Once famous lottery winner now broke

The New York Daily Newshas a cautionary story worth reading, especially to anyone who has come into a bit of money lately.

Consider the story of Lou Eisenberg, who became a $5 million lottery winner in 1981, at the age of 53, and who today is 81-years-old and living in a mobile home, his lifestyle funded by a small pension and Social Security. He makes $250 a week.

lou eisenberg originalWhen he hit the jackpot 30 years ago -- and $5 million was the biggest lottery payout at the time -- Eisenberg briefly became a household name (and the envy of every households as well). At the time he was a humble lightbulb changer, earning $225 a week changing bulbs in a midtown office building. The media loved his rags to riches tale. Chatting with Johnny Carson or Regis Philbin, they called him "Lightbulb Lou," or "Lucky Lou."

Eventually, of course, he faded from national consciousness, left alone to live happily ever after. Well, sort of. As The New York Daily News reports, he's now living in a mobile home in Lake Worth, Florida, living on a considerably reduced income -- $250 a week from Social Security and pension checks -- about what he made back when he won the lottery.

But he seems happy, looking great in a photo that the Daily News provides and telling the paper: "I wouldn't have done it any other way. I wish I had $200 in my pocket. Now I have $18 or $19."

So where did the money go? Well, with his $219,000 a year (that's $130,000 or so after taxes), he embarked on the lush life -- he bought an ocean view condo, took lavish vacations to California, Hawaii and Europe, gave a lot to his second ex-wife, wooed and married a third time (that didn't last either), etc. etc. Fast forward 20 years, and Eisenberg cashed his last check and kissed his life as a man of resources goodbye.

twitter.com/walletpopperSince then, Eisenberg has lived a somewhat surreal life with the media occasionally looking in and reporting how well, or not well, the former lottery winner is doing.

In June, 2001, The New York Times did a story on Eisenberg, who explained back then what happened. "I started saving, then got whacked out with the divorces." By then, Eisenberg was living in West Palm Beach, Florida, and he admitted to losing a lot at the track. But he wasn't unhappy then either, saying, "I didn't work for 20 years, and there were all the trips and spending."

And last year the Palm Beach Post did a feature story on Eisenberg, who disclosed that he feels like a very lucky man, despite having gone from being broke to being rich to being broke again.

After all, Eisenberg has survived two double-bypass heart surgeries, and he had no bad feelings toward his ex-wives. He is extremely proud of his 57-year-old son. And as he had told the Times years before, he had two decades of living it up. And while Eisenberg is a cautionary tale, you might argue that he also has the right attitude about monetary wealth:

As he told the Palm Beach Post, he had a best friend from Brooklyn, Herbie Berman, who "worked his guts out for money, never spent a penny. And he died of a heart attack at age 59. He left me his savings. He never had time to enjoy it."
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