While many federal employees are still recovering from the 35-day government shutdown, National Park Service employee Judith Smith is counting her blessings.
She's the winner of New Jersey's $29.5 million lottery prize, the largest Pick 6 jackpot since May 2004.
Smith, who was once furloughed from her job during the shutdown, purchased her ticket at Eddy's Wine and Liquors in Bayonne, New Jersey, just in time for the Dec. 17 drawing. A day after the drawing, NorthJersey.com reports that Smith sent her son, William, back to Eddy's after finding out that's where the winning ticket was purchased.
Using the self-check machine to scan the ticket, William says that's when he discovered that his mom did, in fact, win the lottery.
"It said 'file a claim, please see the clerk,' and I knew right away, something, more than $500," he told CNN affiliate WABC.
For the Smith family, winning the jackpot came at just the right time, as they had recently experienced a series of personal hardships in addition to the government shutdown.
"My dad died two years ago," William told WABC. "My mom's boyfriend's mother passed away in November, and her boyfriend actually died of a massive heart attack three weeks to the day in November."
After discovering that they held the winning ticket, William says that he and his family first sought legal counseling and financial advice so that they knew how to claim their money safely. Once taxes are collected, the family will take home $14 million.
"We'll continue to work," he says, "you know, set stuff up for the kids, go to college and travel."
According to the CFP Board of Standards, nearly one-third of all lottery winners eventually declare bankruptcy due to poor management of funds. That's why, even after winning the lottery, many experts advise individuals to follow in the Smiths footsteps by spending their money wisely.
"Just Google 'lottery winner goes bankrupt' and you'll find dozens of horror stories about lottery winners who strike gold, only to lose it all within a year or two," 'Shark Tank' investor Kevin O'Leary told CNBC Make It in October. He adds that "blowing through hundreds of millions of dollars might seem like an impossible task, but it can happen quick with bad habits."
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