The Moneyist: I won over $55 million in the California lottery, but didn’t tell my friends or family. Did I do the right thing?

Dear Quentin, About 10 years ago, I won over $55 million in the California lottery. I never told my parents or my sister, or anyone for that matter. I have kept a low profile. I did buy a new truck and a house, but I told them I was renting the house. Was I wrong to not tell anyone? 

I know that my parents would not have asked for a thing, but my sister would have told me to donate half to her church. I have not donated money to anyone or any organization. I also do not believe in loaning money to friends and relatives, no matter what. If I did, I would be broke. I am now 67 and very comfortable with my life. I don’t spend a lot. I have no kids, and both parents have passed away. I have not provided for my sister because I do not like her or her husband, and I have not spoken to her in over 10 years.  She hopefully has no clue where I live; besides, my parents took her out of the estate before they died. She tried to do some horrible things to our parents, which I managed to put a stop to. Was I wrong in not telling anyone about my winnings? Low-Key Lottery Winner Dear Low-Key, It’s not easy to win the lottery, and it’s probably just as hard — if not harder, in fact — to keep the win to yourself and to maintain a levelheaded, peaceful existence. You managed to pull off both. You bought a new home and made a few changes to your life, but nothing too dramatic. You no doubt realize that money doesn’t change who you are. It can, however, change others’ perceptions of you. People project their own needs, resentments, insecurities and ambitions onto others. Compare and despair is an often unavoidable human trait.  Money can buy you many things: freedom to choose whether you decide to work or not, peace of mind that you won’t have to worry about retirement, the ability to travel or simply stay home and enjoy your life. It can also buy a lot of stuff — stuff you probably don’t need. But money cannot buy you authentic relationships with friends and neighbors, and it can’t buy you more time on the planet. For that reason, I see nothing wrong with living your life the way you want to live it, and resisting the urge to share the news with anyone, even and especially your family.

Money cannot buy you authentic relationships, and it can’t buy you more time on the planet. For that reason, I see nothing wrong with living your life the way you want to live it.

If you told one person, he or she would in all likelihood tell somebody else. And sooner or later, the phone would ring or there would be a knock on your door, perhaps with a financial request. As my late father said, “I can keep secrets — it’s the people I tell who can’t.” We live in a culture where millions of people want to get rich quick — exhibit A: cryptocurrency, something that has no intrinsic value — and display their wealth on social media. If that filled a void, Facebook and Instagram would not be what they are today. Your win raises some similar questions for people everywhere who have enough. If our job, the size of our bank account, our possessions, or the kind of house or zip code we live in does not keep us striving for more, what will fill that void? The only answer I can find is asking a friend or neighbor, “How are you today?” My only unsolicited suggestion: When you are planning your estate with a financial planner, think about causes that are important to you — perhaps an organization that helps those who have been the victims of elder abuse, or another cause that is close to your heart. Enjoy your good fortune, and your privacy too. Once the latter is gone, no amount of money will get it back. Also read: Jamie Dimon insists his workers return to the office — here’s why that’s a bit rich You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter. By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook 
group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns. More from Quentin Fottrell:



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