A shark bite, a lightning strike and a lottery win: a sane person assumes none of these will happen to them. But of course chance is never so black and white. You might say that chances are, chances aren’t. Feeling special? Play those numbers, sail in that lightning storm, slap that Great White in the face. As the adage goes, you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
North Americans spent $58 billion on lotteries in 2010. Yet the odds of winning a jackpot are somewhere around 1 in 200 million. To put that in useful terms, if a Galapagos tortoise bought a ticket every day of its life and lived to 255 (the record age for a Galapagos tortoise), it has about a 1 in 2,151 chance of winning. The tortoise will more than likely die sad and $100,000 in the hole. But what new possibilities lie beyond these insurmountable odds?
Thanks to a study by UK National Lottery conductors Camelot Group last year, you no longer need to fantasize about what your life looks like when your balance grows by a factor of several million overnight. We collated these little-known stats that capture the reality-TV side of hitting the jackpot, including its effects on relationships, consumption habits and the pursuit of happiness itself.
Here are 10 things you didn’t know about life after lottery.
10. 44% of winners lose it all
Call it the Mike Tyson effect. Wealth is a lifestyle, and acquiring should come about through lifelong hard work, self-restraint and similarly boring virtues. Being wealthy, you might say, is a state of mind not conducive to flaunting every penny saved and earned.
Since earning isn’t exactly a variable in the jackpot, you’d think winners would take extra care of their finite fortune. But oh the human condition; to some, well-to-do simply has to mean castles made of Jell-O and private laser tag arenas.
44% of national lottery winners deplete their entire winnings within 5 years. For any jackpot over a few million dollars, you have to admit that is a stunning feat. Let’s hope they kept their day job.
9. 48% of winners keep their day job
They say lotteries target poor people, and in most peoples’ minds “poor” means being trapped in dreadful slave-like employment. But about half of these overnight millionaires either remain satisfied enough with their job to keep it, or are smartly anticipating some version of the Mike Tyson effect. Either way, good for them.
The survey finds that 15% start a new job (we like to think most of them made a pretty heroic exit) and 45% start their own business. As for the remainder—assuming they rake in anywhere from a few hundred thousand to the world record $365 million win in 2006—they no doubt cash out for an early retirement. Let’s just hope they don’t cash back in after 5 years.
8. Your chances of being happier are only around 50%
It’s one of the biggest clichés ever spouted for a reason. Millions of dollars aren’t particularly better than most things at bringing you happiness. According to the study by Camelot Group, 55% of national lottery winners claim to be happier after winning. 65% of these credit lack of financial stress, and 23% their ability to buy whatever they wanted.
But 43%, on the other hand, claimed no effect on their happiness. For a tiny 2% of the sample, winning the lottery actually made them less happy. Was Biggie right? Does mo’ money bring mo’ problems? 45% of jackpot winners are either shameful liars, or 300 mil really does have about the same promise of happiness as a new job, a new exercise routine, or heck, even a new sweater.
7. 83% of winners give money to family
See the thing is dad has always wanted a fishing boat, and if he didn’t spend so much of his time, money and happiness raising you, he’d probably have one by now. Remember that when you get to have $50 million dollars just because.
The Camelot study found 17% of $100,000 to $500,000 lottery winners get asked by their family for money. For wins over $4 million, 29% of winners get asked. That’s literally asking, never mind the passive remarks about never having been to Europe.
Obviously the higher the jackpot, the more family will be inclined to remind you they’re family. But do they really need to? Around three quarters of winners give money to their family: 66% to siblings, 57% to children and 51% to parents.
6. 90% of winners lose friends
You’ve just hit the jackpot: Congratulations, everybody hates you.
Why? Because it takes a shockingly big-headed person to think they deserve to win the lottery jackpot, and until you show some generosity, winning it automatically qualifies you as such a person. Jealousy is just that petty.
Though jealousy has a point. When Lady Luck could have just as easily given you lemons like everyone else, what better way to show humility than to spread some of that fortune around? According to the study, men give money to three friends and women to one on average. Naturally, the study also determined 90% of lottery winners have a best friend who remains their best friend.
5. Just 1% of winners get plastic surgery
Of course, nothing says humility like a brand new face. People tend to think wealth and superficiality go hand-in-hand, and they’re totally right, but the misanthrope in us expected this rate to be higher. Faith in humanity slightly restored.
But sometimes it takes financial security to expose someone’s insecurities. 1% of jackpot winners opt for a new look under the knife.
After winning £1.9 million at the age of 16, Callie Rogers, the UK’s youngest-ever lottery winner, spent £550,000 on four properties, £250,000 on parties and hard drugs, £85,000 on cars and £11,500 on two boob jobs. Her fortune ran out by the age of 26. She maintains she is far happier today without it, and with her new boobs.
4. Most winners travel
Got a bucket list? Start crossing: Handstand on the Great Wall of China, a butt slide down the Andes. Money means time to feed whatever freaky wanderlust you might have. It turns out many jackpot winners have never been outside their home country — 19% of them take their first foreign voyage after winning. 7% of winners purchase an RV to help with that.
Others make bigger moves. The study found 38% of lottery winners relocate, 75% of these from an apartment to a single family home, and 24% of winners buy property in a foreign country.
Then there’s the boring 12% who have never left their country and continue to never leave. But to their credit, have you been on Google Earth lately?
3. 3% move their kids from public to private schools
Money doesn’t buy smarts, but it does buy more money. When they say it’s who, not what you know gets you ahead, “getting ahead” means making more money. Think of private education as a way of insuring your children’s lottery fortune, at the potential expense of their emotional development.
Transitioning from public to private schools is sort of like joining a yacht club. Everyone will not-so-secretly want to know who the new guy’s daddy is and what he does. It might be a little awkward for little James to explain how his just drew $200 million from a hat, but all the same he is taking a courageous step into the world of the well-to-do.
Good to know only 3% of winners’ kids have to take that step.
2. 32% of winners gain weight
Money can be a powerful stimulant or a powerful sedative. As for its effect on your being fat, comfortable and lazy, it’s generally a sedative.
32% of national lottery winners gain weight. If they don’t walk or take the bus anymore, that’s probably a factor. If they quit their job and spend all their time “managing their investments” that’s also a factor. If they stocked their newly furbished freezer room with a year’s supply of cookie dough ice cream, of course that too.
Amusingly enough, 12% of winners decide to join a gym. It’s safe to assume gaining weight is the biggest reason people join gyms, and that most of that 12% are hoping their cash will solve the very problem it seems to have created. But we all know how those gym memberships tend to work out.
1. 68% of winners keep playing the lottery
Some people say it’s a tax on the poor; some say it’s a tax on the stupid; some say it’s a tax on the bad-at-math. Maybe the lottery is just a tax on optimism.
The fact that over two thirds of jackpot winners keep playing proves the payout doesn’t really matter: The lottery is a gamble, and win or lose gambling tends to fulfill its own purpose. Whether you call that purpose harmless fun or a rapturous thrill with addiction potential is up to you.
But really, would you want to be that guy who won the lottery twice?
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