5 Rules To Make Sure Winning The Lotto Doesn't Ruin Your Life
Lotto prizes get a bad rap for ruining lives.
We’ve all heard the warnings about divorce, death, extortion and bankruptcy that seem to come hand-in-hand with suddenly striking it rich.
“Chester was a humble grandfather from Wagga until he bagged a cool $70 million after grabbing a last-minute petrol station scratch-it,” the story seems to go. “Then he squandered it all on speed boats, cocaine and designer handbags. Now he works in a petroleum jelly factory just to afford shoe laces.”
So when I buy the winning $150 million Powerball ticket tonight after work -- the biggest jackpot in Australian history -- I’ll mentally dust off my list of rules for *how not to blow this*.
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The rules are pretty simple.
(Disclaimer: I have never won the lotto*, I have no financial qualifications -- aside from playing a mean game of Monopoly -- and I am in no position to be advising anyone about anything.)
But this is the thing: money will only wreck you if you let it. With a little planning, a little common sense and a little discipline, becoming a multi-millionaire overnight doesn’t have to spell personal and financial ruin. In fact, I already have a comprehensive plan in place to ensure that doesn't happen.
1. TELL NO ONE
I cannot emphasise this enough. With very very few exceptions, tell no one about your life-changing win. Yes, I will bag the jackpot tomorrow night, but you will not see me on TV with one of those giant cheques jumping up and down underneath an explosion of confetti. I might tell my husband, and maybe my parents -- but only after they sign non-disclosure agreements.
Once the word gets out, you’re screwed. All of your relationships will change. Even your closest friends -- who will at first be thrilled when they hear the news -- will eventually start to resent you. You now have an entire world of possibility opening up to you, no work or sacrifice required -- and they don’t.
READ MORE: Don't Kid Yourself, Money CAN Buy Happiness
Slowly, the things you have in common -- particularly the struggles you have in common -- will disappear. You may still be bonded by things like history, or values, or love, but those bonds will start to crumble under the corrosiveness of your real and perceived disparities.
Maybe you’d like to give them a hand -- buy them a house or a car, send them on holiday, put their kids through uni, pay off their mortgage -- but this will most certainly change the dynamics of your relationship. They may feel indebted to you, slighted by you, or view you with the warmth they view one of the Big Four banks. If things get bad, you could suffer total social alienation.
And if you shout to the heavens about the win -- or even whisper it to a select few -- all sorts of people will start knocking down your door asking for a handout. Remember Ted from Year 7 economics class? Turns out his squid ink business is about to go under and could you please please do him a solid.
Your social media inboxes will be flooded. There will be unscrupulous people looking to take you for a ride; there will be desperate people bombarding you with extremely worthy causes; and there will be acquaintances who heard about your good fortune and just want you to pay it forward. Good karma, etc. In America, there’ve even been cases of extortion and murder.
While it’s great to help out those in need, your financial decisions need to be weighed and measured -- otherwise you’ll quickly find yourself broke.
So, mum’s the word.
2. DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB
… for at least six months. That might sound crazy, especially if you’re in a Bill Lumbergh-subordinate-style situation. But it’s critical you keep everything you can the same, and don’t make any rash decisions -- at least until you have time to really examine your options, your interests, and get some professional planning advice. Yes, that villa on the Spanish Riviera is a marginal upgrade from your one-bedroom unit, but it will still be there this time next year.
(Plus burning your bridges -- or smashing that copier -- is never a good idea if you can avoid it. You never know if your fortunes will suddenly turn and you have to come crawling back.)
Keep your job, even if you hate it.
3. GET A GOOD FINANCIAL PLANNER
... or two, or three. If you don’t know anything about money and investing, learn everything you can. Get multiple professional opinions, understand your investment options and be savvy enough to make informed financial decisions.
You have a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set yourself up for the long-term, and your decisions now will determine whether you’ll cruise into retirement or hit rock-bottom in 18 months.
READ MORE: Powerball Jackpot Hits Record $110 Million
4. WRITE A LIST
After I win tomorrow night, I’ll be sitting down with a glass of wine and writing down the things that really matter to me, now that I’ve got the amazing opportunity to explore them, and fund them, like never before. Items can be selfish, altruistic, frivolous, fun, or deeply meaningful. My list might look something like this, in no particular order:
- Plant trees
- Help my family and friends (without them knowing I’m rich)
- Research worthy causes to invest in (start with environmental initiatives?)
- Travel -- Easter Island to start (I'm a fan of the statues)
- Buy a cozy house by the beach, and a cozy house in my home town (lease out when not in use)
- Uterine cancer research
- Invest in writing and art projects -- my own and others’
- Personal enrichment: become an amazing dancer, learn how to cook multiple cuisines, learn how to sew, learn how to garden, can and preserve produce, learn a martial art and/or become an advanced tennis player, become trilingual, learn carpentry
- Help scientists discover the fundamental nature of dark matter (TBD how)
- Get a rescue dog and cat
- Become the world’s preeminent expert in an extremely niche discipline
The list needs refinement, obviously. And it will probably change. But now that I’ve got the money to make my dreams come true, I’ve got the means to get it right. Once you’ve got the ‘what’, you can start creating and implementing, with professional help, your plan to achieve it.
5. DON'T SELL OUT
A final note about work. Nobody likes to work. Even if you love your job, you would still choose a holiday over clocking in.
The danger, after winning the lotto, is turning your life into a permanent holiday and losing the lessons that work instilled in you in the first place: things like discipline, learning from others, effort and reward, the value of a dollar, personal growth and development, and the value your work has for others and your community.
You learn as much while you’re struggling (financially or otherwise) as you do while you’re succeeding -- how to be resourceful, how to examine your priorities, how to be a better colleague, friend and person, how not to be wasteful, how to fail and then be better, how to be of use.
So remember: when funding your own life with your new-found millions, don’t abandon the things that made you the person you were before fortune came knocking. Otherwise you might end up like Chester from Wagga.
*Or have I?