Although winning the lottery solves a lot of problems, you can't always ignore the reality of owning and organizing a vast sum of money.
Sante Fe freelance writer David Quilty put together a good list of how to cope with your lottery win.
Here's a short version. Refer to it for your next jackpot win!
Before You Claim Your Prize
1. Protect Your Ticket
- Make paper copies
- Store digital copies
- Invest in a home safe
- Take the ticket to a bank safe deposit box
2. Take Your Time
Don't be too fast to contact the lottery organization. This allows the publicity to die down, and to give yourself time to breathe and plan for your soon-to-be new life. In many lotteries you can claim up to 180 or 365 days after winning.
3. Don’t Quit Your Job Just Yet
Don’t make that decision too fast. You have financial planning to address and you want to be sure you didn’t mistake the numbers or the date on your “winning” lottery ticket. Remember to keep your good fortune quiet at work too.
4. Hire Professionals
You need a tax attorney, a family planning attorney, and a licensed accountant. When you win a lottery jackpot, you need to surround yourself with professionals.
5. Change Your Address and Go Unlisted
Once word gets out, you are going to hear from a lot of people. Charities, causes, friends, long-lost family members, work acquaintances, investment advisors, you name it – you will hear from them all. Change your phone number to a new, unlisted one and get a post office box for your mail.
When Claiming Your Prize
You can receive your lottery winnings either as a lump-sum, or as an annual payment spread out over 20 to 30 years. There are pros and cons to both choices, so consider each option carefully.
After Claiming Your Prize
A. Talk to the People You Hired
If you hired the right people, they are there to help, so use them often. If you find that you don’t trust them, hire new people. Seek qualified help and use it to make informed decisions.
B. Pay Off Debt
Whether it’s leftover student loans, a second mortgage, credit cards, or auto loans, pay off the debt you’ve carried around for years.
C. Start an Emergency Fund
Even millionaires run into financial problems! Set up a healthy-sized emergency fund for 6 month's living.
D. Put Away Money for Retirement
Put aside a percentage of your winnings to retirement accounts, such as an annuity. You don’t want to have to go back to work at 80 after being a jackpot winner, do you?
E. Set Up A College Fund
Do you have kids or want to provide for someone else’s kids? Making tax-free gifts toward a loved one’s education can be quite rewarding. One option you can look into is the 529 college savings plan.
F. Give to Those Less Fortunate
Whether it’s to a church, a charity, or just to a family member facing hard times, consider sharing some of your good fortune. Plus, when you give to a qualified charity, you get to deduct the donation on your taxes!
G. Learn to Say No
Everyone you know and everyone you have never met is going to ask you for money, for both good and bad reasons. You need to learn to say no to most of them until you decide how you want to spend and save your winnings.
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