Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 9, 2012

Lottery winnings 'killed' Michigan woman

— By Don McNay

CNHI News Service

Amanda Clayton was not your typical millionaire.

In her short life, Amanda won a million-dollar lottery in Michigan, was convicted of collecting welfare after she got the lottery payout and found herself embroiled in a multitude of dramas and legal battles.

Now she is dead, at age 25, of a possible drug overdose.

I’ve devoted much of my life to studying why people, especially lottery winners, run through large sums of money. I’ve written two books, and my latest, "Life Lessons From the Lottery," will be out on Kindle on Nov. 10. All focus on why people run through money needlessly.

I keep thinking Amanda might be alive if she had read one of them, but probably not. She lived a troubled life. Getting the lottery money added rocket fuel to her problems.

Like so many lottery losers, Amanda made the first big mistake shortly after she hit the jackpot: She let the world know she won. If you search the Internet, you can find a picture of a happy and attractive Amanda from September 2011. She is smiling, holding a huge check from the Michigan Lottery.

It's possible for lottery winners in Michigan to collect their winnings anonymously, except for Mega Millions and Powerball winners. Amanda would have been better off to quietly take her winnings. But it didn’t work out that way.

Telling the world you have money you never expected is asking for trouble. Just like the experience of Abraham Shakespeare, another lottery winner who wound up dead in Florida, people who think your money should be “our” money come out of the woodwork.

According to various news accounts, it seemed Amanda had a ton of newfound “friends.” All wanted to take advantage of her.

Although Amanda was not shy about making headlines with her check, there was one group of people she “forgot” to mention it to: Those at the public assistance office.

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