THE BENTLEYS | $17.2 Million | Aug. 27, 2005

SPLURGES: VACATIONS TO JAMAICA AND GRAND CAYMAN, CHRYSLER 300C, CHEVY FOUR-BY-FOUR TRUCK

 

John and Jackie Bentley would like to clear up a few misconceptions about winning the lottery. You might not do half the things you think you would, like, say, build a log cabin at the top of a mountain or spend top-dollar in the pursuit of a perfect golf swing. And while the stress of having to work does subside (the Bentleys retired soon after their win), other stresses take its place. Often your days are filled with meetings arranged by your financial advisors. You field plenty of calls from philanthropic organizations—and family.

“Everybody wants a piece of the pie. We donate to causes that matter to us, not to people who feel like we owe them,” says John. Like most lottery winners, the Bentleys have had to say “no” many times. For instance, there was the time a family acquaintance called asking them to invest in his failing countertop-installation company. Twice. “We hadn’t heard from him in five years,” says Jackie. “Who is he to call and ask for money?”

Turning down such opportunists often makes the Bentleys “feel like the bad guys.” But they are hardly miserly people: Days after they won, Hurricane Katrina hit, and they wrote a check to the Salvation Army. They’ve given money to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and have also donated funds to various pet-related causes. (They share a home with four cats, a dog and a bird.) All told, they’ve dedicated around $100,000 to charity. “We were working-class people before and couldn’t really afford to help out,” says John. “But we only want to help people who are really trying to improve their lives. We’ve learned there’s a difference between assisting and enabling.”