About Lottery Winners

By Ben Hamill - March 06 2016

You may have heard the stories. Lottery winners become depressed and don’t know how to manage their money. They have so many people hounding them for gifts that they lose their friends and ruin family relationships. Lottery winners waste their winnings on frivolous purchases and what doesn’t go towards big houses, fancy cars and “toys” ends up being spent on booze and drugs.

If you believe these stories, you’re probably ready to swear that you’ll never buy another lottery ticket. But, are the stories true?

Maybe it’s a good idea to check out some accurate statistics.

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Ontario statistics are telling. We can see that playing the lottery is an activity that appeals to equal numbers of males and females from all sections of society. Half of all adults in Ontario play the lottery on a regular basis, and among those are blue and white collar workers, young adults, middle-aged players and seniors, people with high school diplomas and people with college degrees — even PhDs. Actually, the majority of lottery players have a degree from the university, with many holding post-graduate degrees.

By the way, just a mention….most lottery players in Canada buy Lotto Max or Lotto 6/49 tickets.

Effects on Happiness

There haven’t been any longitudinal studies of lottery players in Canada but a survey of 34 national lottery winners in England gives a glimpse into the lives of lottery winners after their wins. The survey, conducted by the Camelot Group in Great Britain, showed that more than half of lottery winners are happier after winning than they were beforehand. Only 2% said that they were less happy while 43% said that their win had no effect on their happiness. Not surprisingly, of those who said that they were happier, the majority claimed that they were happier because they were enjoying increased financial security and didn’t have to worry about money. Only 23% said that they were happier because they could buy “toys.”

Effects on Family Life

Evidently, the rumors that lottery winners dump their spouses in order to enjoy a freer lifestyle are untrue. One hundred percent of the winners who were living with a partner stayed in the relationship while 95% of those who had been married when they won the lottery stayed married after their win. Winners’ family members claimed to be happier as well, with almost 60% of family members saying that they were happier after their family member’s win. Financial security for themselves wasn’t main reason, though most of the respondents appreciated the assistance that they got. The majority felt that the money would be gone by the 3rd generation.


Eighty three percent of lottery winners gave money to their family members including to siblings, children and parents. And, as noted, the scenario of family members hounding the winner for money was almost non-existent, with only a small number of winners reporting that family members had asked them for money.


As with marriages and partners, friendships stood the test of a lottery win. Ninety percent of lottery winners maintained their “best friend” friendships. Men gave money to friends more freely than women.


The biggest change for the majority of lottery winners was the purchase of their own home — 75% moved from an apartment to a home while 38% made some kind of move to upgrade their living conditions. Almost half of the lottery winners had spent their payouts within the first five years. Forty percent of the winners contributed some of their wins to charity and almost 20% took overseas trips. One unfortunate side effect of the win was weight-gain — 32% of winners gained weight.


A surprising 48% of winners stayed in their job while 15% moved to a new job, but continued to work. Forty five percent of winners used some of their payouts to start their own business.

Post-Win Lottery Activities

According to this study almost 70% of lottery winners continued to play the lottery on a weekly basis after their win.

Happy Winners

Winning a lottery is, in the end, what you make of it. Some people who have turned their lottery wins into more happiness than the actual numbers may indicate include:

Allen and Violet Large of Lower Truro Nova Scotia. The Larges donated all of their winnings and couldn’t have been happier about it. The couple, in their 70s, won $11.2 million and simply passed it on to family members, hospitals, churches, their local fire department, the Red Cross and other charitable organizations. Violet passed away but Allen doesn’t regret their decision for a minute.


Colin and Christin Weir created the Weir Charitable Trust which has been responsible for generous contributions to their community in Scotland and also to individuals whose stories touched their hearts. They donated to a young artist, a child who needed a prosthetic limb and a girl with cerebral palsy. They handed over their house to their neighbor, a teen mother struggling to make ends meet.


Les Robins won a Powerball of $111 in 1993 and used the money to establish a day camp for children. Camp Winnegator continues to function, thanks to a family trust that Robins set up. The camp was built near Fond du Lac and gives Robins the chance to kill two birds with one stone. He was able to put his lottery winnings to the good of the public while creating a job for him — he runs the camp. Robins suggests that winners put a portion of their funds into an irrevocable trust for up to three years which gives them time to decide what to do with it without any pressure.


Jim Dancy showed that you don’t have to win millions in order to do the right thing with extra cash. Dancy won $10,000 in the Michigan lottery and then donated the entire sum to the Greater Kalamazoo United Way.


In the end, regardless of whether you win $10, $10,000 or millions, your lottery win is what you make of it.

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