Women Now

True story: “I won big at the lottery – but kept it a secret from my hubby for years”

Stella*, 35, won big a couple of years ago in the lottery, but she kept it a secret from her husband of eight years. Here’s why
 

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“I started playing the lottery when I was 23 – Toto, 4D, Big Sweep, you name it, if I could afford to buy a ticket I would enter the draw. For many years I never won big – a couple of hundred dollars at most – so imagine my surprise when I won a six-figure sum a couple of years ago. It was such a thrill to finally have such a huge sum of money.

“At the time, I’d been married for six years, but I kept my lottery win a secret from my husband. To this day, the only people who know about the windfall are my parents and two close friends.”

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Living a modest life

“Growing up, my family never had much money. Both my parents worked very hard to give me an education and a comfortable home life, but we could never afford long holidays to faraway countries and my parents certainly never bought any branded goods. Although we didn’t have much in terms of material possessions and often had to cut corners when it came to birthday parties and the like, we had a roof over our heads, food to eat and clothes to wear, and for that alone, we were grateful.

“I was happy when I was finally old enough to make my own money. While at university I worked part-time at my dad’s friend’s electronics shop, and after I got my degree I got a job coordinating events and doing a bit of marketing and publicity. The job paid well and I was smart with my money, saving most of it every month.

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“I met my husband, Gary*, through a work friend. Like me he worked in events and marketing, and we hit it off immediately. Gary worked hard but he was also a spendthrift. That didn’t really bother me because at least he made his own money. The only thing that concerned me was the fact that he had no savings. I always encouraged him to save most of his salary, but it was only after we’d been married for three years and our baby came along that he started taking his financial situation seriously. Soon he was accepting extra projects just to earn extra money, which meant spending less time with the family and going without enough sleep for weeks at a stretch.”

Many sacrifices – and then a big win

“Gary was a good provider, but his long work hours were really taking a physical and emotional toll on him. For six years since we’d gotten married he had cut down on his spending significantly and sacrificed many luxuries in order to get his finances in order. It pained me to see him go without his golfing holidays and drinking nights out with his friends. He also had his sights on a fancy new car and a condo, both of which we knew we wouldn’t be able to afford for a very long time.

“When I was 33, I won a six-figure sum in the lottery. It was the most money I’d ever seen in my life. I was excited about this newfound wealth, but the thrill was short-lived when I realised that I would probably have to keep my winnings a secret from Gary.

“Sure, I wanted my husband to know about the money I’d won, but my instincts told me to keep my mouth shut. As much as I loved Gary, I knew that if I told him about the win, he would quit his job the next day and talk me into using the money to fund a cushier lifestyle for our small family. It’s not that I didn’t trust Gary, but he was someone who couldn’t have a lot of money without wanting to spend it all. Before our child came along I had to practically force him to be more financially responsible because whatever money he made, he would waste on frivolous things. It had taken him a good few years after marrying me for him to become more financially stable, and I wasn’t about to ruin that by telling him that we had suddenly become rich. Knowing Gary, he would spend the rest of his life taking things easy and living off the winnings. I couldn’t let that happen.”

An easy secret to keep

“After a day of thinking about it, I decided to just tell my parents about my lottery win. I set up a separate bank account with them and stashed the money there, and I intend to keep it all there unless there’s a family emergency, or until after Gary and I retire. When I do eventually get the money out, I will just tell Gary that it’s my parents’ money, so he won’t get angry with me for hiding it from him.

“I do feel terrible about keeping such a huge secret from Gary, but the way I see it, it’s for his good and the good of my family. I know what my husband is like with big sums of money and I don’t want him to squander my winnings, only to regret it later down the road. We have a young child to think of and I just can’t take the risk. I also don’t want Gary to quit his job. He’s still young, energetic and productive, so if he can work and earn his keep in an honest and meaningful way, why should he stop just to kick back and do nothing?

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“At the moment my family is okay financially. We can still afford to pay our bills, and we have all that we need. I do sometimes feel bad when Gary comes home from work, tired and stressed, and complains about not having a life. He then talks about all the things we could do and the places we could go, ‘if only we had a lot of money’. I always remind him that money isn’t everything; that we both work hard and should be grateful for the things we do have, and then I feel guilty for not telling him the truth. I know that sharing part of my winnings with Gary would improve his quality of life and relieve some of his emotional burden, but right now I just can’t do it.

“My parents know my reasons for not telling Gary about the money and they support my decision. If anything happens to me, the money will go to them, and I’m fine with that because they deserve to live comfortably now that they’re approaching old age.

“I’ll probably go to my grave without ever telling my husband that I won big in the lottery. Funnily enough, just the other week, Gary was looking at photos of cars and houses and asked me if we would ever be able to afford a more luxurious lifestyle. ‘We’d have to win the lottery, I guess’, he said to himself, without looking up from his magazine. ‘Maybe some day we’ll win something big’, was all I could reply.”

*Names have been changed.