THE PERILS OF LOUELLA:

Chapter 154: Louella Plans Her Finances

by Alice Cherbonnier

LOUELLA stared in wonderment at her winning Maryland Lotto ticket. This must be what it feels like to fall in love! she thought. Totally unexpected! But this has to be better than love! Three million dollars! She kissed the ticket, leaving a print of newly fashionable brown lipstick, which did nothing for her pale complexion. I'll pay off my car! she thought. Take a cruise! Get away from my folks!

She called the lottery claims office to report her winning number. "Well, hon, I've got good news and bad news for you," said the woman who'd identified herself as Terri, all matter-of-fact as if she talked to millionaires every day, which in point of fact she did. "The good news is, you are one of the winners. The bad news is, there are two other winning numbers out there, so your prize is one million, not three million."

"Oh," said Louella, numbly. "Just one million?"

"Hey, we should all be so lucky!" said the woman, who must have been hired for bubbliness.

"You're right, you're right," said Louella. "But what happens if the other two winners don't claim their prizes? Will I get the rest?"

"That's not how it works," said the woman. "You get your one-third pretty quick. The other winners have up to 182 days to make their claims. If they don't, the prize money is rolled back into our payout fund."

"So will I get my million all in one lump?" asked Louella, amazed how little she knew of the lottery, though she'd been playing at least five dollars a week for maybe ten years.

"That's not how it works," said Terri again. "The Lotto is an annuity game. You get paid $50,000 a year once a year, but it won't be that much because we take out taxes off the top."

"How do you figure out the taxes if you don't know the winner's income?"

"Oh, we take the same amount for everybody-28% for federal withholdings and 7.5% for the state. So after taxes your annual check will be -let me see, $32,250."

"That's all?"

"Well, it's a lot of money to some people."

"But it doesn't sound like a million dollars."

"A million dollars isn't all that much any more," sympathized Terri.

"I'll say! So how soon can I get my first check?"

"Well, first you have to make an appointment and come here and present your winning ticket and be interviewed by our public affairs people."

"Hold it! I don't want anybody to know about this!"

"Well, you can request anonymity if you want," said Terri, sounding disappointed. "But it's so much fun to let the media in on it. You know, we invite reporters to the place where you bought the ticket and all, and that's where you get that first check. But I guess you don't want to do that, right?"

"You got that right. No way I want anybody else to know. It's nobody's business but my own."

"No problem. You just tell them that when you come in."

"So when's that first check going to come?"

"Well, the paperwork has to go to Annapolis, and then the check gets cut within five to ten days. You'll get the next nineteen checks on about the same date every year."

"Always the same amount?"

"Yep. It's a fixed-rate annuity."

"Well, thanks a lot. By the way, do I have to report my winnings to the unemployment office?"

- TO BE CONTINUED -

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