As luck would have it

Anat Arkin advises what to do if you win the lottery. Finance is the one of the main topics of conversation in the staffroom of Race Leys primary school, where a 20-member syndicate won a Pounds 2.2 million share of the National Lottery jackpot last month.

Most of the teachers, caretakers, dinner ladies and office staff in the syndicate have not yet decided what they will do with their winnings. But several are thinking of investing in a combination of PEPs and TESSAs once they have bought new cars or taken exotic holidays. Some are planning to move house.

Syndicate leader Paul Ison, a teacher at the school in Bedworth, Warwickshire, wants to use the bulk of his Pounds 111,972 share to build his own house. "The sort of house I'm thinking about is quite a large one, which even though I've won a sizeable amount, I still wouldn't be able to afford to buy outright. So I'm enquiring about a self-build scheme," he says.

Mr Ison thinks he will be able to build a four-bedroom house worth around Pounds 110,000-115,000 for under Pounds 80,000. He is looking to buy a plot for Pounds 20,000-30,000 and reckons the house itself should cost no more than Pounds 45,000 to build and fit out.

Mr Ison plans to subcontract the work out, rather than quitting his teaching job and building the house with his own hands. "I'm in my early 30s, so I couldn't consider retiring," he says. Only one member of the syndicate, a part-time caretaker, has so far given her notice. The rest are likely to continue working at the school.

While the syndicate members are considering how to invest their money, it is earning interest in deposit accounts opened for them by bankers recommended by the lottery operator Camelot. Had they won more than Pounds 250,000 each, they would also have had financial advice from Camelot's lottery winners' panel.

Patricia Mock, a tax and financial planning specialist with accountants Arthur Andersen, who has often acted as an adviser on this panel, usually tells lottery winners to pay off all their debts before they do anything else. They should also keep some cash in reserve for a rainy day. What winners do with the rest depends on their attitude to risk, she says.

"We see some winners who don't even want to think about investing in shares because their value can go down, although if investments are spread over a few companies, it is quite unlikely that they will all go down."

Patricia Mock advises people to protect their money from inflation by putting some of it into fixed-interest investments, such as government securities, and the rest into a portfolio of stocks and shares.

But her main advice to anyone who strikes it lucky in tomorrow night's draw is not to do anything until they have weighed all their options very carefully.

"The important thing is not to take any decisions that you might regret later," she says.

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