03/30/2012 12:46 pm ET Updated May 30, 2012

Mega Millions Winner: Here's My Advice

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Time: Time is a unique resource. Time is the one resource that can never be renewed. If you waste time, that time is gone forever. Each of us, rich and poor alike, has the same 168 hours each week, but no one knows how many weeks we have left. If you use your time and your money to help others, chance are you'll be amazed at how much happier you will become.
  3. Talents: You have special talents, whether you realize it or not. Each of us is blessed with God-given talents and talents we have spent a lifetime honing. Some of our most fulfilling times in life are when we are fully engaged in an activity that uses our best talents. If you use your financial windfall to fuel your special talents, you may find it will increase your happiness.
  4. Wisdom: As we get older, we get wiser. We learn critical life lessons from our own experiences and from observing others. I often tell people that knowledge is a commodity, wisdom is priceless. Share your wisdom with others. It's a way of sharing your winnings and it won't cost you a dime.
  5. Your Body and Your Mind: We literally navigate the world using our bodies and minds. As my grandmother used to say, "If you don't have your health, you have nothing." Keep that in mind. Money and time spent eating better, exercising and staying mentally active can pay huge dividends, even to someone as rich as you.
  6. Your Network: All of us are connected to a network of family, friends, col­leagues, professionals and business associates. These people are what make the other elements of wealth worthwhile, and they can help you navigate the road ahead. Choose and use your network wisely and you'll be well on your way to paving your own road to true happiness. Isn't that why you bought a lottery ticket in the first place?

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

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 or at

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