Lucky player offers a glimpse into his "normal" life
By Kate Northrop
More often then not, it's the unfortunate lottery winners we hear about years after the big win, but one UK winner opened up about how he maintained both his wealth and normalcy after winning £2.4 million (US$3.3 million) 17 years ago.
Ben Woods of Rock Ferry did what any person might do after winning the lottery — travel abroad and go on vacation. While most advertised stories chronicle the downfall of unlucky lottery winners who spend it all, Woods is happily enjoying his wealth nearly two decades later.
In 2004, Woods, who was 23 at the time, received a lottery ticket from his mother and scooped a £2,485,736 (US$3,415,761) jackpot.
After spending a few years travelling abroad, the lucky winner settled down to a "normal life" a few miles away from his family home.
"The money doesn't change who you are — it can change how you are," Woods told ECHO. "I was a railway guard based out of Birkenhead Central. It was a good job, and I worked with a bunch of good people."
The first thing he did when he found out he won the big prize was quit his job at Merseyrail, a railway operator in the UK, so he could travel the world.
"At the time I won, I was young, and it was a public facing role," he said in an interview. "[I] felt like I couldn't carry on with it and also didn't particularly want to. I was only 23 when I won it, and I spent a good couple of years in my twenties travelling — anywhere."
While on a trip in 2005, Woods met his current wife. Once they got their vacation fix, the two married, had children, and went on to live a normal life. With the means to settle down just about anywhere, Woods went with the option that was least expected of him — moving back to his hometown in Birkenhead.
"I moved out of my mum and dad's three miles down the road and bought my own house," the lottery winner explained. "A lot of people say I wouldn't stay around here, but all my mates and family are here. Just because you can move away anywhere, it doesn't mean everybody around you can come with you."
Now 40 years old, Woods had plenty of sound advice for future lottery winners, particularly younger players, and fleshed out how he processed coming into a lot of money in such a short amount of time.
"When I won, I went through the financial aspect of what I chose," he explained. I got so much and so much was invested. It's up to you how you deal with it. You can't tell anyone — it's about just trying to stay the same as what you are and stay a bit grounded. I was young, and it is a lot of money, but not when you think you want to enjoy a long time — it's different if you win when you're 50."
Aside from vacationing and investing, the lottery winner used a portion of the prize to buy his sister a house.
"It's been fantastic and really was a life changing amount of money to win," he remarked.
One crucial aspect that kept him grounded in reality, Woods said, is how the National Lottery had helped him connect with other winners as a means of support.
"When you first win, it's hard to discuss with family and friends, but meeting other winners, it's a community as you're in the same boat," Woods related. "If it happens to you, you'd be very lucky to find another lottery winner — it doesn't happen all the time, so meeting up with others who've won, you get to talk among yourselves, and it helps you settle down sort of thing."
Just last week, Woods participated in a beach clean in New Brighton with other National Lottery millionaires like him. The goal of the clean was to raise awareness about the pollution of microplastics in the ocean, or plastics that break down and are eventually ingested by aquatic animals that we consume, like fish.
"The amount we actually found when walking along the seaweed line, it must have been in its thousands — if you think that's on every beach, it's a big problem," Woods recalled. "The pellets get into the ocean, the fish eat it, then effectively its in the fish. If you're eating fish that's caught and eaten these pellets, then you are too; it's in the food chain then."
Woods said that the event of the beach clean itself did not get many visitors, but he was happy to put his time and effort to good use in contributing to and spreading the word about a good cause.
"The reaction we got was fine, although to be fair, it was pretty early in the morning, and there weren't many people on the beach, although we did catch the morning swimmers as they were coming back," the lottery winner said. "I was just happy to have the opportunity to raise awareness."