Dear Lottery Winner,
Congratulations on winning $640 million! You must be feeling great right about now, and my hunch is that you also are feeling a bit overwhelmed and anxious about what to do next. As a financial advisor, let me give you a bit of unsolicited advice. Claim your winnings. Then do nothing.
Yes, that may seem like an odd message from someone who makes his living by investing other people's money, but for the sake of your happiness -- wait.
Before you spend a dime, take stock of your current personal wealth, and by "wealth," I don't mean just your finances. That's a mistake far too many people make, and if you're not careful, you can win a fortune and wind up losing everything that really brings you happiness. No matter your financial situation before hitting the jackpot, you already had far more wealth than just money. In fact, there are six areas of wealth that we can use to create happier, more meaningful lives:
- Money: Of course, money is one aspect of wealth. For most people, that is where the discussion starts and ends. You have plenty of money now, but money alone -- even millions -- likely will not bring you happiness. In fact, it could bring you lots of headaches. The road to happiness is littered with lottery winners who won and lost it all by making one key error: mistaking pleasure for happiness. Don't be one of them. Pleasure is great, but it's no substitute for happiness.
This last area of wealth poses an imminent threat to you. Psychologists who have studied lottery winners say this new-found wealth has a terrible effect on social relationships. To some people, money changes everything. Friends and family may get jealous, demand you share your prize, or sever connection with you. You might even use your money to buy access to a whole new group of friends. Don't let this happen! Nurture the relationships that mattered the most to you before you hit the jackpot. If those people were your true friends and family before, you can use your money to enhance those relationships, and studies tell us that quality relationships are a key to creating happier lives.
So before you begin spending your millions, take a look at what makes you happy now. Then use your $640 million to make sure you stay happy. Happiness isn't just having the money to buy a Lamborghini. It's having the time to drive it, the skill to handle sharp curves, the wisdom to slow down and watch your speed, the health to enjoy driving it for a long time, and a friend to share the ride.
Again, congratulations and be careful.
David Geller is the author of Wealth & Happiness: Using Your Wealth to Create a Better Life. He also serves as a motivational speaker and the CEO of Atlanta-based GV Financial Advisors. His new book is available through www.amazon.com or at www.gvfinancial.com.
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