Money for Nothing

Money for NothingEdward Ugel

It is a bit sad how many Americans use the phrase “when I win the lottery…” before expressing a dream or desire. What is surprising is how many people do win the lottery – and what a lousy deal it often is. Many states don’t allow lump-sum payments. They instead give winners a pay-out over years and even decades – with no interest. While many people will think “Hell, I’ll take a steady $70,000 a year for the next 20 years” it doesn’t usually work this way. Winners blow through their money, and much more, in record time. And then they call someone like Ugel.

A gambler, failed film-student and bartender, Ugel landed a job working for a company he ominously calls “The Firm”. The Firm buys lottery winnings in exchange for lump-sum payments. The Firm, of course, comes out much better off than the often poorly educated blue-collar winners. Ugel tells of his adventures learning the ropes of cold-calling winners, flying out minutes after making a call with contract worth millions in his bag and the swirl of emotions tied to his often seedy job. A fascinating look at the back-room workings of the industry. Could have used a few more lottery-winner stories, but the ones that are there are priceless.