…now what do I do next? We’ve all had the dream, haven’t we? We hit the Powerball lottery jackpot, or whatever major lottery might be held in your area. Last night’s Powerball drawing in our area was worth $105 million dollars. No one won the big jackpot by matching all five numbers and the Powerball, and so now the jackpot will rise once again for Saturday night’s drawing. It will likely be in the $120 million neighborhood. That’s quite a nice neighborhood. So it always results in our setting aside a few bucks for a few tickets and thus a few chances at the dream.
I am quite sure that anyone reading this has had the dream: what would I do if I hit a huge lottery drawing? Well, first let’s address the practical. MSN Money did a piece on this very situation recently, so let’s cover their advice. After jumping up and down and screaming and crying and hugging everyone in sight, remember this quickly: do not run outside and bang on your neighbors doors or yell in the street about your new fortune. In fact, do not pick up the phone and call all of your relatives either, even the close ones. The fact is that your life is about to change in a huge way, and you are going to need some time to digest it all and seek some good advice before releasing this good news to the world.
Your first job is now to keep that ticket safe. You must find a place that it simply cannot be destroyed, damaged, or lost. The safe deposit box at your bank is a great spot, but make sure that someone you love and trust has access in case something happens to you before you can cash it. Remember the song ‘Ironic’ by Alannis Morissette? “..he won the lottery, then died the next day..isn’t it ironic?” No, Alannis, that’s not ironic. It’s a freakin’ tragedy of the first magnitude. But back to the situation at hand.
You secured your ticket in some way that has you comfortable. The second situation that you need to address is your job, assuming you have one. If so, you need to get some time off without letting them in on your little jackpot just yet. Vacation time, call in sick for a few days, whatever. You will likely quit at some point, but right now is not that time. Get that time off, clear the decks of your personal and professional schedule, you are going to need that time in the coming days and weeks.
Now that you have the ticket safe and some time off, get to work on securing your three new best buddies: an accountant, a lawyer, and a broker that you can trust – preferably three different people/firms. The best way to go about this, assuming you don’t already work with any of these for your personal matters, is to seek references.
Many of us know people in the financial and legal industries. Call them and tell them that you need some advice for a little money that you are coming in to, and ask them for a reference. Your bottom line is that you want to end up dealing with major public firms and companies with individuals that you feel secure in trusting. Going around and talking to people at these firms, basically your interviewing of them and asking how they would help if you did business with them, is why you got that time off from work. That is your job over the next week or so, setting those meetings and making those decisions.
Now, let’s assume that you are taking the ‘lump sum’ option for your winnings rather than the ‘annual payment’ option. You usually have to make this choice when buying your ticket. You should know that you will not be receiving the amount advertised by the lottery commission. First of all, if you take the ‘lump sum’ as most do, that cash payout is almost half of the overall jackpot. Then you have your favorite uncle, ‘Uncle Sam’, coming in for his slice in taxes.
So for instance if you were to win a $120 million dollar lottery, your cash payout would probably be about $70 million. Then your good uncle would take about $30 million more before you see a penny. In the end, your $120 million dollar jackpot ticket will be worth about $35-40 million to you in reality. Certainly not chump change. Your financial advisers are going to take a slice for their advice. One of the things that will happen is that you will have a special account setup by your financial adviser.
Of course as all of this is put in motion, you will be making a trip to the lottery commission headquarters to cash-in your ticket. Lotteries demand that you turn in those tickets in person if the win is for over $50,000 bucks. So you need to travel to Harrisburg, or whatever location is the HQ for your commission. You can do this by limo, airplane, or that new car you just bought, because you can afford it. You might as well make it a celebratory trip, just stay straight and sober.
The lottery commission will closely check over your ticket, hopefully verify your win, and then try to cajole you into taking one of those ‘winners’ pictures. You know, the one where you are holding the giant replica check that says your name and $120,000,000 on it? If you can avoid it, don’t do it. Why put your mug out there for every Tom, Dick, Harry, and Al Capone to see? Besides, you and I both know that you actually only won about $40 mill. The lottery commission legally has to release your winner information, but you don’t have to do it via press conference.
So now you actually have the money. The lottery has verified your ticket, and wired the winnings to your special account. Now is the time to quit those jobs in the nicest way possible. The thing that you want to be sure of with your financial people is that they understand that they work for you. They can and should give good advice, but in the end they should understand that when you want to do something reasonable with it, their answer should never be that you can’t do it, only figuring out how it can be done best.
Assuming there are others in your immediate life, especially a spouse, then you should have already been well into the process of talking through this situation. The single most important thing that you can agree upon is this: money isn’t everything, and it most certainly is not going to change your relationship. If you would have stayed married poor, or struggling, or middle class, then you should stay married rich. Marriage is not something to be thrown away over money.
The fact is that you should already realize that you answer to a higher authority in God, and He is not going anywhere. You cannot buy Him off. Despite the popular saying, no one has more money than God. Whether you are as rich as Bill Gates, or the poorest peasant in Southeast Asia, you are going to die some day, and if you are rich it is a fact that you can’t take it with you.
Remember what Christ said: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.” This wasn’t meant to say that no wealthy people reach Him in eternity, but was a warning not to put all of your faith in money. Your decisions now are more important than they were before. Love your spouse and children, and make sure that they are number one in being taken care of emotionally as well as financially from here on out.
It is fully appropriate to reach around now to your close family members and help them out. Paying off mortgages and debt of your own and those you love is a great way to say “thanks for all your were when I was not wealthy.” But the fact is also going to be that you will have to establish limits, and these will have to be things that you agree on with your family.
Finally a last practical measure. Change your phone number. You may wish to start getting this done via cellphone on your ride to the lottery commission. Your new number should be unlisted, and only given out to your closest family and friends. Anything public of yours is about to be swamped with requests: phone numbers, email addresses, etc. This includes your mailbox at home. There is no possible way to cover every situation, but these are the basics.
The ultimate bottom line also is to make sure that you enjoy your $40 million. Get a nicer, reasonable home, maybe in a beachfront or mountain community. Get new cars for the family. Take a couple of magnificent, relaxing, enjoyable vacations. Buy season tickets to your favorite team. And also, find a way to include charity into your plans. Take care of your close family as best you can. Make charitable donations to groups and individuals that mean something to you.
If planned right, you should never have to work again, outside of managing your wealth and your life. God knows that I don’t need it, that I have been blessed enough in life already. But it would be nice…it would be nice.