Many years ago, a colleague of my parents won the lottery. The husband immediately quit his job, and the wife bought the car she always wanted. Not long after, he was told by his doctor that he would not be around to enjoy his money if he didn’t take better care of himself. So he did, and ended up buying a business and going back to work — turned out, neither his body nor his mind enjoyed basking in his lottery winnings.
Most lottery winners have cautionary tales that are much worse than this: depression, bankruptcy, divorce. Why? Because money does not solve all our problems; in fact, having lots can create a whole lot more. Here’s what can go wrong with a windfall:
People Will Take Advantage
Lottery winnings give you more than you need – and others often want a piece. Family members, friends and long-lost members of both groups will suddenly show up and want you to bail them out, buy them stuff or, at the very least, pay for dinner.
Many windfall winners find they need to dispose of certain friends and carefully screen the people they bring into their lives.
You Can Go Bankrupt On A Bigger Scale
While you have lots of money — perhaps too much — you can still fritter it all away. About one third of all lottery winners are bankrupt or in serious financial trouble within five years of cashing in.
The likes of Elton John and Michael Jackson spent their fortunes, and so can you. Those with a lot can easily forget that it’s not an endless supply. In addition, lottery winners are often faced with large amounts of money with no skill whatsoever for managing it.
Meanwhile, high living with multiple properties and cars can lead to higher overhead, meaning what you need to live on month to month can soar. You may find yourself blindsided when that vacation property needs a new roof. Those with issues with gambling are also particularly at risk for blowing their fortunes.
You Become A Target
Names of lottery winners often get published, making them a target for criminals specializing in elaborate schemes, hacking or robbery. Even accountants and financial advisors might be tempted to dip their hands into the cookie jar.
Winners can also be a magnet for lawsuits from schemers beefing up accident claims and a myriad of other schemes, to get a part of the winnings.
You’ll Miss Working – Really
Those who get a windfall usually leave the workplace – who doesn’t want to take an early retirement!? However, work brings meaning to our lives, and not having meaningful work to fill your days can leave you feeling depressed. This can put a strain on your relationships and lead to destructive things like foolish spending or making friends with the wrong people.
You Really Can’t Buy Happiness
While they may have more money, most lottery winners find they are the same person after, especially on an emotional level; happy people often stay happy, and those who are miserable often return to that emotional state once the thrill of winning wears off.
Being richer won’t improve your health, either. One study looked at 8,000 lottery winners over a long period and found that physical health does not improve after winning and, in some cases, actually gets worse.
What To Do With A Win
First of all, avoid buying lottery tickets unless you truly enjoy the process, can afford the price of the tickets, and are prepared to deal with the downsides of winning. Keep in mind that it’s better to spend that amount every month paying down your debts or investing.
If you do win, be sure you bring in a good team of financial experts for guidance right away to help you make money decisions, then invest your money carefully (and keep your eye on it so no one can skim from the pot). Live like your money has limits (which it does), stay busy doing meaningful work of some kind and protect your privacy.
It’s not likely you’ll win the lottery – and that’s a good thing! The best way to stay happy and financial secure is to enjoy life with the means you have right now.