When You Win

Congrats - you’ve beaten the odds a few million times over to land your favourite lottery’s mouth-watering jackpot. Once you’ve taken time to calm down from the initial shock of your newfound wealth (easier said than done), make sure you’re taking the right steps to avoid any future pitfalls so that you can enjoy your fortune in peace.

Below are some useful tips to bear in mind in the event that you win big!

Before You Claim Your Prize

Dos

  • Keep Your Winning Ticket Safe and Lie Low

    Make sure to place your winning ticket somewhere that is secure at the same time that it is easy to remember. As tempting as it may be, refrain from shouting about your win from the rooftops.

    For obvious reasons, it’s paramount that you know where your ticket is, but it’s equally important to keep your win to yourself in order to avoid any unwarranted attention, whether it’s from the media or from family members and friends. Keeping quiet about your win means you can make further decisions without the added hassle or pressure from others.

    This advice will, understandably, depend on your particular situation. If you play with your partner or as a member of a lottery syndicate, you will have to make sure that they understand the benefits of keeping quiet about your win as well, while also preparing for whatever happens in the event that they do not.

  • Sign Your Ticket

    When you realise you’re in possession of a winning ticket, it’s highly recommended that you make sure to sign the back of it. By doing this, you are confirming that you are the owner of the ticket. The signature on the back of the ticket acts as what’s known as a “bearer instrument”, which clarifies proof of ownership.

  • Consult Professionals

    But don’t inform every professional consultant you talk to about your lottery win. In a similar vein to the point made earlier, if you announce your win so publicly you will have finance professionals clamouring for your business. Therefore, it’s wise to assess the services available to you before you’ve announced or claimed your prize so that you know where you’ll find the best impartial assistance.

    It’s important to research solicitors, estate planning and insurance specialists, but you’ll also need to be on the lookout for suitable financial planners and accountants. Make sure you take the time to research the options you need and choose your team wisely.

  • Avoid Publicity

    If you win a jackpot playing Powerball or Mega Millions, you will have to go public about your win – unless you live in Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, or Ohio. If you must publicly declare your lottery win, consider changing your address immediately after doing so, getting the address unlisted, or even moving into a hotel temporarily. You might also consider hiring a media relations professional to deal with the press on your behalf.

Don'ts

  • Expect Too Much of Others

    While you’re assembling a skilled team to help you manage your fortune, don’t leave all of the nitty-gritty work down to others. This is your win and, as a result, you now have a whole lot of responsibility on your hands.

    Make sure you are proactive in securing your own safety and, where necessary, the safety of others.

  • Quit Your Job Immediately

    Everyone has had that daydream wherein they strut out of their office in a grandiose manner after having handed in their notice. While acting out this daydream seems like a tangible reality now that you have won the lottery, don’t do it just yet.

    Work as usual for the next few days or weeks as though nothing has changed - the reality and routineness of your employment may help you think more clearly and plan what your next steps are going to be. There’s also always the chance that you have misread the winning lottery numbers, so in order to avoid potential professional grovelling, steer clear of jumping the gun on this one.

While Claiming

If you’ve played in – and won – the American multi-state lotteries Powerball or Mega Millions, there’ll be another thing for you to consider: whether to take the lump sum payment or the annuity payment. Find explanations for both below.

Lump sum

Arguably the more common choice, the lump sum payment means you receive whatever the cash value of the jackpot was when it was won. This is usually much lower than what you may have been expecting, as the advertised jackpots are the amounts that you would receive if you were to accept stipulated annuity payments over a period of 20-30 years.

While it means less money to begin with as well as a more noticeable tax dent, there are a few advantages behind claiming a lump sum payment:

  • Current taxes – avoid higher tax rates in future.
  • Guaranteed to receive a specified prize.
  • Potentially better for older people who would not benefit as much as younger winners would from the annuity payment.

Annuity payment

The annuity payment option sees jackpot winners receive a certain amount every year over a period of 20-30 years. While allegedly not as glamorous as taking the lump sum, the annuity payment option tends to guarantee two things to those patient enough to choose it: the delivery of the advertised jackpot amount and a long-term cash flow.

Alongside those two factors, here are a few other benefits behind choosing the annuity payment:

  • Lower income tax: if you receive less than those claiming lump sum, you’ll be taxed less than them too.
  • Less likely to overspend and squander your win.
  • Potentially better for younger winners who can see themselves benefiting from a very steady cash flow for the majority, if not all, of their life.
  • It’s likely you’ll also learn how to manage such amounts of money more efficiently by taking the annuity payment.

In keeping with the main theme of the advice you find here, the relevance of the above information will depend on your own personal situation. With that said, it’s always a good idea to consider all options available to you when faced with such an important decision.

After You’ve Claimed Your Prize

Dos

  • Pay Off Your Debts

    Lottery jackpots conjure images and thoughts of extreme luxury, and rightfully so. While all those extravagant thoughts are now probably feasible, make sure you consider covering the basics as well now that you can – the sooner the better.

    Mortgages, student loans, car insurance and so on; all are bills or recurring payments that can, in one fell swoop, be written off by the new winner.

    Existing debts become a needless worry to a lottery winner as they can now be taken care of. Make sure to consider doing this, especially before making any more investments.

  • Invest Sensibly

    In addition to the point above, consider putting some money away in a savings account or similar to ensure your financial stability in the future. You could also make a few prudent investments if you wish, though it would be wise to consult your finance team before doing so.

  • Keep in Touch

    The people you hired to help you manage your new wealth are there for your benefit, so it makes sense to touch base with them regularly and make sure they can still offer you informed decisions. It’ll also be your responsibility to find any replacements if the situation ever calls for it.

  • Sort a Budget and Stick to It

    Using the accountant or finance professional you hired after you found out you won, decide how you are going to spend your money and how much of it will be spent on certain things.

    While everyone deserves the occasional indulgence – and having won the lottery, these occasions will likely arise more frequently for you – it makes sense to plan and monitor your outgoings so you aren’t on the end of any nasty surprises.

  • Be Charitable…

    Now that you’re (probably) a millionaire, a lot of possibilities that were previously unavailable have suddenly become available to you. One of these possibilities is giving back. While this may be to family and close friends initially, you could also extend your kindness to your community or charities that you believe are important.

    While it’s nice to have such wealth, it’s equally as nice, if not nicer, to share it with others.

  • …But Learn How to Say “No”

    While it’s a good idea to be charitable, you’ll also need to learn how to balance your kindness properly – that means you’ll need to start getting used to saying “No” to people more often, and meaning it.

    Although it may sound clichéd, winning a lottery jackpot will quickly help you realise whose company you wish to keep and whose you do not. Your new fortune could potentially put you at odds with those you originally considered close.

    Unfortunately, money can bring out the worst in some people, and it’s now your duty to spot when this is happening and develop a personal strategy on how to avoid it.

    It’s likely that every day will bring with it a flurry of new good causes, struggling friends, and seemingly amazing investment opportunities so it’s imperative that you cultivate a discerning eye and keep your decisions in line with your aims and interests. That may mean upsetting a few people along the way, but no-one ever said that winning the lottery was going to be free of stress.

Don'ts

  • Become Too Whimsical

    So, you’ve just received what is likely going to be a life-changing sum of money and the ideas of what you’re going to do with it are flowing freely in your mind. It’s an exciting time, but try not to let it cloud your judgement too much. In the same way you try to avoid shopping on an empty stomach, remember that the first things you think of spending your lottery winnings on probably aren’t the things you really want or need in the long run.

    The sole purpose of money is for it to be spent and there have been a number of lottery winners who have spent all of their fortune in a matter of years, if not months, in the past.

    To avoid becoming another unfortunate statistic, make sure you don’t start spending your money impulsively. Also, make sure that you aren’t spending too much of your winnings before you’ve even received them!

    Consult the previous points of advice offered here and be sensible with your fortune so that you can make the most out of something only a handful of people will ever get to experience. Remember: you can’t enjoy something that isn’t there!

  • Shout About It on Social Media

    Because they don’t usually have a reference point, lottery winners are often shocked by just how drastically their life changes and the rate at which it does so. You’ll likely be inundated with requests and messages from long-lost family members, old friends, eager start-ups and charities soon enough, so it’s advisable not to fan the flames any more by posting about your win on social media or the internet.

    In fact, with the deluge of contact attempts coming your way, it may be wise to start thinking about reducing or removing your online footprint altogether.

  • Final Word

    If you’ve won big, and have considered all the points above – well done! Different pieces of advice apply to different winners and in different amounts, but it’s good to have some kind of idea when it comes to dealing with your new fortune, if for no other reason than to prevent yourself from being scammed.

    The overwhelming nature of a jackpot win cannot be understated, and what applies to your individual situation may or may not apply to another’s; winning a lottery jackpot is a very personal occasion, and only you and those close to you will truly understand and appreciate your next steps. Reading this may have given you some insight into what those steps may (or may not!) be.

    While a lot of the suggestions in this guide – and the suggestions you might receive if you win big – seem quite taxing, they consider the bigger picture of a jackpot win, which is keeping it and enjoying it.