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Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions

3.15  ·  Rating details ·  289 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
For the better part of a decade, Edward Ugel spent his time closing deals with lottery winners, making a lucrative and legitimate—if sometimes not-so-nice—living by taking advantage of their weaknesses . . . weaknesses that, as a gambler himself, he knew all too well.

In Money for Nothing, he explores the captivating world of lottery winners and shows us how lotteries and g
ebook, 256 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published September 1st 2007)
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Mimi Rowntree
Jun 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is funny and insightful and an emotional roller coaster. The language was too strong for me in places, despite the seedy nature of the subject matter. It was appropriate to the book but not to my sensibilities. Because of the prolific use of the *f* word I cannot give it 5 stars, but I did like the book as a whole. I wish there were an R rating for books. This book would recieve one for the language and there are maybe three crude sexual references. It really did give a lot of insight ...more
Sep 23, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lottery winners in particular! Beware!
I knew absolutely nothing about the lump sum lottery financing business but my eyes are open now. The author's writing style is absolutely hilarious as he reveals the secrets of working with lottery winners to provide them with much needed cash by buying their annuities at a huge financial gain to himself and his Firm. The salesmanship, the deception, the greed of the salesman, most of whom are also gamblers, versus the oddities of the lottery winner, most of whom are cash strapped waiting for t ...more
May 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellently funny, because of the author's writing style & perspective- the topic is not inherently funny Ugel worked for an outfit that buys lottery winners' annuities when they almost inevitably find that they need cash on hand before their next payment. It's not a good deal for the lottery winner, but they are pretty much strapped. Ugel is hilarious, and the topis is one I knew nothing about. He touches on other forms of gambling a bit too, such as his little problem with video poker mach ...more
Ray Charbonneau
More of a salesman's memoirs than the interesting study of lotteries and their winners that's promised on the book jacket.
Dec 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating read into the miserable lives of lottery winners and the scum who prey on them
Apr 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I heard the author in a radio interview, and so read the book. Edward Ugel worked for the "lump sum industry", making a living getting lottery winners to sell their tickets for a price. The Firm took a huge cut, the lottery winner got quick cash (instead of having to wait for a future check), and the Firm's salesman went looking for a new lottery winner. To be a salesman in the business one had to be a bit of a gambler. To sell the deal to the lottery winner took guts. It is a world I could hard ...more
Very entertaining and yet insightful into business, sales, and the gambling/lottery industry.
Elaine Meszaros
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 m ...more
Aug 19, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book wasn't a total disaster-but close. There are occasional sales tips in the book.

The book didn't get into the mind of lottery winners. It didn't tell many stories of them. It more or less described the authors ascent at the Firm, and how good he was at selling.

The subject of lottery winners, and the industries that cater to them, seems fascinating. Unfortunately, this book didn't cover much of that at all. Finally, in order to protect his/the firm's anonymity, the author didn't delve int
Oct 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has ever dreamed of winning the lottery
There is an industry out there that I never knew existed, called the lump-sum finance industry. Basically, salespeople approach people who are receiving annual payments, usually for winning the lottery, who are also strapped for ready cash. They buy the lottery winner's annuity (or a portion of it) for a fraction of what the annuity is actually worth and then re-sell it. Ed Ugel was a top salesman in the industry for 7 years. He talks about his experiences with honesty and humor. Quite fascinati ...more
Missy Chase
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book I view the lottery and lottery winners in a different way. Not only does this book describe the shady buy-out sharks, but how unlucky lottery winners can become. (and as an aside, as soon as i finished this book I started to see commercials on TV for the "firms" referenced in the book!)
Nov 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This was a really interesting book to me about lottery winners, gamblers and salesmen. It was a fast read but there were parts where I actually laughed out loud.
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
funny writer. Ugel had an insane job and tells about it in great detail. He reminds me of David Sedaris.
Jun 15, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was hoping for about lottery winners. What I got was a navel-gazing, self-indulgent bunch of drivel, written by a total loser. I quit after about 40 pages, and that was 39 pages too late.
Samuel Dixon
Picking up this book, I originally believed the book was something more related to a crime novel, revolving around the wealth of lottery winners, I was both disappointed and intrigued in what the book was actually about. Although I had a completely different expectation for what the book is about, I still enjoyed the reading. The moral dilemma of the main character. Edward, a young man who gambled himself into debt, finds himself making big money taking advantage of desperate and clueless lotter ...more
I would say this book could use a few more lottery stories and a lot less corporate drama. However, if you want to understand the mind of a gambling addict who spent years convincing lottery winners they wanted a quick lump sum buy out (back when annuities were the only way to get paid), you will find this interesting. Most lottery winners who received annual payments would run out of money long before their next payment, hence the need for quick cash and the sale of their future payment to the ...more
Debra Daniels-zeller
I thought this book would be more about how the lottery money didn't bring happiness, or who are the lottery winners? But instead it's a darker book about the odd industry built around lottery winners. These businesses target lottery winners because for one thing those names are public and it means anyone can then contact you, so everyone knows and many people call lottery winners. Plus it turns out a lot of lottery winners can't handle the increase of income without over-extending and running o ...more
Friend of Buzz
Aug 23, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-bought
Didn't finish. Sorry I paid money for it.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memiors

Everyone loves the idea of winning the lotto and beginning their carefree new life. This is the reason I read this book. The reality is not so peachy and the author tells a tale about his own metioric rise in the world of buying annuities from lotto winners. So he's a college grad with few prospects living beer to beer. He has a degree that is useless in the real world and thus begins working as a bartender. Soon he sees the fruitless path he is on and moves back home with his parents. One night
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eye-opening. Informative. Funny. Stomach-turning. You've heard anecdotes about gullible, vulnerable lottery winners who lose it all, but this in-depth explanation of the industry and its incumbent jackals will leave you feeling dirty and a tad complicit.*

*in a good way
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I wanted to like this book. The industry it discusses is infinitely interesting, and I'm sure the people who worked/have worked in it have some you-can't-make-this-shit-up stories.

But this guy is an asshole. And sometimes he is self aware and self deprecating and fully admits to it; but then there are other times where he thinks he is God's gift to humans/lottery winners/capitalist CEOs/casinos...and he just comes off as smarmy. Also, his stories center on him, and how amazing he was at the tas
Jerry Smith
Ugel writes in his usual entertaining way and follows the style of writing that tells a very personal account to illustrate a broader (if not necessarily terribly profound point). In this case it is the profession of buying lottery winners annuities for a lump sum payment.

His story if interesting in and of itself but this wasn't the main point of interest and I felt he could have illustrated his tales with more examples of the typical lottery winner and how/why they often end up broke and/or wi
Philip Cosand
This books reaffirms what we all know already. If you win the lottery, everyone will want your money.

Specifically, there are companies that exist to advance lottery winners cash when they run out before their next payment. The bigger the lottery winner, the bigger the salesman's commission. It is legal, it is big money, but it isn't for the "nice".

The reason the book is enjoyable is that the author is quick to point out the flaws in himself; more so than those around him. He doesn't make excuses
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up the book because I wanted to find out more about the gambling industry as I know little to nothing about it. An insider's view sounded good. But the book turned out to be more of a confessional than informative.

The book is about the lottery lumpsum purchase business. When you win a lottery, you can elect to get annual payments of a certain fraction for a period of time. Often, the winners start going broke midway through the period and want to sell the remaining payments for a one-ti
Chris Ramsey
Interesting bits of facts into the reality of winnings and what all it entails. I guess, in a way, and I'm sure it's related to non-disclosure agreements signed by the author regarding his former employer, I would have loved to know exact figures. I felt like I could have gotten my head around how profitable an industry lottery "paper" essentially was if I could see the real numbers. It would have also given me a feel for how much the end consumer was losing or "being taken for" with each and ev ...more
This memoir about the lottery-winner-milking industry conveys a fair amount of fascinating sociological/financial info along with Ugel's energetic personal history. The book suffers a little from Ugel's fear of being sued for breaching his non-disclosure agreements with the Firm--many more factual details about actual lottery winner cases and amounts and Firm paychecks would have been welcome.

This is an odd type of whistleblower's story wherein the whistleblower has already been paid millions n
Aug 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I enjoyed listening to this. Nothing amazing but I found it interesting learning about this lottery lump sum buyout business. Yes it's a crummy business; They offer desperate lottery winners a discounted lump payment in echange for their annual payments. But he was very forthcoming with the seedy nature of the business and his self deprecating humor made him less objectionable. The profanity didn't really bother me either. I liked hearing about the unusual lottery winners and I was intrigued by ...more
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What happens when you win a lottery and the money is tied up in an annuity? You might overspend what you don't yet have in your hand. Banks apparently don't touch these arrangements. What can you do?
You just might turn to someone like this author, who will "jovially" buy you out of your "arrangement." - at a HUGE cost. (that is spelled H - U - G - E!!!)
This is an amazing book I found utterly fascinating. There are many stories about winners from all walks of life, under various financial stresse
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book more for research than for fun.

While it made for a somewhat interesting case study, I would not recommend as a pleasure read. It is a good book if you need more reasons NOT to play the lottery. The author was extremely effective painting a sad picture of lottery winners, salesman, and gambling addicts. He also made some fascinating points about state governments and lotteries.

I am not sure of the point of the epilogue except to highlight the strict contrast of how the author and
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
- the so-so memoir of Ed Ugel who, when he was a 26 year old gambling addict moving back into his parent's basement, landed a job as a salesman for "The Firm" - a company that offered up-front cash to lottery winners in exchange for their prize money, often paid in agonizingly small annual payments, some lasting up to 25 years
- too much information about Ed, and not enough about the lottery winners who couldn't handle their winnings
- although he didn't work with them, some stories of lottery win
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