The date was August 25th, 2005.
After winning 6 consecutive nights of Temptation (the *journey* of which you can read about in my previous posts here, here and here)… tonight, I’m playing for “THE LOT” – $672,000 in cash and prizes.
The closely-fought contest between me and Drew Devlin – a salesman from Hampton Park in Victoria – is coming to an end. The seconds tick away in the final ‘Fast Money’ round, until host Ed Phillips asks the last question: “Devotion and pride in the group one belongs to is called “Esprit de“… what?” Drew beats me to it, answering correctly (“Corps“) right on the buzzer that signifies the end of the round. But it’s not enough, and I vaguely hear Ed saying “Stephen wins everything! The lot! The works! He’s won it all!”
The next few days and weeks passed by like a dream, and my post today aims to offer you some tips in case you ever find yourself in the wonderful, blissful position of being a Game Show Champ! So here they are;
My Top 8 Tips for Game Show Winners!
1. Keep it under your hat. Your winning episode usually won’t be aired until a couple of weeks after it’s recorded, sometimes longer. You’ll have signed a contract not to disclose the results of any games you’ve recorded before they go to air, and so you are legally bound. In fact, if you do reveal the results, the contract may stipulate that you forfeit your prizes! Despite that, you’ll feel like you want to shout it from the rooftops and tell everyone you meet, but you must exercise self-control. They’ll hear about it soon enough.
2. Before you’ve got your money (usually, you won’t get a cheque until after the winning episode goes to air), enjoy daydreaming about what to spend it on! I remember waking up early some mornings after the win, still too excited to sleep, and going window-shopping online, thinking “I could buy that. I could buy that. Or I could buy that…” How often in your life do you get a chance to do that?
3. Get financial advice. I’d have thought this was obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of big cash winners who don’t do this. I engaged a financial planner very shortly after winning.
4. By the time the money does arrive, you should have researched and found an account which gives a good interest rate, while allowing you access to your money when you need it. Park your prize money here, while you work out what to do with it. On some of those big sums, getting good monthly interest can really make a difference!
5. Be aware that prizes are not always worth what they’re valued at, on air. And the rules of the game usually state that you’re not permitted to take a cash equivalent, or sell it back to the manufacturer. A case in point was the $19,000 watch I won on the show. I would have preferred the cash, so in the end, I put it up for auction through an auction house. It sold for $3000. Like they say, things are only really worth what people will pay for them.
6. Before your win, decide how you’re going to help family, friends and charities financially, and when the prize money does come in, DO IT IMMEDIATELY. As both Barack Obama and Spider-Man say; “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility:” Exactly the same can be said of sudden wealth. If you plan to give some of your money away, decide beforehand which amount is going to who, and make the transactions ASAP. This was one thing I really got wrong. I always knew that if I won, I’d help both my mum and my sister in a significant way, financially. But I took ages to do so. Why? I stupidly put the onus on them. NEVER ask your beneficiaries to determine the gift. Could there ever be a more awkward question for anyone to answer than “How much money should I give you as a gift?” In the end, we had a frank discussion and I wrote my sister a cheque on the spot, and came to an arrangement with my mum too. But it did come to a head. And I caused them both a lot of awkwardness and uncertainty, as they wondered how I was going to help them out, and how much I’d be giving them.
Stupid, Stephen, stupid.
If I could turn back time, I’d make those transactions on the very day my prize money cheque cleared.
7. In the days following The Big Win, if the network ask you to do publicity for the show, I believe you should. After all, they’ve been good to you. Also, it’s really good fun! They’ll have a publicist who’ll organise TV, radio and newspaper interviews for you. You should enjoy every second of this fifteen minutes. It feels pretty damn good.
8. Having said that, protect your privacy. As the couriers delivered more and more prizes to our house, I remember feeling quite vulnerable to burglars. When a TV show wanted to interview me at home after the win, I refused. I did the interview, but only on the condition that it was on neutral ground. The interviewer met me at a nearby restaurant.
And that’s it for today – eight tips for how to handle the instant wealth, and fleeting fame, of being a Game Show Winner. All learned from first-hand experience. And I do sincerely hope that one day, each and every one of them will apply to you!
Do you have questions other than the ones I’ve answered here? If so, feel free to ask me anything you’d like to know about what happened after the win, and I’ll answer as best I can.