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Keywords:

  • Lottery winnings;
  • special money;
  • earmarking;
  • relational accounting;
  • opportunity;
  • risk

Abstract

The source of money has been shown to be important for how money is spent. In addition, sudden wealth is often associated with social and psychological risks. This article investigates if conceptions of lottery prize money – as a special kind of money – imply restrictions on how it can be spent. Analysis of interviews with lottery winners shows that interviewees use earmarking of the prize money as a strategy for avoiding the pitfalls associated with a lottery win. Conceptions of lottery prize money as ‘a lot’ or as ‘a little’, as shared or personal, and as an opportunity or a risk, influences the ends for which it is earmarked: for self-serving spending, a ‘normal’ living standard, paying off loans, saving for designated purposes, or for economic security and independence. Clearly defining and earmarking lottery prize money thus helps lottery winners construe their sudden wealth, not as a risk, but as ‘pennies from heaven.’