- Melissa won a brand-new car and hit the Dh1 million jackpot in Abu Dhabi in a span of three years
- She sold the car later
- As for the Dh1 million she won, she split it with her colleagues and got a share of Dh200,000
- Spent a huge chunk of the money to overhaul her house, sent her daughter on a European tour, took the whole family on a Christmas holiday abroad in less than a year
- Now she still has loans to pay and is still struggling to provide for her family’s needs and her own
Dubai: In a span of three years, Lisa had struck it big in raffle draws, scooping more than a million dirhams’ worth of prizes. The hospital nurse from the Philippines bagged the keys to a brand-new car during a shopping mall draw in 2013 and in October 2017, she hit the Dh1 million jackpot in the Big Ticket in Abu Dhabi.
Now, about a year after the millionaire draw, the separated mother of three barely has money in the bank. She has loans to pay and no car to take her to work. “If I lose my job today, I would survive for only two months,” the 48-year-old said.
Lisa is one of the several UAE-based expatriates who dream of striking a fortune overnight and having their lives changed with a few lucky numbers. She had been a regular buyer of lottery tickets before she hit the jackpot.
Last year’s prize was the biggest she’s ever got, and though she won a million dirhams, she pocketed only Dh200,000 or roughly 2.8 million pesos at the latest exchange rates because she had purchased the ticket with some of her colleagues and friends.
If I lose my job today, I would survive for only two months
Still, she was over the moon because her share of the winnings was big enough for a family breadwinner with loans to pay and no savings to dip into.
However, the windfall didn’t last very long for Lisa. Neither did it solve all of her life’s financial problems. In about a year, the Dh200,000 lump sum was reduced to about Dh10,000.
How did it all sort of disappear into thin air?
After receiving her share of the Dh1 million fortune last year, Lisa immediately set aside 10 per cent of it to charity. She had prayed so hard for the heavens to let her win the jackpot, so it’s just a way of giving back. “That’s also exactly what I did when I won a car year earlier,” she said.
And since she had a lot of workmates who got excited about the win, Lisa and her colleagues decided to have a big lunch with everyone in the four-storey hospital, from doctors to nurses – all 200 of them.
“There were also cleaners who missed the big meal, so I also offered them a small treat."
About two months later, she booked the whole family a three-day Christmas holiday in Singapore. She also splurged on a separate round-trip ticket to Europe for her teen daughter.
A huge chunk of the funds went to the medical expenses of her mother who had cancer. “She was my motivation why I joined in lottery draws in the first place. It was an answered prayer.” Some of it also went to the repayment of the loans she had incurred in her home country and towards the improvement of her house, where her family is currently living in.
“I tried to keep some cash as much as I could for emergencies. But recently, I suffered a stroke and was forced to stop working for three months. I ended up dipping into my personal pockets to pay the bills for one month,” she said.
“The hospital I work for only granted me a two-month paid leave and in the third month, I was not receiving a salary, as it is the company policy,” she added.
Eventually, the funds that Lisa won dwindled further, as she had no other source of income, no investment or someone else to run to for financial help. “So, right now, only 5 per cent of the Dh200,000 is left. That will be enough to sustain me for two months if I don’t have a job,” she added.
And what happened to the brand-new car she had won earlier? “I sold the Volkswagen for Dh128,000 and used the money for my mother’s medical expenses,” she said.
She, however, maintained that she has no regrets with regards to how she managed her fortune. Although there’s hardly any money left and her life didn’t change significantly, she’s grateful that she went through that once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Indeed, I’ve had a lot of expenses in a short period of time. But at least I managed to invest part of it in my house.”
“What I’ve learned from all of this is that one should not spend mindlessly and it’s important to spend your money only on important things. You have to set aside something for yourself and invest wisely,” she added.
Until now, Lisa continues to join the monthly draw of Big Ticket Abu Dhabi and hopes that one day another million-dirham jackpot comes her way.
Lottery draws in the UAE have a huge following, and every month, thousands of residents and visitors play their way towards a million dollars or several millions of dirhams. Believing that a world of possibilities awaits every instant millionaire, players splurge Dh1,000 on every ticket at Dubai Duty Free’s Millennium Millionaire raffle and Dh500 at Big Ticket Abu Dhabi.
As for the odds of winning, it’s always one in 5,000 at Dubai Duty Free. Big Ticket organisers, however, begged off from sharing a corresponding figure, citing that the size of ticket sales varies every month. At these two major draws, one millionaire is declared every month, on average.
Lottery participants feel that if they win, they will finally be able to live the life they want, buy their dream house or retire early. But there have been many anecdotal stories of overnight millionaires who have lost their fortunes after over a short period of time.
The main thing with a lottery winner is that the money is not earned, so it isn’t something valued as much as for example, going to work for eight hours a day to get it.
In 2005, Roger and Lara Griffiths of England won $2.76 million (Dh10 million) in a lottery. He quit his job, purchased their dream house and launched a music record.
The couple went on holiday trips in expensive destinations like New York, Dubai and Monaco. They bought themselves a Porsche convertible and a Lexus 4X4. Five years later, a fire gutted their luxurious home and the marriage fell apart. Both also ended up in debt, according to the Daily Mail.
Other people may call it a “curse of the lottery,” but financial experts said it is not surprising to see how a lot of jackpot winners squander away their money.
Why big-jackpot winners lose their fortunes
“The main thing with a lottery winner is that the money is not earned, so it isn’t something valued as much as for example, going to work for 8 hours a day to get it,” said Hamzah Shalchi, head of Guardian Wealth Management’s operations in Dubai.
“With any good fortune, it can be easy to get carried away and purchase goods that you may not have been able to afford before.”
For Arnav from Kerala, another lottery participant who hit the jackpot in the UAE in 2016, lottery draws could positively change the course of a person’s life, if one is careful about how the huge winnings are managed and spent.
After he received the Dh5 million jackpot, Arnav and his wife sat down and discussed how they should spend the huge sum. The father of two didn’t have a job at that time, so he thought it would be a good idea to start his own business.
“The state of my personal finances was very challenging then and I felt lucky I won the jackpot. It was just perfect timing,” Arnav said.
“I decided to start my own IT and management consulting company with part of the money. After all, it didn’t require a lot of capital. It’s just a small start-up. Besides, it’s really impossible for someone with a day job to focus on a business, so the prize would really help a lot when it comes to paying the bills while I go about setting up my business,” he said.
And since one of their biggest priorities is the financial security of his two children, Arnav and his wife took out an education-cum-insurance policy for their son and daughter.
They also purchased a two-bedroom flat in The Greens, set aside funds for retirement and put the rest of the money in a savings account back in his home country.
“So, out of the Dh5 million, 20 per cent I have set aside for my retirement, another 20 per cent for my kids’ future, 30 per cent for property and other 20 per cent in a savings account,” said Arnav.
It’s been two years since he became a millionaire and Arnav said he’s glad he had laid out a plan before going about spending his millions.
“I didn’t splurge on anything. These days, the business that I started using the money I won is earning. And I still have some considerable cash left. I don’t have debts to pay.
More tips: How not to squander away a huge prize
So, what would you do if you hit a jackpot? There are no hard and fast rules for managing a huge lump sum. The approach depends entirely on the winner’s financial situation.
Invest your winnings
But it's important to ensure part of the money is invested. For someone who is, say, 40-years-old, married and a lone breadwinner, Shalchi said it’s a good idea to invest the money for ten years and watch it double over time.
”From the back of that, he would be able to retire at the age of 50 with Dh10 million and drawdown 5 per cent per year for the rest of his life,” said Shalchi.
Consult a financial adviser
But in order to have a holistic plan, it’s best to consult a financial adviser. “Only then will the winner be able to build a holistic plan on how to protect their wealth and learn how to invest it wisely, ensuring that the lifestyle they always dreamed of is met.”
Set aside some money for emergency
As a general rule of thumb, however, the winner should make sure to set aside some cash savings equivalent to at least three months’ salary as an emergency fund and 20 per cent salary per month for savings or retirement. “However, these numbers could be increased when a lump sum is won,” said Shalchi.
“On the other hand, people may believe that the money that they win may not really be enough, However, for others, it could be enough to retire, send their children to university, buy a new home or even have up to 3 lavish holidays per year. “
Don't let inflation eat away your money
As much as possible, don’t let the money sit in the bank that doesn’t offer any growth or interest. “Money should work for you and with the right investment, you can end up with a lot more than you put in,” said Shalchi.
“Therefore, it is so important to speak to a professional, who can help guide you and ensure that you can invest it based on your own personal needs.”
Splurge a little, but don't overspend
Would it hurt to buy an expensive car or dream house? Certainly not. It’s okay to splurge a little, as long as you keep tabs of your outgoings.
If you want your money to grow, buy a piece of property that you won't live in, not a car
“Life is about enjoyment but remember, a car is a depreciating asset. Does it have to be expensive? Property on the other hand is a great asset class and should be part of any diverse portfolio,” said Shalchi.