'I'm not so sure I'd want $100 million. $10 million, I'll take,' says Sudden Money Institute founder: Here's why

"It's big. It's bigger than people think it is, or want it to be, because it seems easy."

Susan Bradley is the founder of the Sudden Money Institute.
Courtesy Susan Bradley

Susan Bradley has advised many lottery winners over the course of her career as a certified financial planner and the founder of the Sudden Money Institute in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

When people ask her if she would like to hit a big jackpot, her response isn't what you'd necessarily expect. People think: "'Who wouldn't want $100 million?' I'm not so sure I'd want $100 million," Bradley says. "$10 million, I'll take that. $100 million, eh, I'm not so sure."

Bradley's husband feels the same way. "It's not like we don't like money. I love money. But I love having enough and knowing that that enough is around, and that I'm cushioned, and I can take care of myself and other people," she says.

Watching enormous windfalls change people's lives has changed her outlook on wealth. Here's what Bradley has learned.

Huge, sudden windfalls can change everything

A windfall such as winning the lottery or receiving a hefty inheritance can shake up your life. "It changes all your patterns and routines, your responsibilities, your relationships, and your self identity. All of that has shifted overnight," Bradley says.

"It's big," she adds. "It's bigger than people think it is, or want it to be, because it seems easy."

Preferring a smaller jackpot over a larger one has some to do with values and some with practicalities. "My personal belief is money is to be shared for living, not for accumulation," she says. "Obviously you get income off of a $10 million portfolio. You can live very well with that. It would be fine."

That doesn't apply to everyone: "Many people could manage a $100 million win without giving any of it away," Bradley says. "It is just not who I am."

Coming into money? 'The main point is to know yourself'

If Bradley won $100 million, "I'd probably keep $10 million, maybe $15 million, and the rest I'd have to organize myself for gifting," she says.

Successful clients often share their wealth wisely, she says. One lottery winner gave each of their family members the same amount of money with no strings attached, "and it was beautiful," Bradley says. They said, "We trust that you're going to use it to make your life better."

What to do if you win the lottery

Video by Stephen Parkhurst

The same family also helped pay for a friend's surgery that wasn't covered by insurance.

When you come into sudden money, she says, "the main point is to know yourself and make choices from that deep knowing and values."

Wealth doesn't automatically equal happiness, she says. When you enlist the help of financial experts and a philanthropic consultant, Bradley says, you can use your money and donate in a way that will "help you find joy and a sense of purpose."

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