Winning the lottery is about as likely as - well, winning the lottery. Your odds are about 1 in 300 million. Still, you could be one of the lucky ones who stumble on the big jackpot and win millions of dollars. Have you ever thought about the practical side of winning the lottery?
What would you do if you did win the lottery? Here are ten things to do once your winning number is drawn:
- Secure your ticket.
- Don’t quit your job.
- Protect your privacy.
- Put together a professional team.
- Create a financial plan.
- Use different banks for your money.
- Set a budget.
- Pay off existing debt.
- Avoid sudden lifestyle changes.
- Invest prudently.
Winning the lottery doesn’t happen for everyone, but if you do win by some miracle, keep reading to find out how to save the money you win.
Step One: Secure Your Ticket
While some people will advise you to sign your ticket right away, others warn you not to sign until you have a team of advisors in place. Either way, you need to make several copies of your ticket and keep the original in a safe or a bank safe deposit box.
Signing the Ticket Right Away vs. Later
One thing to remember about whether you sign your ticket right away or not is that if you don’t, and you lose it, someone could find it and take it to the authorities instead of you. They would get your money, and you would be out in the cold. So you may want to sign it right away, then put it in a safe deposit box.
On the other hand, making sure that you aren’t signing your rights to specific financial actions away could work in your favor. Thus, you should have an advisor to help you read over the rules and regulations, so you know what you are signing.
Some states will allow a trustee or other foundation to sign your ticket to protect your anonymity. If you live in one of those states, you may want to consider doing this, so you need to speak to a lawyer first before signing your ticket.
At this point, if you don’t sign it immediately, at least make several copies of the ticket, as well as take a picture of it with your phone. You will then have proof it is yours if it gets lost.
Take Your Time Before Alerting the Authorities
Take your time alerting the lottery authorities, as you want the media sensationalism to quiet down. You also need time to think about your plan and set up certain protections that will help you keep your money later.
Most lotteries will give you up to a full year before you claim your winnings, so take advantage of that. Secure a team to help you put together a plan beforehand so that you will know precisely what you’re doing with it when you get your money.
The best thing to do is if you are unsure of how long you have to claim your winnings, contact the lottery commission, and ask how long you have to claim your prize.
Tell No One
The worst thing you can do before you’re ready to claim your winnings is to tell everyone you know that you won the lottery. Everyone and their brother will be at your doorstep waiting for a handout. Worse yet, you could get kidnapped for ransom. Just don’t do it. Keep it to yourself until that day you claim your money.
Step Two: Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Besides not telling anyone, you also don’t want to quit your job right now. Why? What if you mistakenly read the numbers wrong, and there is one that doesn’t match up? You could be in dire straits if you quit your job too early, then find out you were wrong.
Another reason is that you may not get as much money as you think you might.
The Tax Man Cometh
It is a well-known fact that when you win a large cash prize in the millions or higher, roughly half of that money goes to pay taxes. A $600 million jackpot, after taxes, will be around $300 million. That’s still pretty good, right? But you also need to consider that you’re now going to be in the highest tax bracket, which means that you’re going to pay a lot more in taxes in the future as well. Taxes can get a bit complicated, that’s why we have dedicated a full article to lottery taxes, make sure to check that out if you want to learn more.
Keeping your job, for now, is sensible in that you will still have extra cash flow when you need it the most.
Your Job Keeps You Grounded
During the initial days after winning the lottery, you will be an emotional wreck. Having a job to go to will keep your head out of the clouds long enough to gain control over your emotions. If you suddenly quit your job and start buying things on credit, hoping to cash in your new-found winnings, people will start talking, and it could put you in an inadequate space - financially and physically.
Going to work daily will also keep you from sitting around, thinking of all the things that could happen, which may add to an anxiety problem if you have one.
Step Three: Protect Your Privacy
Aside from not telling people immediately about your lucky win, you need to put measures in place to protect your privacy. People will never give you peace, as they always require money. Aside from claiming your money anonymously through a trust fund, there are some simple things you can do to stay out of the public eye.
Change Your Phone Number
Before claiming your money, you will need to get a different phone number that is kept private and unlisted. Then you can provide your current phone number to the authorities when claiming your winnings. If people call that number too often, you can get rid of it. You can also ignore any phone calls on your current number after a while.
Get a Post Office Box Number
While you may need to provide an address to claim your money, you can change your mailing address afterward to a P.O. box. Doing this will keep people away from your door with their hands out, as they won’t be able to find you.
Google Your Name
The one negative thing about a digitally connected world is that it is challenging to stay out of sight. People will look you up and try to find you. But, there are ways you can head this off at the pass.
- Google your name to see how many previous addresses are recorded for you, and how many people are associated with you.
- Change the addresses on every one of those listings, if possible, to throw people off your trail.
- Change phone numbers as well.
- Add fictional people that are associated with you.
Completing these steps is an excellent way to keep people from finding you if they look you up online. While you cannot wholly change everything online, most people will stop looking after the first page of Google.
Step Four: Put Together a Professional Team
Once you’ve completed the above steps, it’s time to seek out a full team of professionals to help you figure things out. You will need a lawyer, tax advisor, therapist, and financial advisor at the very least. Handpick every one of them, so you know you are getting the best team for your money.
These are to ensure that you are making the best decisions you can with your money. The last thing you want to do is to blow all that money before providing the future for yourself and your family. But why a professional team?
Not every lawyer is prepared to advise you on a sudden windfall of money. You will need one that has experience with this type of law. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that allow you to look behind the curtain and find dirty little secrets.
Be warned though - if a lawyer suggests that he or she take a percentage of your winnings as their fee, run away quickly!
Suppose you had a spat with someone that held a grudge. When they find out you won the lottery, they might decide to sue you for “damages” they claimed you caused them. Having a lawyer on your team will help you diffuse these silly and frivolous lawsuits. They can also help you avoid going to court in the first place.
Setting Up a Trust Fund
A trust fund sets up a future assurance for loved ones/beneficiaries that they will be supported when you are gone. A financial advisor and a lawyer can help you work out the details in setting this up.
Winning the lottery is a positive event, so why would you need a therapist on your professional team? A lot of emotions will come to the surface when you win a lot of money, and you may not be able to handle it all on your own.
A therapist can assist you in processing these emotions and in approaching your financial plan in the most logical manner possible.
Step Five: Create a Financial Plan
A financial plan will give you peace of mind that you’re doing the best thing you can with your winnings, which is why you need a reputable financial advisor (not just a salesperson) on your team. They will guide you to the best things to do with your money, including wise investments and savings plans.
It seems that there are many options in which to put your money. Stocks, bonds, bank Certificate of Deposits (C.D.s), and more are there to create a way to grow your wealth. After all, without your money growing, winning the lottery will not be worth it.
A good financial advisor will walk you through all the options, but here are just a few that you might consider now:
- Bonds: These are government-issued loans that you make to them. They issue them to raise money for roads and other projects. When they expire, they pay you back your money plus interest.
- Stocks: With the volatility of the stock market these days, you need to tread carefully and choose those that don’t go up or down too much, so you don’t lose a lot of money.
- C.D.s: These are low-interest savings accounts that lock down your money for a certain amount of time agreed upon when setting up with the bank.
- Savings Accounts: Most banks offer savings accounts that pay a certain amount of interest.
Work with your advisor to come up with the best plan for you and your needs. They will have options not discussed here that might be even better. Just remember not to take their advice at face value and do your research before signing anything. There have been shady financial advisors that have taken people’s money with no intent to pay it back.
Step Six: Spread Winnings Among Different Banks
Most banks can only financially insure up to $250,000, but when you win the lottery, you will have several million dollars, which may pose a problem. Before you claim your prize, be sure to talk with several banking managers to discover your options. Just don’t show up at the teller window with a check for millions of dollars.
Depending on the bank policy, you might be able to spread your money through different accounts. The advantage of this is that your money is all in one bank. However, if that bank suddenly goes bankrupt, there goes your money.
A better option may be to use a few different banks. The advantage of doing this is that if one bank closes, you still have money in other banks. The disadvantage is that you need to keep track of every single change with each bank. However, this may not be a bad thing, but rather a time-consuming thing.
Step Seven: Set a Budget
Set up a budget with millions of dollars at your disposal? Yes, you will need a budget, especially after winning the lottery. You don’t want to go overboard and spend it all on expensive toys like cars and boats, as you need to prepare for the rest of your life.
If you follow the following budget, you will then be able to afford some of the more expensive toys you have your eye on.
Before you buy anything, you need to plan for your basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and security for the rest of your life. If you choose the annuity payments, then most of this is done for you, and all you need to do is create a monthly budget, of which you should know how to do by now. If you don’t, there are plenty of excellent resources online to show you how to budget.
However, if you choose the lump sum, you will need to create a lifetime budget and a monthly budget.
The lifetime budget, or plan, will detail how much you put away for living expenses years from now and how much you can play with now. You will want to work closely with your financial advisor on how and where to put your excess money away.
Once you have your living expenses budget, you need to look at your existing debts and see what you can pay right away. You don’t want to pay them off all at once, as some low-interest debts can help build your credit history. While you may not care about your credit history now that you have all this money, it is wise to protect and build that should you ever run out of money.
But you want to pay off the high-interest debts that cost you more to hold on to. However, this topic will be covered in the next section. Just know that, for right now, you need to budget for debt repayments.
Future Living Expenses
You may skip this section if you choose the annuity payments option, as you will receive money for the rest of your life from your winnings. But if you want the lump sum, you need to put away enough money for you to live from for the rest of your life.
You can choose a variety of different options, including:
- Certificate of Deposits: Bank C.D.s allow you to sit on a large sum of money that earns interest for a set time. You can choose a time frame of at least six months up to 18 months or longer. The bank determines the interest rate and time frame, but this is an excellent choice to grow the money you have. You are not allowed to take it out until the specified time has expired.
- Savings Accounts: Different banks have different savings products that give you various benefits and interest rates for the money you deposit. Shop around to find which ones benefit you the most.
- Bonds: Governments and corporations issue bonds as a way to pay for projects or grow their businesses. It’s a way to increase your money without the volatility that comes with the stock market. After the bond term has expired, your money will be paid back with interest.
These methods will help you keep more of your money for the future without compromising your financial security.
If you have children, you need to set aside money so they can go to college in the future. Set this up in your budget and devote a portion of your winnings to this fund. With a lump sum, put as much money as you can save from this sum into their college fund. With an annuity payment, put aside a portion each month for this purpose.
The fun things in life are what make life worth living. If you can’t get a little something fun with your lottery winnings, what’s the point of the lottery? When all your expenses, debts, and future expenses are taken care of, then go ahead and get that new car if you’d like. But only do so if you have worked out everything else and are not taking away from other budget categories.
Step Eight: Pay Off Existing Debt
Like most people, you may have a ton of debt. Credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and medical debts can add up over time, along with plenty of interest charges. When you suddenly come into a lot of money, it may be tempting to buy a lot of frivolous things and ignore your debts. But this is the wrong thing to do.
Interest Rates on Debts
As you may well know, many loans have interest rates, so paying off these loans early will save you hundreds of dollars in interest alone. Credit card debts should be paid immediately, as they are notorious for high-interest rates.
Consider This as an Investment
For every dollar that you pay on your debts, that’s one more dollar that you have in the future to invest. So paying off your debts is an investment in your future and one made simply by paying your debts.
Fewer Creditors Knocking On Your Door
If you can claim your money anonymously, and you pay off your debts right away, there will be fewer people coming to your door or calling your phone wanting money. Even if you cannot claim anonymously, you can head off creditors once you do get your money by paying what you owe immediately.
Step Nine: Avoid Sudden Lifestyle Changes
If you live in a modest one-bedroom apartment, you don’t want to buy a ten-bedroom mansion right away. Why? Because it sets you up to fail and spend all that you won before you’ve had a chance to think about what you’re doing.
The Six Month HoldMost advisors will tell you to wait six months after entering a large sum of money before you change your lifestyle or buy extravagant things. The reason for this is that if you don’t wait, suddenly people will notice and try to take advantage of your sudden good luck.
Another reason is that you want to pace yourself and set money aside for splurges later. You are on an emotional roller coaster right now, and the last thing you want to do is blow all your cash before you’ve had a chance to calm down and create a financial plan that sets up your financial security.
Get What You Need Now, Not What You Want
Needs are not wants, and wants are not needs. Period. If you need a new car, as your current one is close to dying, go for a budget-friendly vehicle. Don’t splurge just yet on that fancy sports car. You may want it, but you don’t need it. You just need a car to get you from point A to point B.
Separate your needs from your wants, and you will hold on to your money a lot longer. Just don’t get caught up in the emotional whirlwind yet. Give it a while before you splurge, and then only splurge on one or two items.
Step Ten: Invest Prudently
Whether you choose to get the lump sum or annuity payments, you now have plenty of money to put away or wisely invest it. Financial expert Kevin O’Leary suggests investing in low volatility, dividend-paying stocks. On the other hand, Mark Cuban says to put your money in the bank where it will stay there for as long as you leave it in there.
What are you supposed to do when two great investment gurus disagree on what to do with your money? Talk with your team to sort it out. You don’t want to invest in things that don’t make sense, so whatever you invest in, make sure it is a wise decision.
Revisit your financial plan, your budget, and your goals before making any serious investments. Look at what you want to accomplish and how you’ll get there. Then, once you have that in mind, make your move. Until then, hold off on any sudden investment decisions.
Be careful, however, to not get so hyped up about bad investment advice that you make the wrong choices.
The Final Word
Winning the lottery only happens for a lucky few, and if you happen to be one of them, make sure you know what to do to keep your money for the rest of your life.
Now, there will be many charities coming to you for money once you claim your winnings. While giving to charity can be a nice gesture, you only want to give to those you feel are aligned with your values. Otherwise, you will give away your entire fortune if you give to every charity that comes along. However, you may be able to deduct up to 50% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for charity, so talk with your tax advisor before giving to any charity.