It’s been four and a half years since Bob Reid became an almost-millionaire.
It was big news at the time; 27 employees at Powco Steel Ltd had their ticket come up and won $24.5 million. Three women, 24 men. Two from the office, the rest from the plant. Some really young. Some, like Bob at age 40, with no paycheque left at the end of the month.
So, what’s it like? And what happened? And where’s Bob today?
Well, winning nearly a million hasn’t been the best thing that ever happened to him.
“When you’re used to a simple lifestyle, living paycheque to paycheque and all of a sudden you have $800,000, it changes your life. Who’s your real friend? Who are just well wishers? Who’s this long lost cousin who’s asking for money?
“When you don’t have much, nobody’s much interested in you and your friends are pretty genuine. But it changes people around you when you’ve got money.”
Bob points out that $800,000 is a lot of money, but not enough to help out everyone who asked for help.
As the 27 employees climbed into a bus to make the trip to the Ontario Lottery Corporation, shortly after their January, 2008 win, they were excited, happy, and feeling pretty lucky. They had been buying tickets in a loosely-structured who’s-in-this-week? kind of way for years. And some of the guys who’d bought before felt they should be in on the winning ticket. A call from a vacationing colleague in Poland started the ball rolling and it was three months before the winners had their money, less $300,000 in legal fees.
That took the glory out of the win. In fact, Bob says he took two weeks holidays after the win and just didn’t go back. Within six weeks, 8 to 10 employees had left because of the animosity that occurred.
Bob lived off his savings for awhile and tried to be wise about his purchases. He owns his house outright, and put a lot into savings, safe investments like GICs. He has taken a few trips, one to Jamaica, down to Halifax, to Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail. He says he’d do his investing a bit differently if he could do it over again.
He’d also like to get back to work. He thought about starting a business, but he’s just not hammered down what he would do. He worked in the business end of manufacturing his whole life.
Bob still buys lottery tickets–always 649–but always on his own. He says any group buying tickets is nuts to do it unless they have a legal contract and very specific organization around it. “Greed comes out at the most unusual times,” he says.
He’s quick to identify the worst part of a lottery win… losing friends, having a lawsuit to deal with, greed of people you thought you knew, change of working environment… all negative results of what should have been a happy occasion.
But along with the bad is the good, too. He owns his house. He has two really good friends left from his Powco and lottery ticket days. He’s glad he was wise about his purchases. He has some financial security but not enough that he can sit back and never work again. Which is a good thing.
“Looking back, there’s definitely a big identity crisis involved with winning the whole thing,” says Bob. “I wish it hadn’t happened the way it did. It’s a far cry from what you see on TV. But I don’t have days that I wish the win hadn’t happened.”
And yet, there’s what he can make of tomorrow that really matters.
Thanks, Bob. This is a big occurrence in anybody’s life and your honesty helps others.