Can a lottery win make you happy?

Feb 12, 2004, 6:39 am (11 comments)

After the Big Win The first Euro Millions lottery draw takes place on Friday, with the prospect of multi-million pound jackpots. How do windfall winners come to grips with their newfound wealth - and does it make them happy?

For the price of a newspaper and a chocolate bar, any one of us can buy into a multi-million pound dream.

It is a dream that lottery operators are keen to sell to yet more of us with the launch of EuroMillions, a mega draw for the UK, France and Spain aimed at boosting our flagging interest in lotteries.

For the price of a £1.50 ticket - slightly less on the Continent - players buy a shot at a jackpot that could reach £50m. Never mind that the odds of scooping such a glittering prize are just one in 76 million - it could be vous.

It is the UK's first taste of a super lottery. In the United States, hefty prize pots have sent ticket sales soaring, and in Spain the El Gordo lottery - which translates as the Fat One - is a national obsession. It pays out more than any other draw in the world, with last year's prizes totalling 1.8bn euros.

But what to do with a sudden windfall?

Buying tickets for Spain's El Gordo - the Fat One - lottery
"I want that one"
Winners tend to have a fairly unsurprising shopping list when first contemplating their millions - a share for family and friends, a flash car or three, a dream home and a leisurely jaunt to someplace exotic.

Many have more altruistic aims. Council estate teen Callie Rogers bought her foster mum a new wheelchair when she won £1.9m last summer. And cancer sufferer Hazel Grange vowed to donate a large chunk of her £4.7m windfall to cancer research and a diabetes charity - as well as splashing out on a trip to the Maldives and a classic car.

As with any sudden purchase, some get a bit carried away. One winner bought a car but couldn't drive; another dined in a succession of posh restaurants, only to realise that fish fingers were still a favourite dish despite her millions. And gifting money can be a burden if it's not done in a tax-efficient way.

Money and happiness

When 19-year-old Michael Carroll won almost £10m just over a year ago, he celebrated with spag bol and a bottle of vodka. Such simple tastes don't last long with such a wedge in the bank - the former dustman bought a fast car and a luxury mansion in Norfolk, where he treated his friends to quad bike races and displays of industrial-sized fireworks.

Michael Carroll
Michael Carroll was dubbed a "lotto lout" by the tabloids
His antics did not endear him to his new neighbours. And then his wife walked out on him with their baby daughter.

On Tuesday, Carroll admitted a string of drug offences. His solicitor told the court that relationship woes had made Carroll very low. "His good fortune has not made him popular. He has sought solace in drugs."

Such cautionary tales are seized upon by those who believe that money cannot buy happiness. There have been bankruptcies and the occasional suicide among lottery millionaires.

Last month a hot dispute broke out over a $162m win in Ohio's lottery. The prize was awarded to Rebecca Jemison, but Elecia Battle claimed she had lost the winning ticket in the snow. She later dropped her lawsuit, and has been charged with filing a false police report. "I wanted to win so bad for my kids and my family. I apologise," she said.

Elecia Battle
Ms Battle claimed she lost the ticket
Then there's the UK's best-known rags to riches to rags tale. In 1961, Viv Nicholson won £152,000 on the football pools - a cool £3m today - and declared that she was going to "spend spend spend".

With a taste for race horses, shocking pink Cadillacs and husbands who turned out to be after her money, she was dventually reduced to living on a state pension.

Psychologist Cary Cooper, who has looked at the case studies of winners for whom it all went wrong, has concluded that those who are dissatisfied with their lives beforehand are not rescued by money.

And those who quit work may find themselves isolated and at a loose end, especially if they've started a new life far from their old social circle.

But in the main, even an extra £1,000 makes people happier, says Professor Andrew Oswald, of Warwick University. He has studied lottery winners and those who've come into an inheritance for over a decade.

"Lots of people would like to think that there are a lot of miserable millionaires out there, but even quite small windfalls show up in our statistics on psychological wellbeing. Large sums are better than small sums."

Millionaires' club

As someone who counsels lottery winners on how to handle their windfall, Camelot employee Dot Renshaw has met more millionaires than most of us.

Lottery winner Hazel Grange and husband Terry
Hazel and Terry Grange toast their win
Anyone who scoops more than £500,000 is given access to a financial advisor and a lawyer, to direct them how best to manage their cash. Despite stories about overnight millionaires going off the rails, money does not have the dramatic effect we might think.

"People are frightened it's going to change them as a person but in fact it's their lifestyle that alters. If they were a kind, warm-hearted person before, they will be after."

Nevertheless, the fact they've been through such an extraordinary experience brings lottery millionaires together.

"Camelot organises celebrations to which we invite big winners and some of them have struck up friendships. There's no doubt they all have something quite unusual in common."

That something is an enormous stroke of luck that other envy and aspire to, believing that money makes possible many of the things we value. "Who among us wouldn't want to win the lottery?" says Professor Oswald. "I'd love to win the lottery.

BBC News


fja's avatarfja

wonder what my story would be?

weshar75's avatarweshar75

It would definitely brighten up my day if I had 150 million in my hands!


>And those who quit work may find themselves isolated and at a loose end, especially if they've started a new life far from their old social circle.

I haven't won so I'm no expert, but I would think this is a key issue once you bought the house, car etc. and have your place set up the way you want it. Then what? If you've quit your job, you'll have to find something new and meaningful to take up those 9-10 hours a day.  Having $5 million in the bank won't help you find something meaningful to do with your waking hours if you don't have a plan in your mind already.  I think I'd like to get up, read the paper over a nice breakfast, then go in the pool and exercise a bit, then plan my next exotic trip, but I may need something more after a while. Or maybe I'd be fine with that. I'm sure people with a plan or mission other than endless shopping do best, like doing charity work or taking care of baby or travelling.


Someone told me once that you should plan your retirement better than you planned your working life. WHEN I win, I plan on finishing school, and opening my own business.

MichiganHopeful's avatarMichiganHopeful

I would open my own business. I don't think I could just sit around and not work. Even with $150 million in the bank...(actually about $50 million after taxes)...I would get bored if I did not have some type of job.

fja's avatarfja

I would definitely take classes two to three days a week on financing and tax law, in an attempt to eliminate the middle man.  Trust me, managing that kind of money is going to be work to begin with, and your going to go crazy if you don't understand what the financial consultants and lawyers are going to be telling you! you'll just end up not trusting them enough or to much. either way you'll be in trouble!


> If you've quit your job, you'll

>have to find something new and

>meaningful to take up those 9-10

>hours a day.

I've done my share of meaningfull stuff in my life, and a life of leisure wouldn't make me feel guilty at all. And there is enough fun stuff to do in this world to so. Their are millions of lakes/rivers to fish, millions of miles of roads to travel, 1200+ speedways to attend races at etc etc..

> WHEN I win, I plan on finishing

>school, and opening my own


Now that would involve WORK, a dirty 4 letter word!

I just would lose my mind like uncle "Jack" seems to have done.. And I wouldn't live a greedy live. Sometimes it more fun to make somebody else happy than to get somthing for myself!



After I win,I will educate myself more,as a way getting close to the truth of the world.I will share my money with those who need,and those who I love,so that I can have happiness sharing my money with them.And I will want to win more money,until someday lottery has become a piece of cake for me.It will not a goal,not even a mistery,but a destiny that I can control.


Mana's avatarMana

After quitting job (yeah... after a while ... when people find out you have won big on a lottery, your opportunities for job advancement is quite silm), I'd probably be starting out a small business or go back to school to go for studies "I wish I could go to but I can't..." Yeah, i'd probably get the usual: flashy car, grand house (I'd like an oriental style), take an extended vacation .... and extend my ... wardrobe. (Can someone say 'Japanese Schoolgirl' and 'Elegant Gothic Aristocrat'?) I do like the idea of taking classes in financial and tax law to cut the middle man. I'll probably also work on well... I'd like to try my hand on tournament Texas Hold'em and perhaps get on the World Poker Tour TV show. (hey, I'm trying to get in on *ANYWAY* ... i'll just try to live it professionally or something...) Yeah it'll probably eat at winnings but first I'd make sure most of my money stays in treasury or municipal bonds live off the interest. ($50m of interest is sure alot).

Hehehe ... with my 'unusualness' just probably going to go "worse" if I win though, I'd think most would be too scared to hit meh up for money E.E; they'll think one of my piercings are going to attack... or something (::Had a lil kid say that to one of his friends covered with them one time.::)


The world is a big place, lots of things to see and do if you have the time and money, and I wouldn't sit home too often.  In the past 2 years I've been to Kauai, Maui and the Grand Canyon, and to have an open ended schedule to explore each of them (instead of a couple of days) and so many other great places would be wonderful.  All the walking and hiking I would be doing would get me in great shape too. 

hypersoniq's avatarhypersoniq

I would open a skatepark for the local kids (my own included)

I am working on  that anyway (no point in waiting for a next-to-impossible lottery winfall to start living your dreams, it's just harder to pay for is all). What a dream job that would be... also a great way to get some exercise while at work ;-)

Things I could do only with lottery money...

1. Buy my wife a 10+ acre horse ranch (complete with a new home that has all the goodies, but small enough to maintain without "staff" ;-)    )

2. increase, by orders of magnitude, my current charitable contributions to the Shriner's children's hospitals.

3. Create mega trust funds for my kids that they must have a bachelor's degree to tap into.

4. Go back to school for aeronautical engineering (THe Wright brothers have always been my favorite historical characters)

5. Get a pilot's license, and a plane to go with it

6. 3 words... HOME RECORDING STUDIO (already have a modest one, but then the sky would be the limit)

7. etc...

A windfall of megabucks would make you happy (even if for awhile) but it would be much better if you were happy to begin with.

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