Powerball Nightmare: These Winners Lost It All — How To Avoid Their Mistakes (VIDEO)

The countdown to financial ruin has already started for Powerball winner Marie Holmes. The single mother appeared on Good Morning America for an exclusive interview to discuss how winning a whopping $188 million changed her life — supposedly for the better.

In the months since, she’s put up close to close to $21 million dollars bailing her boyfriend Lamar McDow out of jail and not moving out of the trailer she reportedly shares with him. After taking the cash option, she has $88 million. The way things stand, the state of North Carolina will recover every cent from Marie within a few short years, leaving her as broke as she was when she first won — and possibly far worse off.

If Holmes hasn’t a cent to her name after making a series of terrible money and social decisions, it might be par the course for Powerball winners. There’s a belief that winning a huge jackpot is often a curse for the individual American, as these individuals are often not mentally prepared to handle such sudden wealth.

Truth be told, there are probably many Powerball winners who were perfectly happy with their earnings and made sensible (and private) decisions. However, there are a quite a few well-documented cases of lottery winners who lost all of their money. In some especially tragic situations, they also lost their lives.

When looking at these winners and what went wrong, it’s important to pay attention to their unfortunate mistakes. With a Powerball jackpot worth more than $1.3 billion, it’s not a matter of if someone wins at this point. Odds are, many lives will be changed this week. Let’s carefully consider how not to have one’s life change for the worse.

Roger and Lara Griffiths were a happy loving couple. Then, according to the Daily Mail, they won £1.8 (or $2.6) million. Their lives and lifestyles drastically changed. Husband Roger quit his job and made all sorts of financial investments that he probably shouldn’t have. Lara believes that he was cheating on her. A freak fire destroyed their luxury home. In the end, they were left with £7 (about $10) to their name thanks to massive debts. Their marriage? Ended in divorce.

What went wrong with the Griffiths? Well, there’s not much anyone can do about a freak fire. However, it’s clear to see her marriage was destroyed because a fatal flaw was exposed by this lottery win: A lack of mutual trust and respect. When this doesn’t exist, it doesn’t take much for things to end badly. If a married couple finds itself hundreds of millions of dollars richer, in addition to seeking solid financial advice, it may be wise to consult a marriage counselor.

Hopefully, any lucky Powerball winners this week won’t follow the dishonorable example set by Florida lottery winner Tonda Lynn Dickerson. Dickerson became infamous when in 1999, the former Waffle House waitress bought the winning ticket and then refused to split the $10 million prize with her co-workers. They claimed there was a verbal agreement that if any of them should win they’d “share and share alike.” Well, Tonda stated she made no such agreement. Thanks to state laws in the group’s native Alabama, Dickerson was not forced to honor any verbal agreement — not even the one that would have guaranteed a new truck for her boss.

If Tonda Lynn Dickerson thought she was going to get away with wronging her former co-workers, she was wrong. Karma blindsided Dickerson in the form of the IRS. Forbes reports that she was used by “Toye Sue Washington, an attorney with the Estates Division of the IRS” for failure to pay a $771,570 gift tax.

In a hilarious turn of events, Tonda tried to claim she was exempt from the gift tax because of a verbal agreement she made to share her winnings with her family. The Tax Court didn’t agree and 13 years to the day after winning, Tonda was forced to cough up $1,119,347.90. After 13 years, it’s safe to say that her winnings were pretty much reduced to non-existence with that decision.

What’s the lesson here? Well, even though Dickerson got dealt a big blow in the end that many felt she had coming, the real lesson if for anyone participating in an office Powerball pool. If you intend to get a share of the winnings, all participants need to agree to split those earnings via a written contract. With so much money on the line, it’s best not to leave your potential winnings up to whether not a co-worker is a selfish, untrustworthy individual.

One of the saddest Powerball stories involves Andrew Jack Whittaker, who had the winning ticket for a $315 million jackpot in 2002. Whittaker spent his earnings on questionable vices, including an increasing drinking habit. The lowest point is when Andrew’s granddaughter died of a tragic overdose.

“Since I won the lottery,” said Andrew, “I think there is no control for greed. I think if you have something, there’s always someone else that wants it. I wish I’d torn that ticket up.”

Whittaker, who’s allegedly broke, makes an excellent point about greed. There are some people who simply cannot handle a Lottery jackpot. The truth is, winning all of that money won’t bring happiness if you were an unhappy person before winning.

Perhaps the best lesson of all in seeing how things ended for these lottery winners is that before you put yourself in the position to receive such a large windfall of cash, you think long and hard about what you should do if you win the Powerball jackpot.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]