constant requests for money.

“You can’t help everybody. I mean, we would like to, but you can’t,” Mary Lohse said Wednesday on TODAY. “I have a stack of letters at home about this thick of people, just strangers, wanting — and you want to help them, but you can’t.  You don’t know who’s telling the truth and who’s not.”

In September, Lohse and her husband won the $202 million Powerball jackpot. The Bondurant, Iowa, couple opted for the $129.8 million cash payout option, reducing their winnings to $90 million after taxes.

But before they claimed their winnings, Brian Lohse called his attorney with instructions to put together a financial and estate planning team to help them handle their new-found wealth. That group includes an accountant, attorneys and advisers from Goldman Sachs.

Brian, a lawyer himself, had dabbled in estate planning and “knew the basics of having large amounts of money,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer.

The couple, who have three children, are in the process of creating a foundation for their charitable contributions. Brian Lohse has since quit his job to oversee the foundation work. Mary Lohse, a medical assistant, continues to work part-time. 

There have been no major splurges yet for the family, although they did buy some clothes and a pair of new cars.

Psychiatrist Gail Saltz told TODAY that winning the lottery can be a mixed blessing for some people. While many find themselves with comfortable, happy lifestyles, sudden wealth also can bring conflict for those emotionally and socially unable to handle it.

“More often than not, people are overwhelmed,” she said. “The money erodes away at their relationships, they get self-destructive and at the end of the day, they would have been better off not winning the lottery.”

Brian Lohse said his attorney advised him to take his time spending the winnings. 

"He kept saying, ‘grow into the money. You have time for all that; just grow into the money,’” he said.

Mary Lohse still plays the lottery. She said she recently won $4 and has and even purchased tickets for Wednesday’s drawing, predicted to be the largest jackpot ever at $500 million.

Brian Lohse said he still finds it “a little strange" to be called a millionaire.

"Every time we see numbers about the financial projections, we can’t fathom it," he said. "It's just unreal.”

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