FAMILY & PARENTING

Lifelong Friends Made A Lottery Pact Back In 1992. Now They’re Both Millionaires

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

Winning the lottery is everyone’s dream come true. Despite the horror stories that often follow (since being named a winner is also a massive life change), everyone still has goals and dreams of what they’d do with the money.

Some would make sure their parents and siblings are secure. Others would donate to charity. Surely many would splurge on fancy cars and luxury items.

But some, like Tom Cook from Wisconsin, would split the winnings with a friend.

Way back in 1992, Tom made a promise to his dear buddy Joseph Feeney. They agreed that if either of them happened to win the lottery, the cash amount would be split in half. Both of them knew that the odds of winning were slim to none.

However, it’s always nice to dream.

But then the unthinkable happened. Tom ended up buying the winning ticket at the Synergy Cooperative in Menomonie, which earned him $22 million. Many people might have shrugged off the promise from years earlier, or hoped the friend in question would have forgotten. But not Tom. He made good on his word and split his winnings with Joseph.

Joseph — who is a noted fisherman — was quite surprised by his newfound wealth. “He called me, and I said, ‘are you jerking my bobber?'” he said to Today.

The money allowed Tom to retire. Joe was retired already. While neither seems to have big plans as to how they’ll spend their winnings, they made it clear to Today that their priorities are to spend more time with family in the future. The lottery will help make those goals possible.

“We can pursue what we feel comfortable with,” Tom told Today. “I can’t think of a better way to retire.” Since many households can’t financially afford a stable and worry-free retirement, it’s good to know that Tom no longer has to worry about money being a big issue.

While $22 million is a big number, the two ended up with approximately $5.7 million each after taxes. So while there might be an occasional splurge or two, it’s more or less an amount to live comfortably off of for the rest of their lives. Tom has already mentioned that he may choose to travel with the money.

Since traveling is still a little risky, at least the two of them have plenty of time to sit down and think of destinations. With the money won from the lottery, they could literally go anywhere they wanted. But it’s too soon to tell whether or not they’ll book a flight together.

In an interview with the Wisconsin Lottery, Tom was asked about his promise from way back in the day — simply because most winners might not come through with their promise. Tom, however, is a man who’s true to his word. “A handshake is a handshake, man,” he said.

That handshake reportedly goes back to when the Powerball first came to the state. “We said whenever the big winner comes, we’re going to split it, so we buy every week,” said Joseph. “Not really thinking it would happen.” And they had reason not to believe.

It’s true that you need to play to win, but the chances of winning are reportedly 1 in 292,201,338. So the odds weren’t really in Joseph’s and Tom’s favor. Still, it’s good to hear that they still kept the dream alive for all of those years and had something fun like that in common.

In fact, it’s fairly obvious that Joseph and Tom just really liked the ability to play. You’d assume that after Tom won, he’d back off the popular lottery game, but that’s not the case. He stated that he still plans on buying a ticket. Who knows? Maybe he could strike gold twice.

According to People magazine, Tom’s winning ticket cost him only $2. The drawing of his big win happened on June 10. When he figured out that he was actually the big winner, he was right in the midst of eating breakfast. Still, he called Joseph right away.

“It was quite an experience when I read the first two or three numbers,” Tom told People. “I kind of froze and handed them to [my wife]. And she froze.” It’s literally a moment that the two of them had dreamed of but never actually expected.

Tom’s next order of business was to put two weeks’ notice in with his job, which is also an honorable thing to do. Even though he no longer needed the work, he still did the right thing and gave them proper notice. At the time, Tom didn’t have immediate retirement on his mind — but things quickly changed.

“I can’t think of a better way to retire,” Tom stated. “I got grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and I’m looking forward to spending time with them, not worrying about if I got time to go, and where we can go, and [if we can] afford it.” That, right there, sounds like the ultimate way to enjoy the last chapter of life.

Having a similar agreement with a friend is a great way to celebrate friendship and keep it strong. Each week, you and your friend would have something to talk about. And if one of you happens to hit the jackpot, both of you can have financially stable lives.

With this win, Tom and Joseph were able to solidify their friendship even more. Money is definitely nice, and retirement plans are key. However, it seems as if the real jackpot has been their bond throughout the years. True friends are often hard to come by, but Tom and Joseph proved that promises they’ve made to each other are more important than money.