With the Powerball jackpot now climbing to $785 million — there was no big winner in Saturday night’s drawing — many may think about buying a ticket and hoping for a shot at lottery riches.
One former jackpot winner says success is possible with any drawing — so long as you can picture it happening.
California resident Cynthia P. Stafford won a $112 million Mega Millions jackpot in 2007, crediting her good fortune to the ability to “visualize” her success. She says the money changed her life for the better in many ways, but she also declared bankruptcy about a decade later — a situation not uncommon with many jackpot winners. Today, Stafford has turned her belief in visualization into something of a career — she’s written an e-book on the subject and also offers personal coaching (she charges $333 for a 60-minute session).
MarketWatch spoke with Stafford to learn about her big win and her life after it, though she made it clear that she places limits on what she will address. Here’s some of what she had to say:
What was her financial situation prior to winning the jackpot?
Stafford says she was “doing okay,” but “was in a place where I needed money because of a legal situation” — specifically, she was trying to obtain custody of some children in her extended family. Stafford adds that she could have gotten the money through other means, but the jackpot “happened to come at the time exactly when I needed it.”
How did she “visualize” her win?
Stafford says she not only envisioned winning a jackpot, but winning a $112 million jackpot — long before that was the actual figure for the drawing. “I’m a believer,” she explains of the process. “What we constantly focus on we will bring into our existence.”
She says she studied people’s methods in relation to visualization, but that these ideas were “imbued” into her since childhood — she cites her grandmother as a key influence. As she explains of what led to her win, “I took the challenge. I said, ‘I’m going to do my meditating. I’m going to do my visualizing. And I’m going to see myself in this particular place.’ I did that [starting around 2004]…and so by 2007, it happened.”
What about the winning numbers? Did she also “visualize” those?
No. Stafford says she chose them at random.
How did she find out she won?
Stafford says her father was holding on to the ticket, but that they hadn’t paid attention when the numbers were first announced. Instead, they later learned that the winning ticket had been purchased at a convenience store in their area — and that prompted them to see if they had the right combination of numbers. “I wasn’t surprised,” she says of her reaction to realizing she had won. “This was something I had declared, that I was going to [win] $112 million.” Stafford adds that she likens the whole process to fishing: “I like fishing. You throw your line into the water and hope you get that big catch.”
What happened in the immediate aftermath?
Stafford and her family opted to take a lump-sum payment of $67 million, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. (Stafford wouldn’t tell MarketWatch how the money was divided, but she acknowledged it was indeed divvied up with her family members.) She says they went to a California lottery office to claim the prize — and they had some family members who worked in the security business accompany them for safety’s sake. “It’s just about making sure that your ticket is secure and you get it over to them,” she recalls.
How did she spend the money?
Stafford says she bought a house with a pool and some cars (in particular, two Bentleys — one used and one new). She also traveled. “I did the normal things,” she says of her purchases.
A chunk of her money also went to charity, she says. (The Los Angeles Times reported she gave $1 million to the Geffen Playhouse, a Los Angeles nonprofit theater.) And speaking of Geffen, Stafford looked to become an entertainment mogul herself — she also used some of her winnings to establish a production company. She says she helped produce independent films, but that she’s no longer in the business — she says an illness forced her to focus on her health instead.
So, what about the bankruptcy? Where did her money go?
Stafford declined to address this issue with MarketWatch. But in a 2016 report, ABC News said that Stafford had told them she had made some poor investments.
As mentioned, Stafford has an e-book and does coaching. But she says she no longer plays the lottery.