Ugel, Edward

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Ugel, Edward


Education: Graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder. Hobbies and other interests: Gambling.


E-mail—[email protected].


Worked as a salesperson for a company that advanced money to lottery winners; freelance writer.


Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions (memoir), Collins (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to the New York Times and National Public Radio's This American Life.


Not many years after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Edward Ugel was twenty-six years old, broke, and had to move back in with his parents. Looking for a job, he found that his natural talents as a salesperson were much in demand at an unusual type of business—a lottery lump-sum company—that offers to buy out a lottery winner's remaining winnings under the pretense of rescuing the client from debt. The lottery lump-sum industry is a perfectly legal industry in many states, but one of questionable ethics. Lottery lump-sum companies have been accused of taking advantage of lottery winners who do not know how to handle their sudden fortunes and often misspend the money or become involved in legal battles. The companies offer these ironically financially strapped individuals a lump sum that is substantially less than their winnings. This amount, though, is more than these lottery winners would have received in the near future, because they chose to collect their money in installments over many years. In this scenario, a lottery lump-sum company then pockets the rest of the winnings as they are paid out in the future. Ugel finds that he is very adept in convincing lottery winners to use his company's services, and he does so well that he earns a six-figure income. However, Ugel also has his own gambling problem. In his memoir, Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions, Ugel describes this predatory industry, the people whose apparent good fortune turns to misfortune, and his own personal failings. He also accuses the state government-sanctioned lottery system of not benefiting schools with its revenue. This system, Ugel states, does not actually generate increased funding for education, because state governments simply redirect funds meant for education to other projects.

Reviewers were intrigued by Ugel's story and felt that it made for beneficial reading. Booklist reviewer Mary Whaley commented that although Money for Nothing is "written in an informal, sometimes humorous manner," it "contains excellent information for library patrons." Carol J. Elsen, in a review for Library Journal stated that "Ugel's natural showmanship makes for entertaining reading." Several reviewers appreciated Ugel's dark sense of humor in the book. A Kirkus Reviews contributor described Ugel as a "breezy, funny writer" and the book as "by turns funny and alarming." Elsen concluded that Money for Nothing delivers "a well-deserved scathing indictment of the government-backed lottery system."



Ugel, Edward, Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions (memoir), Collins (New York, NY), 2007.


Booklist, August, 2007, Mary Whaley, review of Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions, p. 16.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007, review of Money for Nothing.

Library Journal, September 1, 2007, Carol J. Elsen, review of Money for Nothing, p. 146.

Los Angeles Times, May 8, 2008, Josh Getlin, "‘Money for Nothing’ from the Novel by Edward Ugel," announcement of plans for a film adaptation of Ugel's book.


After the Bubbly Web log, (September 20, 2007), Lela Davidson, review of Money for Nothing.

DeBroff DeBrief Web log, (September 24, 2007), review of Money for Nothing.

Edward Ugel Home Page, (June 16, 2008).

Huffington Post Online, (June 16, 2008), brief biography of Edward Ugel.