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If you won the lottery...

People fill out Powerball numbers at Circle News Stand on November 28, 2012 in Hollywood, Fla. 

OK, by now you've probably torn up that big Powerball ticket. You were not one of the two lucky Americans with the winning half-billion dollar scrap of paper. Oh well. We all know that most people who do win the lottery handle their winnings badly, but not all. Sandra Hayes won $6 million -- that's after taxes -- back in 2006. She split a $224 million jackpot with a bunch of co-workers. And because she made some smart financial decisions, she's still in the money today.

Before winning big, Hayes worked for the Department of Social Services in Child Support Enforcement and earned around $25,000 anually. She says she lived paycheck to paycheck. But after winning the jackpot, Hayes had to make decisions about where to invest her money, how much to invest, and figure out a monthly budget to live off of. Now, she lives off a fixed income.

"I budget my money carefully. All my extravagant spending, I did that when I first won. Such as paying off my house, paying off my student loans because I had three of them. I bought a used boat, a bass boat. I bought a new car, a Lexus. And then I purchased a new home, my dream home," she says.

Susan Bradley, founder of the Sudden Money Institute, says the biggest challenge facing people who come into big money so quickly is managing change.

"When you find out you win, your whole body, your mind functions differently. You have a cognitive dissonance in your brain," says Bradley.

"There's an adjustment period. Reinvention is what we call it. We say that when money changes, life changes. So it's managing change and that can be stressful," she adds. "Most people go through a series of regrettable decisions."

Bradley says people need to know the boundaries of the money before making decisions like giving some away to family members or to church.

"Money changes us and probably in a very good way if you're conscious and you're aware and you have good people around you and you can anchor into your values. It can be wonderful," says Bradley.

About the author

Veteran journalist Tony Cox has joined American Public Media as guest host of Marketplace Money.
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I'm a longtime fan of Tony Cox's professionalism and journalistic acumen. He'll be a great asset to Marketplace Money, which is one my favorite shows on NPR. I enjoyed the interviews he conducted and found them very informative. Now...if only I could win the lottery.

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