12 things not to do if you win the $625 million Powerball jackpot
It is almost undeniable that winning the lottery has become the new version of the American dream. The odds of winning might be worse than being struck by lightning on a sunny day — 1 in 292,201,338 for the grand prize — but it’s easy to see why so many people clamor each week to buy lottery tickets. It’s instant and vast wealth, with no skills and effort needed.
Now the Powerball lottery drawing for Saturday has reached an estimated $625 million. That might translate to just a cash value of $380.6 million for the lump sum payment, but this is still easily considered multigenerational and empire-building wealth.
No lotto ticket buyers hit all six winning numbers in Wednesday night’s Powerball drawing. That makes this the seventh-largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history. That is more than enough to make anyone join the class of the filthy rich.
Related video: Powerball jackpot reaches $625 million (provided by ABC News)
Lottery players frequently dream about what they’d do with a windfall of even a fraction of this size. That old boring version of the American Dream just cannot compete against the lottery. After all, it requires a lifetime of hard work, financial planning, advancing in your career and avoiding financial ruin. Winning the lottery changes all that in an instant, and no one even bothers to ask if you have a degree or how your credit report looks to get in the door.
There is a dark side to winning the lottery. It may seem impossible to fathom it, but some lottery winners who have become instant millionaires have somehow managed to go broke after becoming filthy rich. Some have even done it in just a few years. It may seem unlikely that winning $625 million could somehow let some end up back in the poor house. There are immediate risks that are the fault of the winners, and there are ongoing risks that wreck what should have become great comfort for your current and future generations.
24/7 Wall St. does not want to see anyone go broke at all. That’s why we have created a self-help guide of 12 things not do if you win the lottery.
It is imperative to have a game plan in place for if and when you ever become filthy rich. This is not just for lottery winners. Some people become vastly wealthy by an unexpected inheritance, or maybe they win a big legal judgment. Some business owners walk into work one day and find that someone wants to buy their business for more than they ever thought it was worth. This lesson is even pertinent for the armies of the stock-option millionaires that have been made as companies come public.
Keeping a lifetime of wealth requires extensive planning, and it also requires some sacrifices. One lesson is simple enough to say, but harder to accomplish: No one should ever have to get rich twice. Lottery winners have to act fast to protect themselves. There will be endless of temptations that can rob unwitting people of their newfound wealth.
Purchasing a countless number of belongings, cars and homes can erode your wealth quickly. Paying for upkeep and maintenance of those things, followed by poor decisions and falling under the influence of friends and family, are just some of the common pitfalls awaiting those who become vastly wealthy. There are predators that must be avoided at all costs. You could become a mark and a target, and some unlucky lottery winners have lost their lives after winning lotteries. Bragging about getting filthy rich could get you killed.
Most lottery winners will take a lump sum cash option, so in this case the $380.6 million lump sum amount will be taxed at the federal level and at the highest tax bracket. And depending on what state and city in which you live and purchase the ticket, there may be state and local taxes that have to be paid. In some states, that $380.6 million could be $228 million or less (40% combined state and federal taxes). It’s still empire-making money, but a lottery winner without restraint could literally blow through that in a month if they thought it was endless.
Before going all out as a member of the newly filthy rich class, note that a lifetime of safety for lottery winners requires immediate financial planning, ongoing budgeting, learning about taxes and investments, and a slew of other actions. If that seems ludicrous, just look at the number of movie stars, musicians, celebrities and athletes who went from being multimillionaires to being bankrupt.
It’s hard enough to get rich in life as is. Do not ignore the lesson that with great wealth comes great responsibility. Take this one lesson to heart: If it sounds silly that you need to set up a series of strict rules and plans as safeguards to protect your new empire, then you are already at severe risk of going broke if you ever become filthy rich.
Here are the 12 things not to do if you win the lottery.
1. Do not forget to sign that winning ticket and to report it immediately.
It may seem ridiculous that some people might fail to sign a winning lottery ticket. Or that a winner would forget to report the winning ticket to the state? It has happened. Now imagine if you have the winning ticket and it is stolen. Or think about if it burns up in a house fire. Endless millions of lottery dollars have gone unclaimed. Some people somehow manage to not report to the state that they won.
Now imagine how you would feel if you lost a winning lottery ticket. Or what about if someone else takes your winning ticket and then shows up to collect the prize? Fighting over a winning lottery ticket is no simple task, and disputes have arisen over who was the real owner of winning lottery tickets.
In more ways than not, a winning lottery ticket is like the last form of bearer bonds. Whoever shows up with the right paper gets paid. You have to sign and secure that ticket, and you then have to report to the state.
2. Do not brag about winning the lottery to anyone.
Who upon winning tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars wouldn’t want to share the news with everyone they know? How could you not? Do not dare do this! Keep quiet for as you can. Your friends or family members cannot be trusted to keep your secret a secret.
Telling everyone you know before you collect your winnings can put you in danger. That is danger in more ways than just one. Everyone who has ever done anything for you now may come with their hands out asking for something. You may even become a target. You may have heard of kidnap and ransom insurance before.
It is sad to report that some lottery winners became murder victims, and for far less than the massive empire-building jackpots. If you can manage it, and if your state allows it, try to remain anonymous for as long as possible. How you became vastly wealthy will be found out in time anyway. Do not rush out and hurry that process along and jeopardize yourself.
3. Do not decide to take the lump sum cash option without considering the big picture.
Whether it is $50 million, $200 million or $500 million, most people elect to receive a lump sum today rather than getting money sent out over a lifetime. A figure that has been cited in the media is that around 70% of lottery winners end up broke again. Some manage to go broke within a few years. Let’s say that you can choose to get over $200 million in a lump sum payment; do you know for sure without consideration that is a better choice than receiving a payout of $375 million slowly over the course of a lifetime?
Again most people choose the lump sum rather than taking the annuity payment. After all, it is instant empire-making money.
Go see a reputable and visible tax professional and a reputable investment advisor at a top money management firm with a widely recognized company name and a long corporate history. This theme of “reputable and visible” will echo throughout. Do this before you automatically make the decision about a lump sum or annuity option.
4. Do not start thinking that you are now the smartest person about finance.
Winning millions of dollars instantly does not make you any smarter about money than you were right before you found out you hit it rich. In fact, it might prove to make you realize that you knew very little about money. Lottery winners, and those who come into unexpected vast sums of cash, need to immediately get outside financial advice. If you are living paycheck to paycheck before the lottery, does it seem logical that you suddenly know the best things to invest in? How likely is it that you will immediately know the best tax and asset protection strategies?
There are many ways to invest and to protect that new fortune. Strategies of the extremely wealthy often go way beyond just buying stocks and bonds and letting those investments ride. As far as who to use, or who not to use, chances are very high that your drinking buddy might not be the best choice as an advisor and expert.
Having a solid and respectable team of financial advisors and managers from reputable firms will act as your buffer to protect your assets now and in the future. Do you know how to protect your assets against all threats and know exactly how to protect your estate in case you die or become incapacitated? Here is a very real hint: If you answered yes, you probably did not bother playing the lottery.
5. Do not let your debt and existing obligations remain in place.
If you suddenly become filthy rich, get rid of your old financial obligations and debts immediately. If you feel like “I’m rich and don’t have to pay anymore,” you are already deep into the path of dooming yourself. Whether you take the lump sum or the annuity option, if you have a single penny of debt in the immediate future and distant future, then something is seriously wrong. For that matter, you should not have a single debt ever again. One lottery winner in California was reportedly strapped with debt from property purchases.
If you manage to go broke down the road and still have a mortgage, car payments, student loans, credit card debt and personal bills, all your friends and family members should get to spank or ridicule you every day for the rest of your life.
6. Do not go out and live the big life way too big.
Temptation to keep buying or accumulating can wipe you out. If you go from living a simple life to instantly having the wherewithal to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) per week, what do you think happens to your expectations in life ahead? Chances are high that you will want more of the same.
If you start gambling in Las Vegas and are not happy until you are gambling with hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) per play, you are dooming yourself. Now just wait until the real con men find you. Taking you and your favorite 500 people on a luxury cruise around the world can become very expensive, very fast. Having an entourage generally only works for people who keep making more and more money — and they usually end up broke for that cost.
7. Do not run out and buy everything for everyone, not even for yourself!
Everyone probably has a list of things they would love to own. Buying nice things is fun. It can even create a rush for some people. Imagine getting to buy whatever your imagination can think of. Now take a breath for a second.
Society and the endless commercials trick the public into thinking they need to own endless numbers of things. It’s just stuff! Do not go out and buy dozens of cars. Do not go buy multiple houses. Do not run out and keep buying things for friends and family members (nor for yourself). This will put you on a bad path if you do not avoid the impulse buying. Do you really want to be your friends and family personal welfare department?
If you start buying everything for everyone, chances are high that they might expect that to last forever. The other end of the story is that you do not have to be a cheapskate either. Still, after hearing a real-life personal story of one lucky winner buying more than 30 cars and multiple houses in three months, it is just crazy.
8. Do not think that budgets are just for the poor and middle class.
It may seem silly on the surface that you might need a budget and might need to consider limitations. The harsh reality is that creating and actually living on a budget are not just tasks for the poor and the middle class. The very wealthy, at least those who stay that way, know that even a vast sum of money can vaporize. Major lottery winners generally become wealthier in an instant than everyone they know combined. This also goes back to having advisors and being prudent, but at the end of the day you do still have a finite sum of money. Chances are very high that you will make some serious purchases and your lifestyle will be changed forever.
Without setting limits for yourself and for what you do with others is a recipe for disaster. Again, many lottery winners go broke. If they went broke in a very short time, what do you think the reflection about wishing for a proper budget would be? In short: Do not think you don’t need a budget!
9. Do not become the business backer for your friends and family.
If you knew little about money or finance yesterday, what makes you think you will understand venture capital or merchant banking now? It may sound powerful and enticing. Do not fall into this trap. One common theme that has come up with lottery winners who suddenly get vast sums of cash is that their friends and family start pitching them on endless business ideas. Sure, some will sound great and some will sound crazy. This could expose you to more than just a loss. You could end up with endless liabilities in some cases.
If someone has no knowledge of a particular business and does not know what it takes to actually run a business, will they do better because a lottery winner who lucked into vast wealth gave them money to start it? If your answer is yes, you seriously need to protect yourself (from yourself).
10. Do not think about giving your new fortune away immediately.
Many lottery winners and others who become filthy rich fall into the trap of thinking that they need to immediately share their newfound wealth with society. It may seem nice to give away vast amounts of cash to charity or to religious institutions. This might not be the case for everyone, but giving away an entire fortune or a large part of it to a charity or to religious institution needs to be given great consideration.
Imagine that you give away that fortunate and a serious crisis arises in your life or your family’s life. You simply gave away all financial means to change it. There are ways that you can be quite generous without doing the unthinkable. Rather than giving everything away now, the current charitable trend of the extremely wealthy is to plan for how to give the money away upon death. This allows you to divvy up what you want to give back to society and decide what you want to leave for heirs.
Should you be charitable? Absolutely! Should you give it all away? Absolutely not!
11. Do not get athlete or celebrity envy.
Many movie stars, entertainers and athletes live a life of luxury. Lottery money gives a winner the chance to live a life of luxury up with the lucky few. This privilege comes with pitfalls that can make them go broke. Keeping up with the Joneses is bad enough. Trying to keep up with celebrities is a recipe for disaster.
It may seem cool to own a 200-foot yacht, or perhaps to have an entourage or maybe a film crew following you around. It may seem cool owning castles in Europe. Owning an original Picasso painting sure sounds impressive. Having a big new private jet makes sense for a lot of people. Now go add up the price tags of these things, plus the cool cars and houses and the rest of it. You can go broke really quickly. Just ask actors and athletes who did this how they feel now.
Trying to dodge taxes might even sound appealing to misguided people. Before you do this, think about how many athletes and celebrities who have gone broke over tax dodging, and some even went to prison.
12. Do not think the laws or decency standards no longer apply.
There are some people who believe that the rich can do whatever they want without consequences. It is true that the wealthier you get, the more high-class trouble you can find. It is also true that the rich can afford better attorneys and a better legal defense than the rest of us. Still, living a reckless life without concerns about the law will not keep you from going to prison, or worse. A good sports coach will tell any star athlete upfront that chances are high they will have to be human for far longer than they are going to stars.
It is quite frequent that movies and television shows glamorize scoundrels. The reality in life is that fictional scoundrels would be scoundrels in real life. What good would it do you if you are incredibly wealthy and such a pariah that no one will associate with you? Remember, you don’t get to take any of your wealth with you.With the Powerball lottery up to an estimated $625 million, 24/7 Wall St. does not want to see anyone go broke. ]]>