Gloria Easly won $6 million in her state lottery. She chose to take a $3 million lump sum.
The mom of two left her neighborhood within 10 days. She stayed in a hotel before buying two houses.
She told Insider that a financial advisor stopped her from "blowing through" the money.
When Gloria Easly saw that she'd won big in her state lottery, she wanted to stay under the radar.
She got a claim form from the scratch-card machine, but she left the store without letting the man behind the counter take a selfie with her and the winning ticket she bought there.
"He said, 'Let me take a picture,' " Easly told Insider. "'No, thank you,' I said."
She hustled to the lottery headquarters, accompanied by a friend, and an official ushered her into a private room. (Insider has not named the state, in deference to Easly's concerns about privacy.)
He confirmed that Easly had won $6 million. The man explained she could receive the money through an annuity — which guarantees a larger total payout over time — or choose a lower lump sum.
She opted for the latter. She deposited the $3 million lump sum into a bank account that she set up the same day that she won the lottery in 2016.
Easly said word swept through her neighborhood that she'd won the lottery
The 44-year-old said the lottery official asked if she wanted to go public and appear in the media. She declined the opportunity.
"You don't want to put it all over the place," she told Insider. "I thought, 'I have two children. I have a family.' Maybe I watched a little too many movies, but I was thinking of ransom and stuff like that."
Easly said that the first person she told after her friend was her daughter, who worked in a fast-food restaurant. "I texted her and said, 'Pick up,'" she said.
She said rumors soon circulated that she'd won a substantial amount of cash — "My friend was telling people I'd won $30,000, but she didn't have the amount right," she said — and she began to feel "worried about my safety."
"I knew that, first and foremost, the best thing was to get my kids out," the single mom said, adding that "people were coming out of the woodwork," some of whom had been unreliable in the past.
"People were calling me during the second day, and I remember thinking, 'Where were you when I was having a hard time?'"
Easly, her son, now 13, her daughter, now 29, and her grandson, now 13, moved to a hotel in a neighboring state within 10 days of the win.
She purchased two houses in the same cul-de-sac
Easly said she and her family began to look at homes in a new state. She decided to buy two houses "just around the corner from each other on a cul-de-sac."
The two three-bedroom, two-bathroom houses cost about $200,000 each.
"Mine was a ranch because I didn't want any steps," Easly, who paid cash for the homes, said. "I'd been walking up steps a lot of years."
The 44-year-old admitted that she was tempted to splurge. "I know I could have blown through the money and gotten into difficulties," she said.
Her cousin introduced her to a financial advisor, Eszylfie Taylor.
Taylor, who told Insider that his clients include professional athletes and celebrities, said he pulled no punches. "I made it clear to Gloria that she needed to act wisely if she wanted to live on this money for the rest of her life," he said.
Easly realized that the fortune "could vanish in a blink of an eye." She followed Taylor's suggestion to invest in stocks.
"We basically put the money into different buckets, each with a different pro and a different con," Taylor said. "It was about balance and diversification."
Like many lottery winners, Easly quickly began fielding requests for money from family and friends. "I gave them little pieces when it first happened," she said. "But it's not a revolving door when you keep coming back."
She said that boundaries were important. "You get a lot of requests, but you can't be picking up the phone every five minutes."
She's still in a solid financial position 7 years after her win
"It hard to say 'no,' but you have to realize that people sometimes see us as dollar signs," she said.
She reviews each case nonetheless. "It's one thing if someone is saying, 'I want to buy shoes, go to a show and get my hair done," she said. "It's another if my mom's sister my great-aunts or my cousins need it for other reasons."
Easly said she's in a solid financial position. "The biggest thing is relief for my kids and their future," she said.
"I wouldn't say the money made me happy," she added. "If it takes money to make you happy, then you won't ever be happy."
"I still shop in the places I shopped before," she continued. "I'm not the kind of person who spends $100,000 on a car. The only thing that's changed about me is moving to a new state and the area-code change."
Easly did admit that after her win, she started "gambling more." She said she sometimes went to the casino and played slot machines before she struck gold but "had to pull myself back off."
She's stayed single because she's suspicious of others' motives
Still, she said she has a penchant for designer shoes and handbags. She recently paid $3,500 for a Gucci purse at a consignment store; the retail price would have been about $10,000.
The family has also enjoyed luxury trips to Disney World and Universal Studios, and they take regular vacations in California. But Easly, who doesn't have a passport, said she had no intention of traveling overseas.
"It's not something I've thought about just because the money is there," she said. "I'm not going to book a flight to Paris or Italy, stay over, and spend a bunch of money to have to come back."
When it comes to romance, Easly has remained single, saying she can take or leave it.
"You never know the motive," she told Insider. "I've been on my own for a long time. I'm not buying anybody. I'm OK as I am."
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