Skip to Content

What do lottery winners do after they win?

Winning the lottery is a dream come true for most people. The chance to win millions of dollars in an instant is an alluring prospect. But what do lottery winners actually do after they win? How does coming into sudden wealth change someone’s life? There are some common things lottery winners do after their big win.

Paying Off Debt

One of the first things many lottery winners do is pay off debt. With millions of dollars suddenly in the bank, winners can pay off mortgages, student loans, credit cards, car loans, and any other debt. Being completely debt-free provides a huge sense of relief. According to a survey by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, about 1 in 4 lottery winners surveyed said their first big purchase was paying off debt.

Buying Homes

Another common purchase lottery winners make is buying fancy new homes. Some upgrade to their dream home, buying mansions with gorgeous pools and home theaters. Other winners like to purchase homes for family members as well. While the median home price in the United States is around $400,000, it’s not uncommon for lottery winners to spend $1 million+ on new luxury homes. Home purchases accounted for the second largest share of big purchases made by lottery winners surveyed by the CFP Board.

Going on Vacations

Booking dream vacations is high on the to-do list for many new lottery millionaires.Popular destinations include luxurious beach resorts in the Caribbean, European tours, African safaris, cruises, and more. Winners may travel first class or privately for the first time. These vacations are often family trips bringing along spouses, parents, siblings and children. Lavish vacations allow lottery winners to celebrate their new wealth.

Buying New Cars

Lottery winners will often purchase new cars with their winnings. Some opt for fancy luxury vehicles like Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, Porsches, and more. These flashy sports cars can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Other lottery winners stick with high-end SUVs, trucks, and sedans. And a portion choose to buy new practical cars for family members to replace old vehicles. Whether practical or exotic, new wheels are a common lottery winner purchase.

Making Investments

Coming into millions of dollars provides the opportunity to make investments that can generate even more wealth. Many lottery winners work with financial advisors to invest portions of their winnings into stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, and businesses. Conservative investments can provide ongoing income for years. And riskier investments have the potential for even higher returns over time. Investing winnings wisely is key to maintaining and growing lottery wealth.

Donating to Charity

Sharing their newfound fortune with charitable causes is another priority for some lottery winners. Big winners often donate millions or even tens of millions to charities. Recipients may include hospitals, disease research organizations, homeless shelters, animal rescues, environmental groups, and more. Establishing charitable trusts and foundations is also popular. For philanthropically-minded winners, giving back provides great fulfillment.

Setting up Trusts

To help manage their sudden wealth, many lottery winners set up various trusts and hire financial managers. Blind trusts keep winners’ names private so they can avoid public scrutiny of their spending. Estate planning trusts ensure their assets are distributed how they wish upon death. Trusts can also be set up for heirs like children and grandchildren. Hiring financial managers, accountants, lawyers, and investment advisors is also common. Having professional help makes it easier to manage and grow such large fortunes.

How Lottery Winnings Change Lives

Winning millions in the lottery is life-changing in many ways. While exciting, adapting to this new lifestyle can also be challenging. Some of the biggest ways winning the lottery changes lives include:

Greater Financial Freedom

The most obvious change from winning the lottery is having vastly greater financial freedom. Winners can afford purchases, investments, and vacations previously out of reach. They no longer have to stick to budgets or penny pinch. The anxiety from money problems fades away. Wealthy winners have financial security and peace of mind.

Closer Relationships

Having money can strain some relationships. But for many lottery winners, new wealth actually brings loved ones closer together. Winners are able to help out family and friends financially. Memorable vacations and family homes create bonding experiences. Tensions over money matters diminish. Strengthened relationships is a common result of sharing the wealth.

More Free Time

Most lottery winners quit their jobs and retire early, gaining extra free time. Without needing to work for a living, winners have far more flexibility in their schedules. Typical retirements last 20-30 years, allowing winners to really enjoy their free time. Many winners take up new hobbies, volunteer in their communities, go back to school, travel more, and spend time with loved ones.

Increased Opportunities

With essentially unlimited funds, the possibilities are endless for lottery winners. Doors open to opportunities previously unattainable. Winners can explore passions, make a difference through philanthropy, grow intellectually, and expand perspectives through new experiences. Wealth provides the resources and flexibility to pursue interests and dreams. Life’s opportunities expand greatly.

More Stressed Relationships

On the downside, the influx of wealth can also put strain on relationships with romantic partners, family members, and friends. Money changes dynamics and can reveal true intentions. Some feel entitled to winnings. Spouses may clash on spending. Family conflicts can arise. New financial equals are made. Keeping good relationships takes work.

Loss of Motivation

Without having to work anymore, some lottery winners lose motivation and purpose. They may fill time by shopping and traveling at first. But everyday life without a career can lack fulfillment. Winners may pick up bad habits and grow lethargic. Developing a healthy new routine and finding purpose beyond a job is important for a happy retirement.

New Stressors

Winning the lottery also brings new stressors. Huge amounts of money come with great responsibility. Decisions like how to invest, donate, and spend sustainably are difficult. Winners need to beware of fraudsters and hangers-on. Resources must be responsibly managed for the future. Finally achieving wealth after being poor can cause mental health issues. Sudden riches have many pitfalls.

Changed Identity

Lastly, winning the lottery changes winners’ social identity and how people perceive them. Socioeconomic status jumps overnight. With great wealth comes higher social standing and prestige. But it also breeds envy and assumptions of arrogance. Some struggle to stay grounded. Navigating these identity changes is challenging. Overall, life is vastly different after hitting the jackpot.

Statistics on Lottery Winners

Some interesting statistics provide further insight into lottery winners. These facts are based on various research surveys over the years.


– Lottery players skewed towards middle-aged adults. In one survey, over half of respondents who bought lottery tickets were between 45 and 64.

– Lower income individuals play the lottery more frequently. Those earning under $25k annually spent nearly 10% of income on lottery tickets on average.

– Men and women play the lottery at similar rates according to survey data.

– All ethnicities participate in lotteries at comparable levels as well.

Winning Odds

– Your odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338. Mega Millions odds are slightly better at 1 in 302,575,350.

– You’re about 50 times more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime than to win the lottery jackpot.

– On average, there is 1 lottery jackpot winner about every 2 months.

Most Popular Purchases

Based on a Camelot Group survey in the UK, the most common big purchases made by lottery winners are:

Purchase Share of Winners
New home 41%
New vehicle 32%
Vacation 28%
Home improvements 25%
Investments 19%
Jewelry & watches 19%
Property 17%
Paying off mortgages 15%
Fine dining 15%

Happiness & Health

– In multiple studies, lottery winners reported higher levels of overall happiness after winning compared to non-winners.

– One study found major winners were 50% less likely to go bankrupt than minor winners. More money led to more financial stability.

– Research found lottery winners had improved psychological health, but it did not carry over to physical health improvements.

– Winners’ mortality rate and life expectancy were no different than non-winners on average.

Relationship Impacts

– Approximately 1 in 3 major lottery winners ends up divorced, matching the average divorce rate.

– About 10% of winners experience some form of family or friend relationship problems.

– Over three-quarters of winners considered their spouse or partner to be their most trusted confidant post-winning.

Winning & Work

– Well over half of all lottery winners quit working entirely after their win.

– About 1 in 5 winners kept working, but reduced hours or responsibilities.

– Only around 1 in 7 lottery winners stayed in the same job after winning.

– Winners who quit working commonly reported getting bored, lonely, or missing the social interaction of a job.

Famous Lottery Winners

Some of the biggest and most notorious lottery winners over the years include:

Andrew Whittaker – $315 Million

In 2002, West Virginia builder Andrew Whittaker won a Powerball jackpot worth $315 million. At the time, it was the largest U.S. lottery prize ever won by a single person. Infamous for squandering his fortune, Whittaker spent lavishly on cars, houses, and drugs. He was plagued by legal troubles and sued for unpaid debts until declaring bankruptcy. Within just a few years, his fortune was spent. Whittaker died broke at age 72 in 2020.

Jack Whittaker – $314 Million

Jack Whittaker of West Virginia won a $314 million Powerball prize in 2002. As with Andrew Whittaker, Jack fell victim to vices and excessive spending. He bought homes and cars for friends and got sued for bounced checks at casinos. About $45 million of Whittaker’s winnings was stolen in various scams. His granddaughter and daughter died shortly after his windfall as well. By 2008, Whittaker was largely broke.

Cynthia Stafford – $112 Million

Cynthia Stafford’s rags to riches story made headlines in 2007 when she won $112 million in California. Unlike other winners, Stafford has maintained financial stability and lives comfortably but not lavishly. She started charitable foundations and makes equity investments. Stafford cites strong faith as key to avoiding the “lottery curse” that has plagued other winners.

Gloria Mackenzie – $590 Million

At age 84, Gloria Mackenzie of Florida claimed a $590 million Powerball jackpot in 2013. Her prize stands as the largest ever won by a sole lottery player. Mackenzie opted for a lump sum payment of $370 million and has since kept a very low profile. A widow when she won, Mackenzie has been able to enjoy her golden years in comfort.

Manuel Franco – $768 Million

In 2019, 24-year-old Manuel Franco came forward to claim a $768 million Powerball prize. Split with other investors, Franco’s lump sum share was about $326 million. He has since quit work, bought a modest house, and given to charity quietly. Franco serves as one of the examples of younger lottery winners who’ve managed to stay disciplined after coming into great wealth.

Avoiding the “Lottery Curse”

Given all the lottery winners who go broke, is there a “lottery curse” at play? Not necessarily, but avoiding bad outcomes takes discipline. Here are some tips experts recommend to lottery winners:

– Remain anonymous if allowed. This prevents public scrutiny and solicitations.

– Don’t make big decisions like quitting work right away. Wait at least 6 months.

– Live within your means. Don’t feel pressure to spend lavishly or donate huge sums all at once.

– Invest conservatively to preserve principal. Work with reputable financial advisors.

– Set up trusts and speak to tax/estate attorneys to manage wealth responsibly.

– Make a detailed financial plan for the future, considering lifetime costs.

– Keep grounded. Don’t let the money drastically change you or your relationships.

– Find purpose beyond work to avoid boredom and emptiness. Pursue passions.

– Be very selective in who you tell about your win and share money with.

– Be wary of fraudsters, leeches, and scammers looking to take advantage.

– Don’t feel obligated to take big risks with investments or business ventures.

Following this kind of disciplined approach can help lottery winners beat the odds and avoid ruin. But it takes understanding money management and having strong willpower.


Winning the jackpot lottery prize brings life-changing wealth. Initially, winners commonly pay off debt, buy houses and cars, go on dream vacations, donate to charity, and make investments. But suddenly coming into vast sums of money also poses challenges. It takes prudence and wisdom to handle lottery wealth responsibly. Avoiding the infamous “lottery curse” comes down to living within your means, keeping grounded, and managing finances carefully. Embracing the opportunities money provides while minimizing the pitfalls leads to sustained fulfillment and prosperity for the lucky few who beat the long odds and win the lottery.