SA's secret millionaire reveals how he grew his lotto winnings

11 January 2018 - 10:11
File photo of lotto balls. The secret millionaire's advice for winners is not to make big changes, saying
Image: Gabriel Petrescu/ File photo of lotto balls. The secret millionaire's advice for winners is not to make big changes, saying "If you make big changes‚ in 5 to 10 years you may have nothing left."

It's been two years and five months since 30-year-old Paul Williams* won the national lottery and‚ to date‚ not even his boyfriend of two years is aware that he is a multi-millionaire.

In a telephone conversation with TimesLIVE‚ Williams said only his mother and sister were aware of his R7-million winnings from August 2015.

Asked why he has kept it a secret‚ Williams said: "People change [but keeping it a secret] was an easy choice. I will eventually tell him, though. My dream has always been to get out of debt and‚ now that I am out‚ I tell him that my dream is to buy an island. Maybe we will buy it together‚" he chuckled.

At 27‚ Williams was dealing with a break-up and had mounting debt after losing his job. On his way home from dinner with friends‚ they stopped at a local Spar supermarket and‚ while his friends purchased other items‚ he bought a lottery ticket worth R50. His life changed forever the next morning when he discovered he had won.

"I woke up early and checked the ticket and saw I had the matching winning numbers but I still wasn't sure whether I had won. I wasn't really sure how you win‚" he said.

"I called my sister and she confirmed that I had won and I then called my mom. We were meant to discuss my future [since I was unemployed] when I told her that she doesn't need to worry about me anymore‚" he said.

He and his family headed to the lottery offices in Johannesburg‚ where his win was confirmed. He was offered psychological and financial counselling and‚ two weeks later‚ the money was in his account.

He did not take up the financial advice but spoke to the psychologist.

"That helped me to work through my emotions. I would not be in a good place if it wasn't for the psychological help‚" he said.

Williams still sees a psychologist every week.

"I think the counselling is a must‚" he said.

"People sometimes frown upon you seeing a psychologist but it helps. It helps in understanding why certain things are the way they are‚" he said.

Since then‚ Williams has invested in a farming business but says he "hasn't really worked". Despite being an instant millionaire‚ he continues to live a modest lifestyle.

"I didn't have a car back then. I had sold it because of all my debt so [after the win]‚ I bought a second-hand Audi TT model. I still live in the same house. I just made the place nicer and I have someone who now takes care of the garden‚" Williams said.

He kept his winnings under wraps by telling his friends that his mother had fixed up the house for him. He explained his new car by saying he had scored a lucrative job.

Prior to his winnings‚ he was never one for designer brands. That hasn't changed. He still shops at Mr Price and Pick n Pay Clothing‚ occasionally at Woolworths.

"Clothing‚ I would say‚ I still keep the same‚" Williams said. "If you make big changes‚ in 5 to 10 years you may have nothing left."

One of the most difficult things‚ however‚ has been to stop himself from wanting to help every person he comes across who is in need of financial assistance. He does‚ however‚ lend a helping hand wherever he can.

Now‚ he lives off the interest of the money he has saved up as well as some of the profits of his business.

"I still save up as much as I can‚" he said.

He admits that he enjoys his wealth‚ which he estimates at roughly R20-million. A typical day involves waking up early‚ playing computer games and doing research on new businesses, and then doing work towards an online course he recently started.

"I live on a big farm‚ so I also take the dogs for a walk and feed the cattle, but I don't have to do that and it feels good not to worry about money‚" Williams said.

He is now looking into buying property overseas.

"I still play the lotto and I have won small amounts since then‚" he said.

*Not his real name