What to do when you become an instant millionaire

By Vanessa Barford
BBC News

Image caption,
Kara Tointon is the face of this year's Euromillions Millionaire Raffle on Christmas Eve

It could be a very merry Christmas for a number of Britons as the National Lottery has promised to create 25 millionaires in the UK in a special festive draw. But what should you do when you unwrap such a windfall?

For some people waking up on Christmas Day, Santa Claus could just bring the ultimate Christmas gift.

It might not look like much - no big box, no gift wrapping - and it may have only set someone back £2.

But for those tempted to snub a piece of paper, there may never be a better time to read the small print.

That is because on 24 December the weekly EuroMillions Millionaire Raffle will not just see one Briton bank £1m, but 24 others.

According to the National Lottery, it will break the existing world record for the most millionaires in a single draw.

So what should you do if you suddenly became a millionaire?

Andy Carter, a senior winners adviser at Camelot, says when most people win a large amount of money they are initially shocked and overwhelmed so there is a team of people dedicated to helping them.


He says his team always validates big wins in person - and arranges a follow-up meeting with a legal and financial adviser because people may want to consider things like gifting and inheritance tax.

Another issue overnight millionaires need to consider is whether they want to remain anonymous - for others the thought of hiding their success creates unnecessary pressure.

He says about 25% of people who win about £1m go public, but while some feel it gives them more control over how their story is told and stops rumours, others worry about the impact the publicity may have on their work and personal relationships.

"There is no one size fits all approach, it is an individual choice and depends on people's lifestyles, but generally the larger amount a person wins, the harder it is to hide.

"The important thing to bear in mind is if it's managed well it can give people much more freedom," he says.

Susan Crossland, who won £1.2m on the National Lottery in July 2008, could not agree more.

The mother-of-four says she was "gobsmacked" when she discovered she had won the lottery, and although she has never totally splashed out, the money has been "a massive comfort blanket".

The 46-year-old, who is a full-time carer for her sister who is severely mentally disabled and in wheelchair, says she used the set of numbers her father used to play with when he was alive, which was fitting because "the lottery has literally kept the family together".


"The first thing I did was buy a house four doors down for my mum to live in, with my brothers and sisters.

Image caption,
Susan Crossland and her husband Michael were "gobsmacked" when they won £1.2m

"She died recently, so I've just bought a seven-bedroom house in Mirfield, west Yorkshire, for us all to live in. We've been able to build it to spec for my sister which means she hasn't had to go into a home," she says.

Mrs Crossland says she has always been careful with money and her advice to other winners would be "not to run out and do random things but plan".

"Obviously everyone is different but I wrote a wish list and a timescale in which I wanted to do things, and that worked for me.

"I do buy the odd treat and have taken my husband on a Caribbean cruise, but you could get used to the high life and spend all the money and one million would go in flash, you could end up worse than you were before.

"I won £1.2m and now I own a four-bedroom house and a seven-bedroom house, and I've still got about £800,000 in the bank but that's because I've got responsibilities and four children, and I need it to last," she says.

It is advice that money psychologist Christine Thompson-Wells says is well worth taking.

"Lottery winners usually fall into two categories. Those that invest money and make something out of it, and those that don't and lose it within three to five years.

"For the latter, it's because they haven't got the mechanisms in place to cope with money when their whole life situation changes," she says.

Ms Thompson-Wells says a lot depends on people's family and friends - and whether they have a positive or negative mindset.

"People with a negative mindset can be jealous or vindictive, they can bring things up from the past. Lottery winners often get 'you owe me' letters coming in or requests from friends reminding them of good deeds," she said.

"If that's the case, people need to have the courage to walk away, or do what feels right for them."

Ms Thompson-Wells says £1m is "not a huge amount of money, but can make a big difference to people's lives", enabling them to get out of debt or invest in something that brings in an income.

She says the best thing to do is seek an unbiased influence and professional advice on how to use the money wisely.

"For what it's worth if I was in the UK and came into a £1m next week, I would go out and buy four £120,000 one-bedroom flats or properties in London or somewhere like Hertfordshire or Berkshire.

"That could bring in up to about £4,500 in rent a month. Whether that's something you could retire on is up to you," she says.

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