You just realized you’ve won the Mega Millions lottery. What do you do? Your whole life as you know it changes. You are now several times richer than you went to bed the previous night. It can be extremely challenging navigating this new path in life, from the process of claiming your prize to living with your newfound wealth. Here are a few tips recommended by experts for what to do if you win Mega Millions.
Protect that magic ticket
Your Mega Millions prize depends on that piece of paper, so guard it like it carries the actual value of the prize amount. Sign the back of the ticket so that it’s easy to prove it’s yours. Make several copies of it as well and take the original to a safe deposit box in a bank. However, that might not be necessary if you would like to claim your winnings immediately. Just preserve digital copies and lock it in a safe in your home till the day you go to claim your jackpot.
Keep it under wraps
You will be thrilled and eager to share the news with everyone, but don’t do that. You are better off just keeping the news to yourself, except maybe telling a few close family members. The news of the Mega Millions lottery winnings can spread like wildfire, and bring back long lost family members and friends knocking on your door. There will also be charities, investment advisors, marketers, and everyone else trying to ring your doorbell. Before you claim the big money, get a new unlisted phone number and a different post office box. You can even find a place to live temporarily until it all cools down. This will make it harder for people that want a bite of your cake to find you. It is not about being stingy, but it is about protecting your sanity and finding space to plan wisely.
Take your time
Understandably, you will be so eager to lay your hands on the prize money, but don’t rush. Immediately they find that you have won the Mega Millions lottery, some people make the mistake of rushing over to the lottery headquarters. Take time to think it over, to sober up, and prepare to claim your winnings and use it wisely.
Those that rush to claim the money often end up pouring it down the drain. Then they go back to being poor. It’s therefore prudent in this case to take time and assemble a team of trusted professionals, including a lawyer, a financial planner, and an insurance agent.
Contact the lottery office
With these professionals by your side, contact your nearest lottery head office. The officers will ask you questions to do with the details of your ticket. Once it’s verified, a meeting will be set where you will be required to produce the original ticket plus your identification documents. The claims team will then complete all the necessary procedures to release your money.
Decide on the payment method
When you win the Mega Millions lottery, you can collect the prize as a cash lump sum or in annual installments (usually over 29 years). Your choice here depends on your financial goals. Your financial planner should be able to guide you on this. There are also automatic taxes deductible from your winnings. The IRS often takes 24 % of the sum before it reaches you. You may also be obligated to pay state taxes. Be sure to seek the advice of a tax expert on this.
You can stay anonymous in some states
Even though most states will publicize your information when you win the Mega Millions lottery, you may have legal grounds to remain anonymous. If you dislike publicity (and in this case everyone does), put your lawyers to work.
In other states like Maryland, Kansas, and South Carolina, players are allowed to claim their winnings anonymously. You might also be eligible to claim your winnings through a trust fund. This option saves you the stress of dealing with vast sums of money under everyone’s watch.
Enjoy your money, responsibly
Take time to think about what your newfound wealth means for you as a person. Try to align and adjust your goals and purpose in life with this new financial freedom before you start spending your money. Have your financial advisor on speed dial. You may want to quit your job at this point and start to travel the world. You may want to buy a new home, a new car, or provide financial resources for your family and friends. Budget for everything as always; budgeting is not just an activity for the poor.