With the $100 million Powerball jackpot looming, millions of Aussies have no doubt spent the last few days daydreaming about what their life could be like if they were named the lucky winner.
Buy a big, new house? Absolutely. Maybe a luxury car? Why not. Travel the world with family and friends? Sounds delightful.
While you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has never fantasised about winning the lotto and becoming an instant multi-millionaire, the reality of such an overnight windfall can be much, much darker.
Director of Zella Money, Victoria Devine, a former financial adviser who has worked with the “ultra wealthy” — clients with a minimum of $10 million to invest — told Yahoo News Australia that Thursday night’s Powerball draw 1420 could actually leave the winner regretting their windfall and suffering from Sudden Wealth Syndrome (SWS). The mental condition is a type of distress that afflicts those who suddenly come into large sums of money.
“People think this life of financial freedom is freeing but it’s actually quit constricting,” the host of podcast She’s on the Money said. “Research tells us that 70 per cent of people who win the lotto are going to go bankrupt and there’s a few things associated with this, and why this happens.”
Money changes relationship dynamics
A big contributing factor is a lack of emotional attachment to the money, with winners often taking on the mentality of “easy come, easy go”, Ms Devine said.
“You feel like it’s a bit endless because it’s the most amount of money you’ve ever seen in your entire life and you feel like it will last forever so you start being super generous,” she continued.
This generosity, and admitting the win to friends and family, will then place strain on relationships in several corrosive ways.
“People that you used to know are going to start to want to catch up, family members will start calling you claiming you’re their favourite cousin,” Ms Devine told Yahoo. “It changes the dynamic of the relationship — it’s not longer about you, it’s about the money that you hold.”
The business owner said some people will see the win as a “benefit to them” or believe the multi-millionaire is not deserving of the prize because they didn’t work for it.
“If you suddenly win $100 million your lifestyle is going to change,” she said. “All of a sudden you’re going to want to fly around the world and have really beautiful holidays but your friends aren’t going to be able to … so you will have new company but they won’t respect you the same.”
Lotto winners often 'really bored'
Another big problem lotto winners face is that after quitting the mundane job they had always wished to be free of, they end up finding themselves “really bored”. “Often people quit their job and fill that boredom, not with achievements, but with luxury items,” the former financial adviser said, adding that some feel like they have “lost their purpose”.
“A lot of money can end up being blown because you’re trying to fill the void of not working, or the purpose you used to have with stuff.”
Lotto winners are known to donate large chunks of money to charity, often out of guilt, without taking into consideration how much they need. They also try to lift the lifestyles of those around them by buying them homes, cars and other gifts. “You might be more comfortable with your finances, but every other aspect of your life hasn’t been fixed with money,” Ms Devine said.
'It all went bad'
Financial advisor and author of On Your Own Two Feet, Helen Baker, told Yahoo she previously worked with a lotto winner, but “it all went bad”. Some of the main issues included “gifting a lot of money away to help others” and “managing the expectations of others who all want something for nothing”.
Disagreeing on what to do with the money can “blow up” an entire relationship, she cautioned, noting that if a couple wins, “often one is a spender and one is more conservative”.
“So whilst you can have a lot of money and people think that will make them happy, it often comes with a lot of yak and mess that is very stressful, some wishing they never won it,” Ms Baker added.
“Money doesn’t always mean happiness – look at football stars, actors, singers and their lives – drugs, gambling, relationship breakdowns. However, used well, managed well, getting quality advice and support, you have the ability to change the destiny of so many lives – so much opportunity to help yourself, your family and charities.”
Lottery winners can lose their sense of self
Sydney psychologist Ros Knight has long warned about the pitfalls of Sudden Wealth Syndrome, where people encounter a "massive stress factor" in the wake of their dreams of avarice coming true.
"Life actually gets really, really complicated. And really, really different," she told ABC radio late last year.
Suddenly people have near limitless possibility for their life, but lose themselves in the journey.
"If you change your identity, if you're suddenly not someone who gets up and goes to the office, then who are you? And how to people see you? ... Who are you in the world now?"
That can be a seriously difficult thing for people to navigate, the psychologist warned.
So if you're hoping your numbers get drawn in Thursday night's mega Powerball draw, just be careful what you wish for. And for whoever is lucky enough to win, choose wisely.
If gambling is a problem for you go to Gambling Help Online or call 1800 858 858.
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