What Does It Feel Like to Win the Lottery?
Winning the lottery might sound like the ultimate fantasy, but the reality of becoming wealthy overnight is much more complicated than feeling like your dreams have come true. For as many stories as there are of lotto winners going on to have fulfilling lives or giving back to their communities, there are just as many stories—if not more—of winners going bankrupt and sometimes even ending up homeless or dead. Upon reviewing many lotto winner stories, it turns out that the answer to the question “what does it feel like to win the lottery?” is actually much more complicated than it seems.
One of the most common feelings jackpot winners express after their big win is a feeling of shock and disbelief—especially in the immediate moments after checking their tickets. One UK Lotto winner, John McDonald, was so surprised that his ticket contained the winning numbers that he immediately called UK lotto organiser Camelot to verify that he had in fact won. If you want to see the expression of disbelief that must be familiar to many jackpot winners, you can watch the news clip below of multi-winner Bill Morgan, who won AUD$250,000 from a scratch ticket while re-enacting a prior lotto win on live TV:
Many winners check their tickets multiple times before they can even begin to believe their good fortune, keeping the news to themselves until they can confirm the truth. The feeling of disbelief often lasts for days or weeks, as many lotto winners need some time to let their new reality sink in. While the lottery can change your life overnight, it sometimes takes a bit longer for winners to really process just how much their fortune has changed.
Once the reality finally sets in, lottery winners have expressed feeling an incredible high akin to euphoria. This is likely due to the fact that a no-strings-attached windfall like a lotto win can ease such a huge financial burden. Studies have found that working-class individuals are much more likely to play the lottery than middle-class or upper-class people, which means that big monetary prizes are literally life-changing. Even for winners who may have had some financial stability prior to the win, this surge of money allows them to spend the rest of their lives (hopefully) focused on exactly how they want to live, without having to worry about finances or budgeting for the future.
The excitement of winning the lottery may also come simply from knowing that you’ve beaten incredible odds to become a winner. There’s no doubt that being the 1 person in 292,201,338 (the odds of winning the US Powerball) to win could make you feel like you’re living a charmed life.
The Honeymoon Phase
Robert Pagliarini, a financial advisor who has worked with many lottery winners, describes the feeling of excitement that comes with winning big as being in a “honeymoon phase.” However, he says that the emotional high that many winners feel is ultimately not sustainable, and this can actually lead to many problems. For some winners, the honeymoon phase could only last for a few days, while it may last for months for others.
The End of the Honeymoon Phase
Pagliarini cautions that many winners could ultimately end up feeling very lost once the honeymoon phase ends, and many suffer emotional and even financial distress by riding out the high without taking a step back to assess their new circumstances and plan for the future. To avoid the low that can sometimes come after the high of the honeymoon phase, Pagliarini recommends that winners not only establish a financial team of advisors to help with their financial future, but also take some time to do some soul-searching. This time for introspection can help winners discover how they want to live going forward, what will fulfill them emotionally in the long run, and how they can use their money to achieve that.
Unfortunately, for all of the good that comes with winning a huge sum of money so publicly, there are also some unavoidable downsides. Many regions require winners to come forward publicly to claim their prize, which means that many winners become mini celebrities. Not only do members of their community now know about their huge change of fortune, opening them up to nosy neighbours or long-lost friends and family who suddenly want to establish a connection, but some winners are even hounded by the media long after their press conference, introducing a new level of chaos into their lives. The media tends to take more of an interest if there is something that makes a winner unique. For example, young players like EuroMillions winner Jane Park, who was only 17 when she won a £1 million jackpot, often become fodder for the tabloids, with media reporting on their lives even years after winning.
Though it might sound unbelievable to someone who has never experienced the whirlwind of winning the lottery, many winners end up regretting their win. The number one reason for this is the way that the win affects the people around them and how money and greed can destroy relationships. Many winners end up being taken advantage of by family and friends who come looking for a handout, and some are even betrayed by loved ones. For example, one winner named William Post, who won US$16.2 million in 1988, almost lost his life when his brother hired a hit man to kill him. The brother hatched the plot in the hopes that he would inherit some of Post’s winnings. No monetary prize can make up for the sense of hurt and betrayal that must come with the realization that your loved ones would subject you to either emotional or physical harm just to get their hands on some money.
There’s no doubt that winning the lottery is an overwhelming experience that can create a plethora of unfamiliar and intense feelings. For many, winning feels like an emotional rollercoaster, with just as many ups as there are downs. While some winners might be able to reclaim some sense of normalcy after their names fade from the headlines, others are not so fortunate, as they have to reckon with the emptiness that comes with realizing that sometimes money truly can’t buy happiness.