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Many people talk about “what they would do if they won the lottery”, yet so few are truly prepared for what that would look like. The sad fact is that the majority of the people who play the lottery cannot afford to play and would be better off giving me that money as long as I agreed to give them back half. Playing the lottery often comes from a poverty mentality, which is why a lot of people you hear talking about winning the lottery will never win – they aren’t playing!
Rule number one is that you have to actually play the lottery to win it. Please do not hear me advocating that you should go out and play the lottery because statistically, it’s a poor gamble. In fact, if you play just a dollar a day, do the math and you will see that if you put that in an interest-bearing account over 20 years (at just 3%), you would have a little over $10,000. Now, that’s not a retirement, but many people spend far more than that in a lifetime on the lottery and many of these same people do not have $10,000 sitting in the bank.
What to Do if You Win
Someone has to win, right? So if it’s you, I want you to be prepared.
- Tell No One. It’s enough pressure for you to keep it a secret, and it is WAY too much pressure for anyone else to keep it either. Plus, they will start hitting you up for it, before it’s even in your hands. I would wait a bit until at least some of the hype dies down, but keep in mind that you may have a period in which to claim your winnings.
- Get a Lawyer. You won’t know your rights, responsibilities, or obligations because you will not have read the rules and terms. Even if you did they were written by someone else’s lawyer.
- Stay Anonymous. Some states will allow you to remain anonymous, and if you can, that would be my choice. As I tell my wife, I have enough friends and I am not looking for the kinds that want to reconnect after they hear you’ve made it big. Your lawyer will be able to advise you here.
- Don’t take the big payout. Most of those who take a big payout lose it. If you take annual payments, you can be set for life as long as you get a good financial education and learn what to do and what not to do.
- Tithe. Tithing is a phenomenal financial principle and one that many miss out on the benefits of. In the Christian faith, tithing is taught at giving God 10% of what you earn from the first fruits of your labor (meaning off of the top). If you honor God with your money, he will make sure you always have enough for your needs. Others, not in the Christian faith, still embrace tithing as a financially responsible thing to do as a way of giving back to society. In general, those with a heart and mindset to give, rarely go without.
- Get a Financial Education. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting a good financial education. How you spend your $25,000 per year salary is how you will spend $500,000 per year. If you are always behind, don’t have savings, and do not live on a budget, this will not change. You will simply blow through more money. A great example of this is that 78% of professional football players are bankrupt within two years of retirement. Why? Because they did not learn money, and they trusted their money with people who only stood to gain by using their money. The more financial education you have, the more in control of your finances you are. Your financial advisors should be just that; they should help guide you, but they should NEVER have control over investing your money or helping you find places to invest. If you have a six-figure annual payout, you really don’t need to make long term or large investments. You could simply invest this money in a whole life insurance policy to make sure that you and your family has long term savings and that you will leave a financial legacy to your family.
- Make sure you have a Will. This will spell out what happens to the payments in the event of your early departure from this world into the next.
- NEVER sell your payments. There are structured settlement companies that will offer to buy your future payments for pennies on the dollar. Upfront, it will look like a great deal, but it is not. Having a financial education will help you not feel led to make these rash decisions.
- Hire a Look-Alike. I was chatting with a friend about a recent MASSIVE Lottery that was won by one person. He commented that he would not want the publicity of winning, so I reminded him that with all of the money, he could hire a look-alike and move somewhere else. Hey, these are extreme circumstances, so they call for extreme measures. 🙂
- Remember me 🙂. Remember where you learned how to manage your money. I won’t even ask for any of it, but I would ask that you make a donation to a charity that I endorse. Sometimes a thank you goes a long way.
I rarely play the lottery. If I am in another state, for some reason, I often buy a ticket if the jackpot is huge. It does not change the stats, but it would make a great vacation story.
I had a friend who subscribed to the lottery and got one of two numbers a week. He got a check for $1,750 once, and that enticed me to do it for a year. I might have won $5 off of the $104 that I spend ($2 per week plan), so I didn’t renew. Ironically, I did it at a time when I was making plenty of money and the $104 per year was just one of those things that seemed like a fun risk to take.
I hope this has been helpful. I originally wrote this to post in a personal finance blog contest, but I figured I would rather keep it for myself (now I have to find something else to write about for the).
Have you bought your lottery ticket today? 🙂
Sound advice but I would take the lottery in a lump sum. Well I couldn’t anyway because I will never buy a lottery ticket but if I “found” one on the sidewalk that was a big winner. I’d never trust the state to make good on payments the rest of my life so I’d get the money in my hands and invest it wisely. I know that would not be a problem for me because I received a seven figure windfall in the past and invested it as soon as I got it.
Steve, I have to say, I originally wrote this about 10 years ago and updated it in light of the recent big lottery win in MD. At this stage, I should update it because I agree with you. One should acquire the financial education to allow themselves to make the best of that money. We often hear stories of people winning the lottery and losing it all in a short time because they don’t have the right financial education and more so, the right mindset. Thanks for the input!