We have our tickets and we’re sure you have yours. But what happens when those six numbers pop up right for you and your entire life is changed? It’s just half a billion dollars. We’ve got the answers to all your lottery questions.
Q: What do I do with the ticket?
A: First sign the back of the ticket before anything else. No one else will be able to claim it if somehow you lose posession of it. Make a copy and put it somewhere safe. Then begin dancing.
Q: What next?
A: Calm down. Don’t go buy a Ferrari yet or call your 3rd cousin, or post it on Facebook. You don’t need everyone looking for a hand out coming after you hours after you’ve become filthy rich.
Q: Who should I tell first?
A: A lawyer and financial planner might be smarter calls than even calling your siblings. Start to get things in order. You’ll need a lot of help t handle this much money and if you don’t have professionals you already trust to call, call someone close to you that you trust who might know someone.
Q: How much did I win?
A: Right now, the Mega Millions will pay out a lump sum of $359 million before taxes. The annual payments over 26 years will amount to just over $19 million before taxes.
Q: How much will I pay in taxes?
A: Federal tax is 25 percent; then there’s your state income tax. Oh wait, no there isn’t. Living in Texas will help save you between another 6 to 10 percent, depending on the state.
Q: Should I take the cash payout or annual payments?
A: This is a big question. But taking the yearly payments will make sure you don’t spend it all too quickly. Don McNay, author of the book “Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win the Lottery,” told Huffington Post nine out of 10 winners go through their money in five years or less. “It’s too much, too fast,” he says. “Nobody is around them putting the brakes on the situation.”
Q: Should I try to shield my identity?
A: Most definitely. This will protect you from people who want you to invest in their business scheme or those who need cash in an emergency. So many lottery winners are hit-up for money so fast they don’t know what to do. “There are people who do that for a living. Unless you understand that, you can become a victim very quickly,” says Steve Thornton, an attorney in Bowling Green, Ky., who has represented two jackpot winners.
Q: Is it OK to splurge a little?
A: Of course. You don’t play the lottery so you can keep your old car. “Get it out of your system, but don’t go overboard,” McNay says. But no reason to go buy the most expensive car on the lot. People will notice in your neighborhood if you upgraded from a Camry to a BMW 7 Series.
Q: How much should I help my family and others?
A: Just take it from Jack Whittaker, who won Powerball jackpot in 2002 of $315 million, “If you win, just don’t give any money away, because the more money you give away, the more they want you to give. And once you start giving it away, everybody will label you an easy touch and be right there after you. And that includes everybody,” Whittaker said five years ago.