Recently the EuroMillions Lottery jackpot reached a colossal £119 million which would have made the winner one of the top 1000 richest people in the UK. Since I don’t have the disposable income to play year-round at every game, I usually only play when the jackpot is unusually big for a bit of entertainment (and the desire to quit minimum-wage work but, I digress). I began playing about 2 weeks ago when the jackpot was around £80 million or so until it was won last night by a player in Switzerland.
For the couple of weeks I played it gave me a lot of time to read about what actually happens when you win the lottery, and think about what would really happen if I did win. It gave me a lot to reflect upon so here’s my list of why I wouldn’t want to win such a large amount of money.
- Being set for life is a myth – In the USA it’s reported that around 70% of big lottery winners either spend or lose all their winnings within 5 years and many even go bankrupt. Like many others I believed that a lottery win would set you up for life and that only the odd person mismanaged their winnings and ended up worse off – so I was surprised to see that this isn’t the case for the majority of winners.
- You would need a whole team of advisors – When you win really big it’s advisable to get a team of people around you who can help you such as a financial adviser, accountant and so on. I don’t know about you but I enjoy managing my own money and budget, and the thought of suddenly having to find others to help me manage my wealth would be stressful! How would I know who was worth their salt and who to trust?
- You might be at an increased risk of burglary – As part of my research I spent a lot of time looking at how large the homes of the rich are – and it’s difficult to see how you could be aware of such a large space. When you live in a relatively small-medium house it’s easier to hear unusual noises, the breaking of glass and so on that would indicate if someone entered your home without your knowledge. Sure, you can hire security but that hasn’t stopped many high-profile celebrities from being broken in to and burgled including Simon Cowell, Kanye West, Rihanna and Mariah Carey – all people I would expect to have security you can’t get past.
- You will be at increased risk of kidnapping and murder – I read online (Sorry I can’t find the source again) that those who win large sums of money are statistically 2-3 times more likely to be murdered. Other lottery winners have reported seeing strangers in their gardens watching their children for unknown purposes.
- The fear of losing it all – The higher we fly the higher we have to fall, and especially if we go from one extreme to another the challenges of adjustment would be very difficult, whether that’s poor to rich or rich to poor, or even poor to rich to poor again. Even if you win a large sum of money you might still spent time worrying – about what you would do if you became one of those 70% of people who lose all their money.
- You might be hated by a lot of people – As income inequality rises and more and more people are using food banks in the UK, criticism of the super rich has grown. Some super rich people now fear revolution or an uprising due to the increasing gap and dissatisfaction felt by those who go hungry while others have gold toilet seats.
- You will be expected to buy and do particular things because you are rich – It’s kind of considered a given that if any of us were to win a significant amount of money that we would buy ourselves a designer wardrobe, luxury cars and so on. But for those of us who have never dreamed of having a designer wardrobe the expectation that we should want those things might be difficult to reconcile. Although I’ve occasionally seen a designer item which has caught my eye, by and large I don’t lust after that all-designer wardrobe with $20,000 handbags. If I could afford to shop at NEXT I would be a very happy! As for spending a quarter of a million dollars on a car? No chance, I’m not sure what car I would buy since they are of little interest to me, but I most likely wouldn’t want to spend beyond £10-20,000 if I won the lottery – as long as it had four doors, heating and was a reasonable colour I’d be happy! Those who opt not to purchase luxury goods are sometimes criticised as wasting their opportunity to do so and told they should give that money to someone else who will go buy those designer items since ‘you don’t know how to spend it’.
- The need to have a continuous stable income in order to support your new lifestyle – Once you start living an expensive lifestyle there is pressure to continue finding the income to do so, and whilst a big lottery win can give you a lavish lifestyle even lottery winnings have their limits, particularly when they are only spent and never used to generate future income whether via education or investment. Take for example the standard desire of wanting a mansion – even if that alone only took up a small amount of your winnings, the costs of running that mansion could soon eat up the rest of your winnings – some of the huge houses I looked at were costing their owners $74,000 a month just to run them and maintain them. That’s three quarters of a million a year just on housing costs, before you’ve even factored in the rest of your lifestyle costs. Similarly for those who work their way up, people can feel pressured to continue maintaining a particular lifestyle or keep up with peers even if it doesn’t make them happy.
- People will want money from you – Lottery winners who go public have reported receiving thousands of letters begging for money and no longer been able to visit local places they used to love because of people hounding them for money. Of course you could try to only tell a few close friends but the more people you tell the greater the risk of someone letting the cat out of the bag, which is what happened to one man who planned to stay anonymous – until his girlfriend let it slip. People wanting money from lottery winners has been the cause of many a relationship, whether friends, family or romantic to come to an end.
- You might lose sight of who you are – Although I try hard to be a good person and generally think I wouldn’t become a raging jerk if I succeeded financially or won the lottery, there’s no telling until you get there. What if one day I found myself uttering ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ or what if I became a control freak like the woman who dropped her blueberries over a balcony and made a team of hotel staff spend hours searching for them? Until we get that kind of money there’s really no telling.
- You might lose your ability to connect and sympathise with others – Sure rich people still have problems but if they are careful with their money there is a whole host of things that they never have to worry about that the rest of us do – how will they stay warm, eat, bathe or live in general from day to day. When something goes wrong you have the bank balance to fall back on and what could be a major problem for someone with very little income like their car breaking down would be a mere inconvenience for the rich. This can lead to people being totally out of touch with the lives of those less fortunate and then hateful towards those people, but the good news is this isn’t always the case and there are rich people out there who manage to maintain an understanding and sympathy towards those less fortunate.
- Privacy – In many states in the USA you have no choice but to go public with your winnings. And in the UK if you go public or someone else lets that secret out for you then you might find yourself and your choices in the national papers as many other lottery winners have done in the past. Your past might also be scrutinised a lot more carefully than if you hadn’t won, so if you plan to play this is something to take into consideration.
- You might feel like your life is meaningless – I’ve seen some people whose businesses and careers took off only to see them endlessly talking about what they bought, what products they liked, what they are decluttering and it strikes me that their whole life and purpose seems to revolve around… shopping. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with shopping, almost all of us enjoy it, but when your whole life revolves around buying new stuff I imagine it must be difficult to feel any long-term deep satisfaction with your life and connection with your life’s purpose. There’s more to life than just… stuff.
This does in part depend upon the kind of person you are – if you focus on buying items with your money and winnings you are probably more likely to feel dissatisfied than if you focused on what money can do for you in terms of experiences, education, adventures and enterprises. Many lottery winners, high-earners and celebrities have fallen into a depression over their feelings of life being meaningless for them. The good news is that your wealth can give you the opportunity to explore what a meaningful life would look like to you – and chase it.
- It probably won’t make you happy – Statistically it’s been shown that an income of around £70,000 a year is the peak point for happiness and well-being in terms of wealth and that after that people don’t get any happier. As a society where money is concerned we tend to think that we can’t have enough of it and the more money we have, the happier we will be. Clearly this isn’t the case – perhaps we should all be dreaming of 70k a year jobs instead of lottery numbers?
And with all that said, I wouldn’t mind my current situation to improve a bit but I think having £100+ million would potentially be more stress than it’s worth! What do you think? Is there an amount of money where you would be happy and comfortable and any more just wouldn’t have any effect or would actually have the opposite effect? Share with me in the comments below!