EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 28, 2007

Cash windfall can lead to downfall

For Lisa Arcand, winning $1 million in the lottery helped make her dreams come true. Or so she thought.

She took the earnings and bought a house and new furniture, went on a couple of vacations, enrolled her son in Central Catholic and opened a restaurant on Merrimack Street in Lawrence.

Then reality struck.

“Winning the lottery is not all it’s cracked up to be,” said Arcand, 42, a single mom and lifelong Lawrence resident. “Actually, it’s been very depressing.”

Today, less than four years after striking it rich on a scratch ticket, Arcand has decided to close her dream business — Fisherman’s Corner.

“I emptied my savings to get this place,” she said last month, standing behind the counter of the nearly empty eatery she opened just five months ago. “Now I’m behind on my bills.”

Unfortunately, Arcand’s story is a familiar one.

Many lottery winners end up worse off than they were before they won, says Susan Bradley, a certified financial planner who runs a practice specializing in helping people who come into sudden wealth.

“A lot of people who win are financially OK when they win,” said Bradley, who also runs a Web site called suddenmoney.com. “You hope they become really financially secure after they win. But many are in a worse position after winning because of financial commitments. It’s not unusual for them to start borrowing, and that’s how you get more into debt.”

Roughly one-third of lottery winners find themselves in serious financial trouble or bankrupt within five years of turning in their lucky numbers, according to Chelmsford wealth counselor Szifra Birke.

“For many people who come into wealth suddenly — whether they win the lottery, receive an insurance settlement or an unexpected inheritance — if they have not acquired good money skills prior to this windfall, often they struggle and make poor choices,” Birke said.

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