Punter bets £2 and wins a fortune. What now?

Steve Whiteley recently won £1.45 million after a good day at the races. Suddenly his life is transformed. But do big winnings always lead to happiness?

He isn't really a betting man. But when 61 year old Steve Whiteley heard entry was free, he decided to take a punt on a day at the races. It proved a good decision.

Using his bus pass, he made his way to Exeter racecourse, and then put £2 on a six-race accumulator. At odds of 879177 – 1, his six horses all won and in a record payout, he left the racecourse the richer by £1.45 million.

'I'm not a horse racing man,' says Mr Whiteley, whose highest win to date is £100. 'I only go once or twice a year. I'm a heating engineer — well I was!'

Jayne Amor, racing manager for the Tote, which runs the accumulator, was thrilled. 'He came to us after four races to check if he had been reading his ticket correctly,' she said. 'The excitement was unbelievable.'

Mr Whiteley says he has six central heating jobs to complete over the next few days, and then he'll go to Australia on a holiday he'd already planned. 'We were going to fly cattle class,' he says, 'but we might upgrade now.'

So did he get nervous as the drama unfolded? 'The most exciting bit,' he says, 'was after the fourth race when my mate said only seven people in the whole country were still in it. I couldn't watch the last race.'

But when the excitement dies down, how will the win affect Mr Whiteley's life?

Most of us dream about a windfall like this, but research suggests that the dream may be better than the reality.

'There's substantial evidence that people who win the lottery are not happier a year after their success,' says Dr Berns, a psychiatrist from Florida. It's sometimes called 'hedonic adaptation', whereby lottery winners return to happiness levels they knew prior to the big winn.

Yet for most, the dream of the win lives on.

A sporting chance
The final horse of his six-race accumulator, Lupita, won at odds of 12-1. So what are the chances of Mr Whiteley being a happier man in a year's time?

Certainly there's a jolt of happiness in being able to afford things we couldn't before, and in making gifts to family and friends.

But researchers at Emory University have found that lottery winners and others who get their money without working for it do not get nearly as much satisfaction from it as those who earn it the old fashioned way — by working.

Dr Berns is not surprised and believes the answer is in the wiring of the human brain. 'I don't think it ever evolved to sit back and have things just fall into our laps.'

After the champagne moment, things can go a little flat.

You Decide

  1. The chance of getting all six lottery numbers right is 1 in 14 million. What's your response? a) You've got to be in it to win it. b) I prefer to do real things with my money.
  2. 'There's no way I'd work if I didn't have to!' Do you agree?

Activities

  1. In a group, create a 5 point 'advice' package for big-time lottery winners.
  2. Play the Monty Hall probability gamehere. How do you get on? Was it a goat or the car?

Some People Say...

“One day I'll be lucky.”

What do you think?

Q & A

So what's wrong with money?
Nothing at all! It can be very helpful, but the point is, money can't buy the things that make us most happy - our purpose in life, our relationships, that sort of thing. In fact, too much money can hurt these.
How do you mean?
Often big winners give up their jobs, but don't replace their work community or the sense of purpose their job gave them.
They've still got their friends.
Not always. Some friends become jealous, others ask them for money. So then they can begin to wonder if people just like them for their bank balance. It does change things.
So what are winners to do?
There are no rules, because everyone is different. But maybe the trick is to remember what you want from life. Money can buy a facelift or a Ferrari. But that isn't necessarily the same as having a fulfilling life.

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