What happens when you win the lottery – and how it changes your life
Ruth Breen, from Wigan, scooped £1m on the EuroMillions five years ago. Here’s what happened after she found out she had become a millionaire
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- 16:30, 8 OCT 2019
- Updated 10:39, 10 JUN 2020
Millions of people play the lottery every week, yet for many, actually winning is something that can only be dreamt of.
But what if that dream becomes a reality?
This is what happened to single mum Ruth Breen five years ago when she scooped £1m with a EuroMillions Millionaire Raffle ticket.
“It still feels incredible,” say the 39-year-old from Wigan. “I thank my lucky stars every day and I am hugely grateful.
“It is the best feeling in the world knowing I am financially secure.”
Ruth bought her ticket online but waited hours to check her winning tickets after receiving an e-mail to alert her to news about her ticket.
“You get the same generic email whether you have won £2.50 or £3m,” she explained.
“I had a few of those email’s historically where I had won a few quid and so when I got that email again, I wasn’t really over excited about it.
“I thought ‘Oh great, I’ve won another couple of quid, fabulous.’”
However, when she finally opened that e-mail on her lunch break at Wigan Infirmary where she works as a midwife, Ruth’s life changed forever.
“I checked my email’s in the morning before work and then was in a bit of a hurry so waited until lunch time so I was going about my business at work, minding my own, completely unaware I was a millionaire. That amuses me still.
“At lunch time when I got the opportunity to log onto my account and open this message, it was a little bit surreal I suppose is the best way to describe it.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes. It said ‘Congratulations, you have won a million pounds and please ring this telephone number which is for Camelot to confirm your prize and that you are in fact the worthy winner’.
“So I rang them up and they confirmed that I was the very lucky EuroMillions Raffle winner from the draw the previous evening and it still didn’t seem very real at that point. It was a bit of a blur.”
Within a couple of days, Ruth was sat talking to a winner’s advisor from Camelot, who is the operator of the UK National Lottery, in her home and what follows is an extensive check to make sure everything is legitimate, a winners reveal – if you choose to go public – and a lot of financial support.
Ruth said: “They had to go through due diligence and checks and make sure that you are who you say you are and that you purchased the ticket legally and legitimately which eventually all checked out fine.
“They did ask who I had already told about the win and about keeping it quiet until you had been visited my Camelot and they have verified that it’s all legitimate.
“I had only told two close family members and the girls who were with me at the time I found out but they were sworn to secrecy.”
The advisor will talk winners through what happens next and how they will actually get the money you have won.
Ruth also explained that Camelot will recommend you use their private bank because of the extra security it offers to such a huge sum of money.
“During the same meeting, my new bank manager arrived quite unexpectedly. I didn’t know who it was for. I never heard of them so that was a bit of a shock.
“But how lovely? Nicer problems to have so they say. He had to go through some more due diligence and check that I was who I claimed to be and that I was in a position to set up an account with them because apparently they don’t let any old riff raff in. So that was all good fun.”
With legalities out of the way, the next question is, do you want to go public with your win or remain anonymous?
“My initial instinct would be to keep it quiet,” Ruth said, “But the more I thought about it, and the advisor from Camelot showed me a little DVD film of previous winners who told their stories trying to keep it a secret, I think sometimes things can get blown out of proportion when it is all hearsay and rumour.
“One minute Ruth’s won a thousand pounds, next minute she’s won two, next minute I’ve won five and the next thing you know you have got begging letters in the post or people randomly knocking on your door. All this potential hassle.
“So I decided it was probably the best thing to put it out there, tell the world, sure everyone would be happy for me and if they’re not, do I care? Not really. It’s their issue not mine.”
With days to go before the big reveal, and shifts to complete at work, Ruth said that there was one purchase she wanted to make before showcasing her new millionaire status to the world.
“After work on the Saturday, I legged it over to the Trafford Centre, kitted myself out with a new outfit and some rather pleasant shoes.
“You’ve got to do it properly if you’re going to be in the press. Don’t want to look too shabby so I treated myself, why not?
“All I ever dreamed of was wanting a pair of Jimmy Choo’s in the past so that became a reality which was a little bit surreal, again.
“I couldn’t really comprehend it and it was all a little bit of a whirlwind.”
A Wigan Warriors fan, Ruth’s press conference took place on Monday July 14 2014 at the DW Stadium, the home of the rugby club.
“I got to spray champagne all over the pitch with a million photographers telling me to smile, look this way and that way. It was like nothing you could ever imagine.
“After that, probably within a few days, my new bank account was open, the money was in there and it was crazy.”
But Ruth has said that you are not just left to deal with this new found wealth on your own.
Once you have had time to digest what has happened, Camelot will offer winners a meeting with lawyers and financial advisors to suggest “how you look after a large sum of money, how to invest it or what’s sensible and what’s not.”
“I was very thankful for the advice that was given to me,” Ruth said.
“This money has to last forever and it’s got to keep me and my daughter comfortable for as long as it can.”
So, what do you do with a million pounds?
Ruth was able to send her daughter, who was 11 at the time, to private school and reduce her own hours at work.
“Yes, £1m is a life-changing sum of money but when you are 35, sadly it’s not enough to retire on,” she said.
“So to be able to reduce my hours just offers a work life balance and again, gives me choices that I previously didn’t have. It’s been pretty awesome.
“I don’t have to worry about some of the things I did before.
“It’s just a fantastic feeling being able to pretty much do what I want, when I want and go on whatever holiday I want to go on and not have to worry that a bill is coming at the end of the month and there not being enough salary to cover it all.”
Some lottery wins can come with negativity but Ruth has said she didn’t experience any of that thanks to her supportive family.
“It is life-changing but money definitely doesn’t buy happiness. It certainly enhances happiness and gives you choices which is definitely what I found.
“I helped my brother to buy a house, I paid off my parent’s mortgage and they all get much nicer birthday and Christmas presents than they did get before.
“I didn’t give any big lump sums out or anything like that but when people have needed help or I felt that I was in a position to do something nice for them then I was fortunate to lend a hand now and then.”
So once you have won the lottery once, do you carry on playing?
“Absolutely,” Ruth said, “Especially if it’s a big rollover.”
“Lightning can strike twice. There are some winners who have won big more than once, I think maybe seven. So why not?
“But one of the biggest reasons I have continued to play is because the lottery raise approximately £30m a week for good causes throughout the UK and it’s just a way of being able to give back.
“And when that gamble pays off, it really does. As investments go, it’s a great return.”
Ruth Breen, from Wigan, scooped £1m on the EuroMillions five years ago. Here's what happened after she found out she had become a millionaire
This is exactly what happens after you win the lottery
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We’ve all dreamt about it. We’ve all worked out how much we’d give to each person and how many houses we’d buy in the south of France.
But, have you ever wondered what actually happens when you hit the jackpot? As in, how quickly you can get your hands on that cash and start off running to Harvey Nics?
Well, just in case it does ever happen to you, and inspired by a recent post on Reddit where a Canadian couple explained what happened after they won a million dollars, we’ve spoken to Camelot to find out exactly what happens next.
Y’know, after you’ve done a few laps of the living room, felt a bit faint, and screamed into a pillow.
1. Making the call
First, you need to call Camelot. The number’s on the back of the ticket, as well as on the website.
It might sound a little like this:
Their lines are open until 11pm on Saturday night and 3pm on Sundays.
The team will ask for various numbers off the ticket, including the all-important six in the middle, and will check their records before (hopefully) confirming that, although they haven’t validated the ticket it does look like you have won. They will also ask you to pop your name and address on the back of your ticket to declare that it is yours.
They’ll then make an appointment for you to meet with their Winners’ Advisors, whose job it is to validate the ticket and pay out the money.
2. A visit from your advisors
The advisors will arrange a time to come and see you. The timing of the meeting is entirely up to the winner, Jenny Dowden, a member of the Camelot team, told us. One couple once kept the advisors waiting until they came back from their annual holiday.
Some people prefer to visit one of Camelot’s regional centres in Watford or Liverpool, but most appointments happen at the winner’s home.
The appointment will often take place on a Monday, because the money can only be paid out when the banks are open.
The appointment will take two hours.
- They will ask for 2 forms of ID.
- They’ll fill in the required forms.
- They’ll ask how many people you’ve already told.
- For those who’ve won large amounts, they recommend opening a private bank account. They have a list of private banks and can arrange for one to attend the meeting to set up an account immediately.
- The validation process is complete when you hand over your ticket.
- Once you’ve been validated, the advisor will say: ‘Congratulations, you are a winner and I can pay you your prize!’
- The money can then be transferred. The transfer could go in within a matter of hours.
- A cash advance of any amount can be arranged and brought by the bank to the meeting – for, say, emergency shopping requirements.
So, now you’ve got your hands on the cash.
Next you need to make a decision.
3. To tell or not to tell
The decision to go public or remain anonymous is entirely up to the individual. Your advisors will just go through the pros and cons with you.
Jenny told us that around 10 – 15 per cent of winners go public.
- How many people you’ve already told.
- What you plan to do with the money.
- How big the prize is.
- Your circumstances before you won.
- Whether you have children who might have told friends.
Jenny explains that while a lot of people choose to remain anonymous, for others, making a public announcement can remove the stress and worry of trying to keep the win a secret.
Again, she stresses that it’s entirely up to the individual. In terms of aftercare, the Camelot press office will manage the announcement if you wish to go public. You are not committed to any interviews after that.
And larger winners (over £500k) are given access to a panel of independent advisors and legal experts a couple of weeks after receiving their money.
But, mostly, Jenny says, she just wants you to enjoy celebrating your windfall.
Have you ever wondered what actually happens when you hit the lottery jackpot? Camelot explains all