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So you've won the lottery, told your boss to shove it and jetted off to a tropical paradise to begin a life of leisure.

Now what?

Buying a new house, helping family or donating to charity are among the top 10 things people say they will do next, according to California lottery officials.

But wealth advisers say the smartest move is to wait. At least for a few months.

Blowing even $10 or $20 million is not as hard as it seems.

"Take a cruise, throw a party or do whatever," said Irwin Rothenberg, managing partner of Santa Rosa-based Wealth Management Consultants, who has counseled several big jackpot winners. "The most important thing is don't jump into investing it right away. Sit down and plan. Put the money away for a few months."

Beating 1 in 41 million odds to collect Wednesday's SuperLotto Plus jackpot of $25 million is the first step.

It's not unheard of, though. Sixteen Sonoma County residents have become millionaires in the drawing since 1986. In February, Elba Escamilla of Petaluma won an $80 million SuperLotto jackpot, the biggest ever on the North Coast.

The 48-year-old owner of a cleaning business said she didn't have big plans. After announcing the windfall, she said she'd likely take the family out to dinner and spring for a Hawaiian vacation.

"We don't want to get carried away because we're humble people," she said in a written statement from the lottery.

But that was two months ago.

Elba and her husband Roberto Escamilla have moved out of their modest westside home with its view of downtown grain silos and purchased two estates on Sonoma Mountain for a combined $4.5 million, property records show.

Neighbors said the family moved out about three weeks ago in a flurry of moving vans and pickups.

"I didn't even know they had won the lottery," said a woman who lived next door and would not give her name. "I think it's wonderful. Everybody deserves a little luck now and then."

Escamilla declined through her family to comment. Her husband, a construction worker, and son-in-law, Luis Acosta, said they would not talk about their good fortune -- or anything else.

The couple now live in a custom home on 13 acres in a gated community near Crane Creek Regional Park. Acosta and their daughter are on a nearby hillside in a home with 15 acres and sweeping views of the Santa Rosa plain.

Escamilla's neighbor, Bruce Hammond, said he could understand why the family was being so tight-lipped. Word of their haul had spread and they're probably getting approached by people.

Hammond said he has read sad stories about the fate of lottery winners who overindulge and end up in misery. It is important to stay grounded, he said.

"I hope they find what they are looking for and do it with some sort of balance," Hammond said. "That's the challenge."

When Escamilla won the lottery, she took a lump sum of just over $45 million rather than getting annual payments. She told lottery officials it was the first time she had played. She bought the ticket at Safeway on South McDowell Boulevard.

Experts and past lottery winners said that big winners must plan carefully if they want to hold onto the money for long or to leave a legacy.

Rothenberg said he's seen lottery winnings evaporate when people overspend, make bad investments or don't consider things like taxes and inflation.

And tensions from instant wealth can often lead to unhappiness or divorce, he said.

Not long ago, he said, a couple he advised ended up broke five years after winning $10 million.

"More people than not go out and blow the money," said Rothenberg. "They want the toys and things they haven't had before and they jump forward without a plan."

Former Santa Rosa resident Joyce Powell said her marriage of 23 years came apart after she won $16 million in 1992.

With a background in economics, she was able to make sound investments that have kept her living the good life the past 18 years. She now has homes in Carson City, Nev. and Lake Tahoe.

But the windfall brought an economic freedom that made the relationship difficult. Powell split with her husband within a year of receiving the jackpot and has been married and divorced since.

"I don't see myself in a relationship," said Powell, now 54. "I'm incredibly independent and want things my way."

On the other hand, all that cash holds tremendous potential for a comfortable living. Powell, who gets her money in annual payments of about $400,000, spends her days riding horseback in the eastern Sierra and playing golf three days a week. She's built up an investment portfolio that will keep her going when the payments end in 2011.

"It certainly turned out to be a wonderful opportunity," Powell said. "It has made life a lot easier. There aren't a whole lot of financial concerns. Of course, I've never been a frivolous person."

People who lived in Escamilla's old neighborhood described the family as hardworking and industrious.

They remodeled their house and always seemed to be working on the yard. "He (Roberto) always said this was his dream house," said the woman.

Juan Villanuevas, who lived across the street from the Escamillas for more than 10 years, said the couple recently reaffirmed their wedding vows with a reception and a horse-drawn carriage in front of their house.

Powell said having a strong relationship before winning the lottery is key.

"I hope their life stays together," she said.

News researcher Michele Van Hoeck contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 762-7297 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

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