Many of us dream of winning a big sum of money but resign ourselves to the fact that it is always someone else who strikes it lucky.
Yet a fortunate few seem to be on the right side of Lady Luck. Take the man from Bedfordshire who defied the odds and scooped the £1million Premium Bonds jackpot this month – just weeks after buying bonds for the first time.
He bought £7,000 worth in January, and these became eligible for the March draw.
After receiving his £1million prize – delivered in person by ‘Agent Million’ – the winner said: ‘Usually, when someone knocks on your front door, they want something. But they wanted to give me something. I might open the front door more often now.’
Here, The Mail on Sunday looks at how you can win a life-changing prize.
The odds of winning the National Lottery jackpot are one in 45million
SAVERS PRIZE DRAW
Since the Halifax Savers Prize Draw began in 2011, there have been more than 80,000 winners and the bank – part of Lloyds Banking Group – has paid out more than £48million in prizes.
This monthly draw usually offers three top prizes of £100,000, a hundred prizes of £1,000, and 1,500 prizes of £100 – making a total of £550,000.
Occasionally, there is a ‘super-draw’ – as there was last October – offering bigger cash prizes to more people with a top prize of up to £500,000.
To be eligible for the draw, customers must have at least £5,000 in a qualifying savings account and need to register to enter.
Halifax says it cannot calculate the odds of winning because of the way the entry criteria works. As you need to hold at least £5,000 for the entire calendar month before the draw, the number of entrants changes every month, altering the odds.
Sarah Coles, of financial adviser Hargreaves Lansdown, says: ‘As a rough rule of thumb, Halifax said it had 2.5 million customers registered for the draw in 2015. With 1,103 prizes a month, that is a one in 2,267 chance of a win – and a one in 833,333 chance of winning a top prize.’
Whether this appeals depends on how much you are prepared to put £5,000 in a savings account paying interest well below the most competitive in return for the outside chance of a win.
Winner: Robert Legg scooped the £500,000 top prize in the Halifax monthly draw
Coles adds: ‘If you saved £5,000 in the Halifax two-year, fixed-rate savings bond paying annual interest of 0.55 per cent you would make some £55 in interest over two years.
‘But the same amount saved in the highest-paying equivalent bond would pay interest of just over £200. So you would need to win two minimum prizes of £100 during the two years to be better off with Halifax. Given that you would only be entered in 24 draws, by far the most likely outcome is that you would win nothing.’
When Robert Legg was told he was a winner in the Halifax Savers Prize Draw, he thought he had won £500. He was wrong. He had clinched the top prize of £500,000 in last October’s ‘super-draw’.
Robert, from Harlow in Essex, says: ‘I went to the meeting with my Halifax branch manager with no expectation. When I was told I had won £500,000 I was in a complete daze.’
Having taken redundancy a few years ago from his job as a truck driver, 62-year-old Robert had been thinking he would have to go back to work to help make ends meet before retiring.
‘Having won half a million pounds, everything changed,’ he says. ‘I am now set up for the rest of my life.’
Since winning, Robert has bought a new car and taken his girlfriend – 61-year-old Anne-Marie – on holiday to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands along with his best friend and wife.
He says: ‘When I took redundancy, I bought a C-Max as an economical car to see me through my later years. But I have now splashed out £23,000 on a Kia Sportage.’
Robert also has plans to buy a property in Spain that he and Anne-Marie can hop across to in retirement.
He adds: ‘I went out to Costa Brava last month to get a feel for different towns and to check out some potential properties. Marriage has also been mentioned.
‘I used to think this kind of thing never happens to people like me. But it does and it can – and it has.’
I enter competitions every day – and can win £2,000 a year
Emily Walker is a ‘professional comper’. She enters competitions every day and last year won a total of £2,000 in prizes.
The 25-year-old, who works as a teaching assistant, lives in Blackburn, Lancashire, with husband Martin, 28, and their three-month-old son Ralph.
She says: ‘I enter tens of competitions a day depending on how much time I have left in between working and looking after Ralph.
Hands on: Emily Walker, with son Ralph, is a ‘professional comper’
‘I started entering competitions nine years ago – and each year I usually win a few thousand pounds.’
While Emily mainly enters online competitions on websites such as Facebook and Twitter, she also keeps an eye out for competitions such as those on cereal boxes.
She adds: ‘One of my best wins was the use of a photographer for free at our wedding in May 2016.
‘It would have cost us some £1,000 otherwise. Other good wins include two mini-holiday breaks worth around £600 – and £200 worth of Amazon vouchers.’
Emily is always careful with her money and looks for discounts and deals whenever she goes shopping.
She adds: ‘I also regularly win in another way – by earning cashback on the purchases that I make online.’
With Premium Bonds, savers are entered into a monthly draw with the chance to win one of two £1million tax-free jackpots as well as a host of other prizes from £25 to £100,000.
You can invest up to £50,000 (and a minimum of £100) and your cash is 100 per cent secure given it is with National Savings & Investments, the Government’s savings arm.
In December last year, National Savings improved the odds of winning from 30,000 to one to 24,500 to one. The number of prizes also increased from 2.3million to 2.9million.
The prize fund rate now stands at 1.4 per cent – an improvement on the previous rate of 1.15 per cent.
Bond girl: Sannah Malik has won twice
Patrick Connolly is a financial adviser with Chase de Vere. He says: ‘This 1.4 per cent rate of return compares well to rates on many bank and building society savings accounts. Yet a small number of large prizes distort this rate so many bond holders will earn less than 1.4 per cent – and in some cases nothing at all.’
With Premium Bonds, the more you put in, the shorter the odds of a win becomes. This is because each bond is entered separately. With Halifax, you only ever have one entry.
That said, with Halifax, even if you do not win, you will still be earning some interest. With Premium Bonds, if you do not win, you will not receive any interest.
Premium Bonds have become something of a national treasure with 21million customers signed up and almost £72billion invested.
Coles says: ‘These figures clearly demonstrate how irresistible Brits find a prize draw with a big jackpot up for grabs. But the decision as to whether or not to invest will come down to how much you are prepared to accept the likelihood of minimal prizes in return for a minuscule chance of a life-changing win.’
Teacher Sannah Malik has £5,000 saved in Premium Bonds and has recently enjoyed a lucky streak. She won a prize of £50 last November and £25 in January. Yet she is still holding out for a big win.
The number of prizes has increased from 2.3million to 2.9million
The 30-year old, who lives in Ripponden, West Yorkshire, with husband Rob, also 30, has held Premium Bonds for the past 12 years.
She says: ‘Until now, I have had the odd small win of £25 a couple of times in a year, but November was the first time I have won a bigger sum of money – and the first time I have won two prizes in such a short space of time.’ Sannah has money squirrelled away in other savings accounts, but is fed up with the low returns on offer.
She adds: ‘As I earn next to nothing on my savings, it is great being entered into the monthly Premium Bond prize draw and getting the odd win.’
Sannah plans to spend her recent winnings on treating herself and Rob to dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant L’Enclume, in Cartmel, Cumbria.
The odds of winning the National Lottery jackpot lengthened dramatically to one in 45million in 2015 when the number of balls increased from 49 to 59.
Then, in 2016, the number of required lucky stars in the Euromillions was increased – lengthening the odds of a jackpot win to one in 140million.
Patrick Connolly says: ‘The best way to improve your odds of winning is to simply buy more tickets – though, of course, you are spending more money.’
By far the most likely outcome when you buy a lottery ticket is that you will lose. While there is no harm in entering lotteries and competitions, it needs to be kept at a sensible level.
Connolly says: ‘Becoming wealthy by saving or investing regular amounts each month can seem like a long and hard road to achieve your financial goals – whereas a big Lottery or Premium Bond win could change your finances overnight.
‘But the reality is that few of us will ever win that life-changing prize, so no one should consider the expectation of a win as a part of their overall personal finance strategy.’
The big money question – do I save or spend?
If you are lucky enough to get a big win, you will inevitably want to spend some of your winnings.
But what is the most sensible approach if you suddenly find yourself ‘in the money’?
The answer depends on how big the win is.
Sarah Coles, of Hargreaves Lansdown, says: ‘If you were to win £100,000 you would have the opportunity to pay off any debts – your mortgage for example. That would put you in a better financial position each month and enable you to set aside more money for the future – or to change your working life.’
With a £1million win, the temptation may be to spend it on items you otherwise would not have been able to afford – such as a bigger house, a dream holiday, or new flashy car.
Coles adds: ‘This can be a sound approach as long as you have paid off all your debts, are happy to continue working, and are confident you are putting away enough money for the future.
‘If you would rather scale back your working life or protect your income in retirement, the best approach is to use the prize money to build a portfolio of savings and investments.’
Chase de Vere’s Patrick Connolly adds: ‘The key is not to rush into making decisions. Take your time. You could come to regret any rushed investments or impulse purchases.’
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