I Won Big On A Scratchie. Here’s What I Learned.
For Hamish Armstrong, the day he put $2 on the counter in exchange for a little square of cardboard was life changing. He was 19, fresh out of high school and won BIG.
“It was 2010. I was in a weird place, stuck in limbo between being a teenager and being an adult.” Hamish tells The Cusp.
“One day on a break at work I bought a scratchie. As I ploughed through my lunch I pulled out a 10c piece and casually scratched away, totally unprepared for what was about to happen. One Win for Life – God, that’d be nice. Two Wins for Life –shit. And then the third one. This couldn’t be real. I’d just won over a million dollars.”
Hamish read the fine print over and over. He ran back to the newsagents clutching the winning ticket, like Charlie frothing over that Chocolate Factory; he needed to see that scanner beep congratulations. It did. After telling his parents the good news, his Dad drove him to the NSW Lottery agency where the logistics of the win were discussed. Hamish would get $75,000 in yearly instalments.
“I think I was in disbelief for weeks, until I looked at my bank balance and there it was.” Hamish remembers.
The years that followed his win have not been easy. Yes, he had money – but imagine being an unmotivated, aimless teenager with a million bucks landing in your lap. Without guidance or direction, it spelt trouble.
Hamish is now a reflective 25 year old, who’s spent the last 6 years experiencing the highs and lows of sudden wealth. Here’s what he’s learnt about the experience so far.
I wish I’d asked for support and made better decisions
Hamish’s parents gave him the space to make decisions around the money himself. They didn’t want to get too involved. In hindsight he wishes they had, as putting a financial plan in place wasn’t on the top of his list of priorities.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful to my parents for leaving me to it but looking back now, it was a dangerous thing to leave a rebellious 19 year old alone with a large sum of money. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t use the money wisely or plan for the future. I’d be better off today if I’d shown more discipline,” he says.
Money changes friendships
Hamish remembers mixed emotions from his mates. While the majority were pleased for him, he noticed a change in some, with snide comments about what he did in life to deserve his good fortune – especially after a few beers.
“Just after I won, I remember someone telling me, ‘Money won’t change you but it will change the way people act around you’. She was right. I really noticed how my situation seemed to reflect back to them what they didn’t have financially. It was pretty hard as I wanted to share with my mates but was also aware not to flaunt it around.”
As time went on and the money kept rolling in, Hamish’s generous nature seemed to be taken for granted. There was an expectation he’d lend money to whomever or buy all the drinks on a night out.
“It took me a long time to realise I was being taken the piss out of because I genuinely enjoy helping people out and for the most part I was happy to do it.” Hamish says. “I guess it really hit home when I lent a close friend a few thousand bucks to get him out of trouble. Not only have I never seen a cent to this day but the rough crowd he was involved with found out about my situation and tried to extort money from me. It was pretty intense.”
It’s best to keep things close to your chest
After that situation, Hamish quickly realised there were major pitfalls to having money. He stopped mentioning it and now prefers not to talk about it when meeting new people.
“I know it’s a great story but I don’t want it to be the first thing people find out about me. I want people to get to know me before making a judgement about who I am. I also don’t want to come off like I’m bragging about it.”
I question myself a lot more
“I’m not the most self-aware person around,” Hamish laughs, “but I always question whether I’ve changed with the money. I ask mates all the time if I’m a different guy, just to keep myself in check. They tell me I’m the same but who knows? All I know for certain are my core values haven’t changed, even when I’ve gone off track.”
Relationships can’t survive when you think you’re the king of the world.
The track Hamish talks about concerns the period he was in just after his newfound wealth.
“I was in a relationship 6 years before winning the money. I never thought it would cause us to split but I was chasing the dream. I loved her but there was always this want for something else, that glamorous lifestyle I thought I was entitled to because I was now rich and could have whatever I wanted.”
Part of this so-called glamourous life led him to substance abuse, which also contributed to his break up.
“I was constantly chasing a feeling I could never catch. Always dissatisfied, wanting more and it never being enough. It affected every area of my life. It’s taken a long time to be content with what I have and live like a normal human being, especially with the deep regret I have for hurting people who fell victim to my behaviour at the time,” he says.
Gambling in whatever form is a dangerous habit
He is quick to tell anyone that even simply buying that one scratchie, as harmless as it may seem, can lead to greater dependencies in other areas. Especially if you have an addictive personality coupled with a care free attitude.
“Yeah, I know it was the cause of my fortune – but it was also the cause of me being seven years into my ‘Win for Life’ and having nothing of real worth to show for it, other than the issues I’ve mentioned,” Hamish says.
I wish I’d known more about finances
Of course it hasn’t all been a negative experience. Hamish was able to pay off a big debt to his Mum, travel the world and have some amazing encounters. But after that initial spending, he had no idea what he was supposed to do with the windfall.
“I was so uneducated when it came to finances. I wasn’t taught about that stuff at school, who was?” he comments.
“Because it was over my head, it deterred me from getting involved with investing or making wise choices. I did see a financial advisor a few years back but it’s like they were talking another language. I had no idea what the hell equities, dividend or capital gains were, I’m only just getting my head around it now.”
It’s pretty clear Hamish views his win as a blessing and a curse. At 25, he’s now starting to get a real handle on his life. He works hard, he’s started saying no and he’s got better direction.
“You know what?” he says “I know it’s a total cliché that money doesn’t buy happiness but shit, it’s so true. I’m so much happier living a simple life. I have a job I love, healthier interests and no longer take the money for granted.” Hamish states.
Hamish is now putting the money away for his dream of owning his own house.
“I know, I should have done it a long time ago but at least I’ve wised up before it’s too late. Through the life lessons involved in my win, I’ve definitely had to grow up – probably quicker than I would have without it. It’s certainly been a hell of a ride,” he says.
A published freelance writer from print to online, Katy’s passion is honest authentic writing. From the mundane experience to a sensational observation, Katy always finds a way to voice what she sees. Relatable and quirky, she writes with warmth and familiarity. She also loves lists, matching socks and edamame beans.