Let’s start with the fun stuff.
What should you do if you win the Mega Millions drawing — which has risen in value to $1.6 billion — Tuesday night?
Step 1: Freak out. But make sure you really have the winning numbers first.
Your best bet, visit the Mega Millions website and hit refresh constantly. The drawing is at 8 p.m. PDT on Friday, so you’ll probably want to put a reminder on your phone.
Check and re-check those numbers. You don’t want to celebrate too soon.
Step 2: Start planning. It takes up to six weeks for your check to arrive, according to the California Lottery. So you have time to come up with a plan.
How to Win The Lottery
You can’t win if you don’t play. Maybe you’ve ignored the lottery up until this point and a billion-dollar payday has your attention. Here’s what you need to know:
▪ Tickets cost $2. It’s cash-only, so you can forget about earning rewards points.
▪ You can buy tickets at grocery stores and gas stations across California.
▪ You can pretend you have some control over what numbers will be drawn and do some research on what numbers are most- and least-frequently drawn. Or you can let the lottery machine randomly choose your numbers. Mathematicians will tell you it doesn’t matter because the drawings are random. But they also don’t win the lottery because they will also tell you that it doesn’t make sense to play the lottery. That’s why it’s important to believe in yourself and follow your dreams.
The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one chance in 302.6 million.
Show Me The Money
The California Lottery says you should find a lawyer and a financial adviser. That’s important because you have a new financial reality to consider. You could just have your lottery winnings sent to your local bank or credit union, but deposits are only insured up to $250,000. This is where that financial adviser comes in handy.
Yes, there will be taxes paid to the federal government. But California is one of 10 states that doesn’t tax lottery winnings, so you won’t have to worry about that.
There are two ways to claim the prize. You can download a form from the lottery and mail it. But that probably seems risky, so you should download the form and bring it — very carefully, perhaps with some security guards — to the closest lottery district office.
You also face the classic dilemma: Take a one-time payout of $416,936,000 or 30 annual payments of about $24,573,333. Almost all financial advisers will tell you to take the one-time payout because, if properly invested, you’ll get more money in the long run. Or maybe you want to buy and pitch for a minor league baseball team in a one-off exhibition game. Nobody’s judging you. We can’t afford to do that.
Think About Privacy
By state law, California makes the names of lottery winners public. That not only means you’ll have media jackals barking at your heels for a few days, but you’ll also have friends, family members and distant acquaintances asking you for a donation. The California Lottery suggests you change your cellphone number before the news goes public.
You’ll want to turn notifications off on your personal electronic devices because the emails will be flooding in.
Also, maybe get off social media for a while.
Between quitting your job and leaving social media, you’ll have lots of spare time on your hands. After you buy a golf club — an entire course, with a pool — you’ll want something to read as a cabana boy brings you boat drinks in the hot tub. There are some good ideas about how you can invest in your local community while still making a sage investment choice.