There’s a man in the Westcountry whose job it is to make millionaires.
If you win the lottery tonight or tomorrow or next week, this man will hand over your winnings, but he’ll also look after you for life if you need.
Andy Carter is the official National Lottery winners’ advisor. The 47-year-old guides people through the immediate shock of having their life transformed overnight – and for days, weeks, months and even years to come.
And his unique role, which covers anyone who wins more than £50,000 anywhere in the south west from Tewkesbury to Penzance, means he has an equally unique take on what happens when someone suddenly comes into a very large sum of money.
The most common amount given out by Andy is a million pounds – but it can be much, much more. Under normal circumstances, without a global pandemic, you will find yourself making a cup of tea for Andy in your kitchen within 24 hours of you making that phone call to claim your win.
From there, you might see him once or twice more, or he could become a close confidante and advisor – something that is often the case if you keep your big win a secret, and he’s the only other person you know who knows about it.
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But for most people, sharing their lives with this new best friend is a joy – and Andy has made friends for life from his job.
“I get sent the details and make contact with the winners. If you win in Bristol tonight, I would give you a call back after you’ve phoned in the claim,” he said.
“There’s the part of the job which is the checking out of the ticket, making sure everything is above board, and that doesn’t take long, and then there’s the second, main part, which is looking after someone going through what for most people is a life-changing experience,” he added.
According to Andy, giving someone a million pounds – or £10 million – doesn’t make you realise how greedy and extravagant people are, but instead quite the opposite. It’s very often an uplifting experience.
“It’s a real privilege – they take you into their life at a unique time, and it reinforces your faith in human nature.
“On the whole, people are really sensible with it and don’t go mad straight away.
“Normally we’d be in their house within 24 hours, but at the moment with Covid and everything, we have tended to meet up at a third venue, or do work via video call.
“What this job teaches you is that everybody is so different and unique.”
One of the Westcountry’s most high profile winners was Peter Congdon, from the Trelander estate in Truro, who won £13.5million in 2015. He went on holiday to Butlins to celebrate his win but has since paid off his children’s mortgages, bought them cars, moved to a new house across the road from his old one and donated millions to the Merlin MS Centre which helped his wife.
“The winners I deal with come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes and situations – it could be someone who is married with grown up children, who they might not even want to tell, or it could be a syndicate at a workplace, so you have different issues to deal with there, or a whole family, or a sports team – it’s absolutely everyone and anyone and it’s always really really different,” he added.
Someone who wins a million on the lottery can, of course, take the money, say ‘thank you very much’ and book the first flight to Barbados without ever talking at length with Andy, but in practice that doesn’t happen.
“The first thing we say to people, and it always sounds quite boring, is to take your time with stuff,” he said.
“Covid has helped that a bit, because it’s made people stop and think and they can’t actually just go straight off into the sunset.
“It’s a huge shock and you do need a bit of time. Winning a million or more – that’s a lot to take and you don’t need to do anything quickly.
“The second thing is we provide access to good advice, lawyers and financial advice, that could also be life coaches and concierge experts. All of a sudden, people are in a different world, and there are people who can help with that,” he added.
“On the whole, people are overwhelmingly generous. We know that everyone plays that game of dreaming what you’d do with a big lottery win – they say ‘I’d have an apartment in Barbados or a boat or something’ – but actually when it comes down to it, the things people do first are sensible things: They pay off their mortgage, set up their children, they think about their work situation rather than just quit their job straight away, because you still need a reason to get up in the morning,” he added.
It’s a long held truth that we reveal ourselves at times of great upheaval and shock, when life-changing things happen. Very often, that’s in tragic circumstances, but it can be true in those life-changing positive moments too.
“This job gives you a fascinating insight into what happens to people – and people are overwhelmingly conservative,” Andy said.
“People grow into their wealth over time. It might be a couple of years before they start making those sort of extravagant purchases.
“If someone wins something like £105 million, we would be with them for a good few days. We’re in contact with them for as long as they need us to be.
“What’s lovely is that people will get back in touch a couple of years later to tell me that they’ve finally done that thing they were talking about, and splashed out on a villa in the sun or something – especially if they haven’t told anyone about their win, and actually I’m the only other person who knows,” he added.
One of the things big lottery winners are asked fairly quickly is whether or not they want the publicity – the photocall with the big cheque and the champagne, and the press conference or interview.
“You’ve got to do what’s right for you – what sort of person are you?” said Andy.
“If you’re someone who is outgoing and happy to be photographed, then go for it, but if you’re someone who is a bit more reserved and private, then maybe not.
“It also would be very different to be the person who wins £105 million compared to the person who wins less than a million,” he added.
The question, funnily enough, means different things for people depending on where they live, what sort of community they are in, according to Andy, who will visit you if you live a transitory life in Bristol’s bedsits, or if you’ve lived in the same village with the same neighbours for 50 years.
“As well, you have to think about who is going to find out anyway. Someone living in a small village or rural community, where everyone knows everyone else’s business – I find people in the community find out quite quickly, but if you’re in an urban area where your neighbours might not really know you that well, then it always seems easier to not disclose it.
“The decision is always the winner’s choice entirely. It’s not right for everyone to go public,” he added.
What people do with their money varies hugely too, once they’ve taken the financial advice, planned for the future, set up their loved ones, paid off the mortgage or bought that house.
“People have bought everything from prosthetic limbs to football clubs,” he added.
The first thing people imagine a big lottery win will mean is the dream of sticking two fingers up at your boss and walking out of the job, never to be seen again.
But actually, that is a prospect many people who actually win the lottery don’t go through with, for a number of reasons.
“The question about whether you should, can or do give up work is actually more complicated than people think,” explained Andy.
“It might not be the case that winning a million or £10 million means you can give up work or if you will even want to.
“It all depends on your age and what sort of lifestyle you want. If you’re 55 and win a million, you could probably give up work and retire early with the sort of retirement lifestyle you were expecting.
“But if you’re 21 and win a million, you would have to work again, no question.
“Everything is on your age and desired income. This is what the financial planners will work with you on, and a lot of it depends on the kind of life you want.
“In actual fact, very few people give up work, even if they can. Retirement is a big shock to people even when they are expecting it and planning for it, so then it’s even more of a shock to the system when it comes suddenly.
“Plus, a lot of people I come across love their jobs. What they might do, what the win enables them to do, is to drop a couple of days a week, or don’t worry about doing that overtime anymore,” he added. “I’ve had a few people win sizeable sums, and say to me after a while that the win has meant that they can spend more time with their kids because they’ve been able to cut the hours they work.”
“You realise just how different everyone is. Everyone has their own set of circumstances, their own family set up – they might be on their own, a retired couple, they might be with a partner but not married, be divorced with children they share with their ex- and a new partner’s children, it can be very complicated, and winning the lottery can suddenly make people stop and take stock,” he added.
“You can’t interfere and you need to know when to withdraw. I probably see around 150 winners a year, right across the south west and Wales,” he added.
Travelling the West Country giving life-changing sums of money to people sounds like a great job – and Andy shares in the celebrations and glow that brings. As an employee of the lottery, he’s not allowed to buy a ticket himself, but he feels like he wins the lottery by proxy every week.
“It’s a great job. I see it as being akin to being a midwife, helping someone with a newborn baby. That might sound like a strange analogy, but hear me out,” he laughed.
“When you have your first child, you come home from the hospital with this thing in your hands and you are not quite sure what to do, whether you’re doing it right, what’s going on. And not only that, but everyone around you is suddenly an expert on raising a baby.
“Winning the lottery is a bit like that. When you bring that baby home, all you need is a bit of peace and quiet and time alone. I guess I’m the midwife who tries to provide that peace and reassurance and to give people the time they need to adjust. It is a real privilege,” he added.