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A dream come true?

Susan Howell, an office clerk from Manchester, won a £3-million jackpot last May. Since then she hasn't done much with her money. Most of it is still in her private bank account. 'I haven't given up my job because I'm good at what I do,' she says. 'And my workmates don't treat me any differently. When we go to the pub, we still take it in turns to buy drinks.'

Other people are more generous with their winnings. Phil Hardy, who won £1.5 million in December, is a good example. 'I wanted to make a lot of people happy,' says Phil, 'so the first thing I did was pay for my parents to go on a luxury is cruise.' He then took eight friends on an exotic holiday and bought his girlfriend a valuable diamond ring. Phil intends to invest the rest of his money. 'I plan never to work again,' he says, 'With a few sensible investments, I could be a multi-millionaire in five years' time.'

Perhaps the most famous winner is Viv Nicholson. Viv won £150,000 in 1961, the equivalent of £5 million today. As soon as she received her cheque, Viv promised to 'spend,spend, spend' and four years later she was broke. Does Viv have any regrets? 'If I won again, I'd do the same,' she says. 'Spending is my only habit and I love it.' But did people treat her differently when she had lots of money? 'When I first won the money I was ignored by a lot of people,' she says. 'Even my old friends left me. It was very lonely.'

So winning a fortune might not be as desirable as we think. Besides losing your friends, there's also a lack of privacy and many letters from strangers asking for money. When 26-year-old Lesley Mooney won £2 million, she thought all her troubles were over, but two years after winning she has no more friends and is suffering from depression. 'I rarely go out and I don't care about my appearance,' she complains. 'I used to socialise when I was younger, but the lottery has turned me into a hermit. My parents are worried about me. They want me to go out more, but I never know if people like me for my money or not. I don't want to be ripped off.'

However, for most people, coping with wealth is not a problem. Some lottery winners do lose their friends, spend too much money, then complain about their good fortune. But most people have better and happier lives.

The Independent

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