All joking aside, what would you do if you woke up tomorrow with a life changing amount of money in your bank account? Most of us have probably fantasised about winning the lottery at one time or another, but it can also be very interesting to put some genuine thought into it.
The answers can be highly revealing, and, more importantly, you don’t have to join the ranks of the super rich to benefit from this exercise. How you respond to the hypothetical scenario reflects your past experiences, your personal values and beliefs, and many of your hopes and plans for the future – and it can potentially help you to work out your top priorities and set some realistic goals. It isn’t all about money either.
Let’s say you win £20 million, an amount that could easily mean that you’d never need to work again. An amount that would give you many choices, allowing you to lead pretty much any life you wanted to. How would you react to the news? How would you spend it in the short term, and how would you manage your life and finances in the longer term?
Let’s run through a few questions regarding your fantasy winnings…
What would you buy first?
The first thing that springs into your mind. Would you get a flashy new car, buy a home, treat yourself to some designer shoes or take a holiday, for example? It can be sensible, outrageous, or somewhere in between; whatever you like.
This can give you some insight into your immediate needs and wants, interests and aspirations, and it depends on your personality type to some extent too. It could be something attention-grabbing and/or materialistic, or it could be a purchase that creates a sense of comfort, or maybe it’s a big life goal or experience that you want to tick off your bucket list.
I’d like to book a holiday somewhere special that I’d never been to before, and go exploring. Having said that, I could still do that now if I planned it carefully, saved up and found a cheap flight though, so a lottery win definitely isn’t essential. What this part of the exercise has really told me is that I’d like a break for a week or two, and maybe a change of scenery or pace. Millions of quid not required.
Cash it in: Did this question spark any response in you where you could start to work towards something? For example, could you save up for a new car, or start looking for study grants, bargain goods or services? It’s good to make a plan, even if you can’t afford something immediately.
Who would you share the good news with?
Are you the sort of person who would go public with a large win? Would you want everyone to know? Would you keep it more low key, maybe only to work, friends or family? Or would you tell as few people as possible and swear them to secrecy?
Some of this is down to whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, but there’s also an element of risk, and of past experiences affecting future behaviour here. Could certain people become jealous and would your relationships be harmed? Might your newfound wealth attract false friends and con artists? Would you worry that kids or other relatives might become spoiled? Or would the people around you just be happy for you?
It goes without saying that if you’re currently in a relationship and you’d avoid telling your partner about the money then there’s something amiss. It says an awful lot about how you currently feel about the relationship, lottery win or no lottery win.
Me? I’ve just seen some new statistics about fraud and identity theft, and I think I’d keep a big win as private as I could. The Beau and I wouldn’t tell anyone about it immediately, and we’d agree on a plan of very limited exposure before telling anyone. Your mileage may vary.
Cash it in: General privacy and financial information are topics we all need to give some consideration to (it’s not a concern that’s limited to the super rich).
Would you give up work?
Believe it or not, some lottery winners in the UK have kept working in their old jobs even after hitting the jackpot. That’s because they enjoy their employment, they’re happy with their coworkers and boss, and perhaps also want to keep their daily routine in place.
However, that’s not the case for everyone. Would you change your hours? Would you change your type of work? Would you do the same work but in a different location or company? Would you start your own business? Or would you be happy to give it all up as soon as possible and live a life of total leisure?
While I’ll always love a bargain, I think it would be a bit odd to have millions in the bank and be constantly going on about budgeting. I’d keep writing because I love it, but the content might change, and I’d probably change my office to one in a different part of town.
Cash it in: Do you work to live, or do you live to work? This lottery-winner question is really about your ideal career, and again this is something most people can take steps towards creating. Do you want a career change, some more qualifications, a promotion, shorter working hours, to retire early, or to be your own boss? Think about small steps you can start to make to take action on your main goal.
Who would you help out?
If you have more than you need, there might be room for some generosity and altruism. Would you help any group or person? Is there a charity or a cause that you really care about? It could be anything from protecting the environment to helping vulnerable people, promoting education or health, or preventing cruelty to animals. There’s a huge amount of scope.
There are also varying levels of involvement. You could make a straightforward donation, create a trust that pays out funds for many years, attend a high end fundraising event, set up your own charity, fund a legal challenge or a series of micro-loans, or approach an existing non-profit organisation with your own idea for a new project. It could be local, regional, national or global.
For example, I have a couple of favourite charities I’d like to donate more to and perhaps get more involved with. There was also an educational trust that helped me out when I was younger, and I’d love to be able to give something substantial back to them in addition to my eternal gratitude.
[Aside from people or organisations that might benefit from your help, is there anyone you might want to treat to something nice? It could be an elderly relative, a young person who’s just starting out in life, someone who’s helped you in the past, or anyone who you think might like or deserve a treat. For example, many British lottery winners who go public with their winnings say they’re going to treat their relatives to a family holiday in the sun.]
Cash it in: This question can help you to think more deeply about your causes and passions. If you can’t give money right now, could you sign a petition, join a group or committee, or volunteer to give moral support, time or other resources? You don’t have to be loaded to get into these life-affirming activities.
What kind of lifestyle would you start to lead?
Would you want to regularly rub shoulders with the rich and famous? Would you opt for stealth wealth and less flashy luxury? Or would you try to keep things more normal, and live your usual life with a few upgrades here and there?
Where would you live? What would you do with your leisure time? How would you take care of your health? Would you take up new hobbies and interests? What would you get help with? Have a really good think about it.
For example, I’d be very tempted to move somewhere I could go swimming in a nice indoor pool every morning. That always sets me up for the day and I think it’d be amazing for health and happiness. Beau’s a film buff who’d like a home cinema with its own big room. We’d both buy more event tickets and have more holidays.
[By the way, expensive purchases such as large houses, boats and luxury cars can have all kinds of unexpected running costs, such as fuel, maintenance, cleaning and other services, and specialist insurance. Quite a learning curve for the inexperienced buyer, and something to factor in.]
Cash it in: This question is all about living your best life. Consider a few ways that you could bring some more of these things into your lifestyle on a budget – even the tiniest change or upgrade could make a difference. Evening classes? New running shoes? A cheap spa day? Books from the library? Economy tickets? An annual treat that you save up for in advance?
How would you make sure you didn’t run out of money?
On the surface, this might seem like a silly question because £20 million should be enough to keep you going for the rest of your life, right? Not necessarily. Winners have gone bankrupt before, due to a spend, spend, spend mentality, gambling or other addictions, and general poor money management.
Would you keep it in your current account? A savings account? A portfolio of investments?
National Lottery jackpot winners who receive multi-millions actually get counselling and financial education from Camelot and the bank that their money is paid into. The first big step that most lottery winners take is to pay off their mortgage, or to buy their first home. That seems sensible, as it’s the biggest financial commitment in the average household and it means one less big bill every month. They then usually also create or update their wills, pay off any debts, and look into ways to help out their families.
After that, winners usually take advice to arrange their finances so that they pay out an income they can live on, rather than spending the money directly. That could be the interest from savings, earnings from bonds, shares, funds, and businesses, payments out of pensions and so on. The general gist of most of it seems to be ‘use your money to make money, and don’t eat into your capital’.
Cash it in: Wealth management is an extension of general money management, albeit one with more options and more complicated tax arrangements. You don’t need to be super rich to budget, try to earn a little more, create a debt repayment plan, write a will, get insurance, start saving, learn about investing, or put a little extra into your pension savings each month. What’s your financial priority at the moment?
While very few people ever win a lottery jackpot (you’re statistically more likely to be struck by lightning), it can be an interesting exercise to think big about everything you’d do if you did become a lucky winner.
Where does your mind wander to? Whatever you daydream about can help you to sort out your priorities and start working towards them, even if you can’t fund everything you want right away.