What would you do if you win the $12m Hong Bao Draw this week?

Fantasising about winning $12m Hong Bao Draw can make your life's priorities clearer

I have a good friend who can sniff out a Toto betting outlet a mile away. Each time he sees one, he joins the queue to make a small bet.

For him, Toto offers his only hope to strike it rich. "If I don't buy, I have nothing to hope for," he likes to tell me.

There are many who think like him. This explains the snaking queues outside betting outlets before occasions such as the Singapore Pools' annual Hong Bao Draw, when punters hope Lady Luck will smile on them.

This year's draw is on Friday, and the top prize is an eye-watering $12 million.

Just for the fun of it, even people like me who don't normally gamble will join various pools organised by co-workers, friends and relatives to take a punt on the Hong Bao Draw.

To increase their chances of winning, some travel to all corners of Singapore to spread their bets at "hot spot" outlets known to have sold winning lottery tickets in the past.

Others take a more analytical approach and try to buy numbers which appear more frequently in draws.

Yet, amid the frenzy, I wonder how many stop to ask themselves: "What would I do if I won the $12 million Hong Bao Draw?"

When I asked my friend, his immediate response was: "I will quit my job."

After that? He had not really worked out what he would do with his life after hitting the jackpot.

Sure, the chances of striking lottery are tiny - just one chance in 13.93 million - and the payout may be shared.

The top prize of $10 million in last year's Hong Bao Draw was shared by six winners.

But I feel we may gain an even bigger financial jackpot exploring the dreams we can pursue if we strike it rich.

After all, in life, there are plenty of other ways to get a smaller jackpot - whether in the form of an inheritance, a big annual bonus or some other bonanza which would boost our financial security, if we knew how to make proper use of it.

This newspaper has regularly carried reports of people elsewhere ending up destitute after coming into sudden wealth, having blown their jackpot on family, friends and frivolous pursuits.

But the bigger untold story is about those who waste their more modest windfalls spending on big-ticket items like a new car or an expensive holiday which do not leave them financially better off after that.

As such, it is useful to discuss with your loved ones what you would do if you had a windfall.

The "what if" game can be fun, considering that many people refrain from talking about financial matters, thinking it is not polite or too personal.

Talking about the Hong Bao Draw doesn't stir the same kind of feelings and often provides an icebreaker to discuss larger financial issues.

One question to ask is whether you should quit your job. It will lead you to examine what you like and dislike about your current job and if you should take any remedial action - windfall or not.

If you still have financial obligations like an outstanding mortgage or a car loan, examine if you should use the windfall to pay down your debts, rather than splurge on expensive items.

Just by clearing your debts, you will eliminate a big source of stress in your life.

A windfall may also bring a change in lifestyle - a new home, a car or travelling to places you have wanted to visit all your life.

So, another question to ask is whether the jackpot will be sufficient to give you financial independence and enable you to live your desired lifestyle without having to worry about running out of money.

You may also like to help your family, like setting aside money for your children's or grandchildren's university education, and giving more to charities you support.

If you no longer relish working in a nine-to-five job, you could plan how to spend all the spare time you will have.

In short, fantasising about winning the Hong Bao Draw can help you create a financial wish list and clarify your priorities. You might then start doing something more realistic to realise your dreams.

So, if you are betting on the big Toto draw, make time to brainstorm all the things you would want to do if you win. That might well turn out to be the more enduring and enriching experience. Good luck!

engyeow@sph.com.sg

Goh Eng Yeow's new book is Small Change

Book 2: Turning Cents Into Dollars