What to Do if You Win the Lottery
There's a right way of going about most things, and that includes winning the lottery.
You might want to think twice before splurging on luxury vacations or some fancy new toys. If you want to make your winnings last, you have to be smart about your next steps. But with so many winners ending up worse off than before winning the lottery, how exactly can you avoid the same fate?
In this guide to what to do after winning the lottery, we’ll show you the steps to get you through that crucial first year of becoming a millionaire. Remember, your life's about to change, and hopefully for the better.
What to Do if You Win the Lottery
Most people buy lottery tickets without realizing the implications of being wealthy. Having lots of money is great, but it’s not all fun and games. Most people have trouble adjusting to a life of wealth and end up self-destructing. That’s why mentally preparing yourself for the life of a millionaire is important.
Accept that many changes will occur that are out of your control. Plan out a path for what you want to do and, most importantly, what you need to do. Also, prepare a contingency in case things go south. It never hurts to be a few steps ahead!
1. Sign Your Ticket
First things, first – sign your winning ticket.
We can’t stress this enough, and it's easy enough to do – there's no reason not to do it. Just write your full name and signature on the back of your ticket, but leave some space above it. That's because if you decide to redeem your prize through a trust fund or other legal entity, you'll be able to write the name of the entity above it.
Lottery tickets are considered bearer instruments, which means whoever holds the winning ticket is the winner. If you lose your ticket or if someone steals it, having your name on the ticket means that no one else will be able to cash it in without getting in trouble. Additionally, you can also take a photo or video of yourself with the ticket as further proof of ownership.
Also, it's a good idea to keep details, records, and copies of your ticket purchase somewhere safe – in case you lose it. Some lottery commissions will still let you redeem your prize even without a ticket, but you'll need to provide plenty of information (when and where you bought the ticket, the name of the retailer, etc.) to back up your claim.
Next, we recommend getting some professional advice from a lawyer, especially if you've won a very large prize.
Find a lawyer who is familiar with taxes, estate planning, asset protection, and lottery laws. Ideally, you'll want to consult with an attorney even before claiming your prize.
There's a lot of technical stuff to winning the lottery – not to mention the amount of money at stake – and a good lawyer will help you through all legal processes involved. They can help you keep as much of your winnings as legally possible, and might even be able to find creative ways of protecting your anonymity.
Also, it just makes sense to have a legal expert on your side. Big-time lottery winners so easily fall prey to scams, lawsuits, and various crimes. A lawyer will be able to shield you from these risks, or at least minimize the damage done. Now that you're rich (and hopefully not famous), you'll never know who or what might come along trying to get their share.
If you're worried about the costs of hiring a lawyer, don't be. While they can get pretty pricey at first, you won't be needing their services as frequently later on. After all, you're on the verge of some very big changes that you might not be well-equipped to handle on your own.
Congratulations – you're rich. Now what?
Plan out what you intend to do with your prize. With millions at your disposal, there's surely a lot of things to consider. The idea here is to ensure that you don't end up going broke.
It's so easy to fall into bad habits or make stupid decisions, especially when it feels like you have an endless supply of cash at your disposal. But the reality is that your resources are finite, and you have to be wise about spending it.
If you haven't yet gotten into the habit of setting a monthly (or even yearly) budget to manage your finances, now is the time to do it. Set out your financial plan, and allocate your money accordingly.
Ask yourself: How much money do you want to earn every year? Do you plan to continue working? What are the best ways to invest so that you can continue to live out your life in comfort?
You might want to brush up on your understanding of finances, too. While we recommend professional help in managing your assets, it's still important that you understand the underlying concepts behind taxes, interest rates, inflation, budgets, and so on.
Speaking of professionals, there are two more people we recommend hiring:
- A financial adviser: You'll want to work with an expert who can show you how to manage your newfound wealth. A financial adviser will help you figure out what to spend your winnings on, where to invest, and how to plan for your future. They can guarantee that your money stays safe, and continues to grow.
- An accountant: If you're thinking long-term – and you should be – get an account to help keep track of your finances. You should be busy growing your money or enjoying it. Leave the number crunching to someone you can depend on.
Ask your lawyer if they can refer you to people who have already worked with other lottery winners. Chances are, they'll know the right people for you. As a whole, your team will be invaluable in guiding you through that first year of being a millionaire. The relationships you build with all of them could also prove to be beneficial further down the line.
4. Deactivate Your Social Media Accounts
Remember, the goal is to keep a low profile.
If you have an online presence on Facebook, Twitter, or any other similar platform, turn them off for the meantime. This is especially important if you don't have a way of staying anonymous. You don't want to make it easy for strangers to find you. And trust us, they will come looking.
Having a publicly visible profile also means that anyone who knows your name can potentially have access to even more of your personal information. All they have to do is look you up, and they can learn all kinds of details about you and those close to you. This makes you a much easier target for people looking to take advantage of your newfound wealth.
5. Change your phone number, address
Do this, before the word of your winning gets out.
Once the word of your win spreads, you can expect to hear from charities, investment advisors, friends, scammers, and all the relatives you never knew existed. You should consider getting new phone numbers for your landline and mobile and ensure you keep them unlisted. Also, go to the local post office or UPS and get a mailbox that you can use for correspondence to keep your address a secret.
While these methods don't deter the extremely determined, they will help reduce a lot of spam calls and random people knocking on your door asking for help.
6. Find a Charity to Support
Share your good fortune.
From a financial perspective, giving away to charity has its advantages. It reduces your tax liability, and in some cases, by a significant margin. We recommend doing some research and find some causes you'd like to support, or you can take a look at our list of favorite charities to get you started.
From a moral perspective, supporting a charity is arguably the right thing to do – especially if your winnings are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. There's a lot of good you can do with that amount of money, and you probably don't really need all of it anyway.
Ask your lawyer for help on how to go about this step. If you don't have a lawyer, ask for help from the lottery commission.
7. Pay Off Your Debts
Wipe the slate clean.
In many cases, any money you owe the government will automatically be deducted from your prize money. But don't forget about other liabilities that you have: mortgages, car loans, credit card bills, etc.
Pay them all off. You want to start your life as a millionaire with a clean slate. Plus, if you somehow end up blowing through all your winnings, at least you won't have any debts to worry about.
8. Take a Moment
Yes, it's exciting to just quit your job or buy a new house after winning the lottery, but try not to make any big life decisions right away.
Drastic lifestyle changes like these draw unnecessary attention, and that's something you just want to avoid altogether – at least for the first few months after your win. Also, if you rush into things, you might just end up regretting your choices later on. Now is the time for you to take a step back and really plan out what you want to do with your life.
Need some inspiration? Check out the stories of other big lottery winners to see how they're doing after becoming rich.
9. Enjoy Your Win
We won't hold it against you.
Finally, there's no harm in splurging a little bit. Plenty of winners buy a new house and car soon after winning. Going on a vacation is also very common. With millions now at your disposal, now's a perfect time to finally live out your fantasy life – within reason, of course.
Advice on What NOT to Do When You Win the Lottery
Don't Announce Your Win
This should be obvious. Take it from Shane Missler, who won the Mega Millions jackpot and immediately posted about it on Facebook. It wasn't long before he was caught right in the middle of a social media scandal, with hundreds of people hounding him for handouts.
It's also a good idea to let any hype die down a bit before claiming your prize. A couple of months should be enough for even the biggest jackpots. Just don't forget to come forward before the deadline. You can check our article on prize claim periods for all US lotteries to find out how much time you have.
Don't Loan Money to Loved Ones
Learn to say no to family and friends asking for handouts, loans, and the like. Feel free to help some of them but be judicious. Better yet, run it by your accountant or financial adviser first. As big time investor Mark Cuban puts it, “no one needs $1 million for anything. No one needs $100,000 for anything. Anyone who asks is not your friend.”
On the other hand, if you insist on helping out your loved ones, consider offering it as a gift instead of a loan. This frees you from the burden of keeping tabs on payments and interest, which adds strain to almost any relationship.
Don't Fall for Scams Disguised as Investments
Winning the lottery doesn’t mean you’re automatically a smart investor. People will turn to you to invest in their “business that will surely take off,” but don’t take the bait if you don’t know what you’re doing!
Most of these are usually just harebrained schemes that no other investor wanted to touch anyway. Sure, there’s a hidden gem every now and then, but the safest play is to just put your money in a bank.
Other Useful Resources for Lottery Winners
Want to know what others think you should do if you win the lottery? Check out insights from experts and regular people through the following links:
Reddit – What to do if you win the lottery?
There are numerous Reddit threads discussing this particular topic. Follow the links provided if you'd like to see what the community suggests, or to share your own thoughts. These are some of the more popular threads still active.
- You just won a 656 Million Dollar Lottery. What do you do now?
- What should you NOT do if you win the lottery?
- Winning the Lottery- what would you do?
The main takeaways from the discussions above are unsurprising. To summarize:
- Lottery winners should do their best to protect their privacy.
- Most people envision that winning the lottery will enable them to live out their lives in comfort while simultaneously generating passive income. A common idea is to invest in real estate and earn through rental money.
What to Do When You Win the Lottery Book
Also, there are books you can purchase to guide you through life after winning the lottery. Click on any title below to purchase a copy for yourself:
While the life of a millionaire is fraught with challenges, hiring the right people enables you to enjoy your winnings well into the future. Of course, that’s if you do your part! Lawyers and financial advisers can only do so much, so if you don’t want to end up broke, be smart and stick to the game plan!