Arbor Wealth: Ron Santo, Mr. Cub and the Illinois state lottery

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
Margaret R. McDowell

“They got the power, they got the speed … To be the best in the National League.” — from

“Go Cubs Go” written by Steve Goodman

Is it possible that “Back to the Future II” was on the money? In the movie, Biff’s sports book says that the Cubs will win it all in 2015. Well, here we are.

Sunny, summer afternoons at Wrigley Field are hard to beat. I grew up watching an infield that included Ron Santo and Ernie Banks. But I also remember the season of 1969 when the town was on fire with Cub fever. We blew a big lead in late summer and the Miracle Mets, not our hometown Cubbies, won the pennant. These things tend to happen in Wrigley Field, so forgive me if I’m slow to join this year’s bandwagon.

When I departed Chicago for the sunny South in 1981, I moved away from more than just frigid winter weather and lovable losers in blue pinstripes. I left behind things like public financial malfeasance on a remarkable scale.

The latest mess in my home state involves the Illinois state lottery. They’re selling tickets, but they’re not making the payments to winners. Instead, they’re issuing IOU’s. It’s laughable, but true. You can’t make this stuff up.

Currently, anyone who wins a statewide lottery prize of over $600 is not receiving the cash; instead, they’re mailed an IOU and are being told that they’ll get their money when the state passes a new budget. When that will occur is anyone’s guess.

“Our government is committing a fraud on the taxpayers,” Illinois representative Jack Franks told Matthew Walberg of The Chicago Tribune. “The lottery is a contract: I pay my money, and if I win, you’re obligated to pay me and you have to pay me timely. It doesn’t say if you have money or when you have money.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported this summer that an Illinois judge has ruled that Chicago’s plan to ease its $20 billion dollar pension plan shortfall is illegal. “The court fight over pension reform comes as the city and state face increasing financial pressure,” says Bloomberg. Chicago’s pension system was funded at 61 percent 10 years ago; now, it is only 36 percent funded.

Meanwhile, the Illinois state pension fund has a $111 billion shortfall. And a political stalemate has the state currently operating without a budget, which is why lottery winners are being issued IOU’s.

This column is read in 23 newspapers in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Admittedly, mistakes with financial appropriations are made occasionally in Montgomery, Tallahassee and Atlanta, respectively. But, thankfully, the impending collapse of our states’ pension systems do not appear in the offing. And if you win the lottery down South, you actually get the money.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.