Ontario’s latest Lotto Max winners plan to keep their jobs

·National Affairs Contributor

If you won a big lottery score, how large would it have to be for you to quit your job?

I've been pondering that over news an Ontario couple plans to keep working after winning $25 million in last weekend's Lotto Max draw, according to QMI Agency.

Susannah and Ron Higgs of Orillia, in their fifties, could justifiably lay down their daily work burdens and coast into leisure-filled golden years with their outsized nest egg.

But when they picked up their cheque Monday, Susannah said she's be back at her job with an engineering company on Wednesday, while Ron went back to his work with a steelmaking firm on Tuesday.

"When you're dreaming about it, you think 'How would I react?' and 'How does that feel?' and you really don't know how it's going to feel until it happens," Susannah Higgs said.

The Higgs, who won $10,000 on a scratch ticket in 2000, have already earmarked $12 million to divide up among family members.

"We told them how much we would be giving everybody and the ones that are close to retirement, they're just elated," Susannah said.

OK, so that leaves $13 million to play with.

"We have four favourite charities that we'll give to," Susannah said. "I hope they'll be happy."

Even doing that should leave them enough to chuck their jobs and cut loose a little. But no.

They're not alone in wanting to stay tethered to the world of work.

Toronto electrician Timothy Schell, 34, collected a $50-million Lotto Max payday last May. He planned to indulge his taste for motorcycles and classic muscle cars but also keep his job.

"It clears your head," Schell said at a news conference, according to the National Post. "Also, I just want to keep my brain occupied. I don't want to just sit there, get fat and let my brain turn to mush."

Schell and the Higgs sound wise to me. If you like working, keep at it.

A 2003 Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. survey of 240 winners of $1 million or more found 42 per cent retired, quit or changed their jobs, went back to school or started their own business.

Given all the stories about people who squander their winnings within a few years, keeping your day job sounds like a prudent way to anchor your life. Of course you'll be picking up a lot of lunch tabs and standing rounds at the pub after work, but still.

In an article last March in the Wall Street Journal's Wealth Report, Robert Frank noted it's a myth that a winning lottery ticket is a ticket to unhappiness.

One British study found winners, especially those who score big, tended to have significantly improved psychological health, while a Florida study found winners who took home more than six-figure jackpots were less likely to go bankrupt than the average Floridian.

Another British study revealed lottery winners spent 44 per cent of their earnings within five years but few blew the whole thing in their lifetimes. A California study concluded that while winners' happiness level spiked after hitting the jackpot, it settled down to pre-win levels within a few months.

"The take-away is that sudden wealth only exaggerates your current situation," Frank wrote.

"If you're unhappy, bad with money and surrounded by people you don't trust, money will make those problems worse. If you're fulfilled, careful with money and enjoy a life of strong relationships, the lottery could make those strengths better."

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