What to Do When You Win the Lottery

By: Don McNay
By: Don McNay

You would think that after having overcome trillion-to-one odds, the idea of running through the money would seem silly to most winners. Studies shows that 90% of people do just that within five years of winning the jackpot.

I tell everyone that buying lottery tickets was a bad idea.

If you ignored my advice, played anyway and won the big jackpot, this column is for you.

You would think that after having overcome trillion-to-one odds, the idea of running through the money would seem silly to most winners. Studies  shows that 90% of people do just that within five years of winning the jackpot. 

I have counseled some  lottery winners. Here are a few tips I have given them:

Never let anyone know you won.

Every lottery winner who goes public eventually tells stories about people harassing them.

Power Ball winner Jack Whittaker said, “There should be a book to tell you how to handle it when people get thrown into the limelight.”

You are asking for trouble if you have a news conference and tell the world that you have a bunch of money that you never planned on having. 

The news conference turns out really well for the lottery officials promoting their product, and it provides a good story for the media. It will not, however, turn out so well for you. 

Bowling Green, Kentucky attorney Steve Thornton announced that a few years ago that  one of his clients had won the Kentucky lottery. Steve set up a corporation and protected the client’s identity. 

If you win the lottery, find an attorney who can do the same thing for you.  Your life will be much happier.  If you decide later on that you want to be famous, you will have enough money to fund your own reality show. 

Take the annual payments, not the lump sum.

Never take a lump sum.  The annual payments are a better deal.

Lottery winners are totally unprepared for sudden wealth.

If you take the money as a lump sum, and become overcome by lust, drugs, sex, bad friends, bad family, bad investments or other factors, then the money will be gone, and there will be no way to get it back.

If you take annual payments and run through the first check, you have 29 more chances to get it right.  It gives you time to organize a plan and take advantage of ways to save taxes and improve return.

Even though you ignored my advice and bought a lottery ticket, listen to me on this one.

Spend money on some good advice.

There are a ton of tax breaks for the wealthy. When you win the lottery, you need to find people who can get those tax breaks for you.

Asking for good advice does not mean calling the bookkeeper for your bowling league.  You need someone who has dealt with big money and is not trying to learn while they earn.

Big-time advisors don’t advertise in the phone book under “Help for Lottery Winners,” but if you ask some well-respected attorneys, you will eventually get referred to the advisor you need.

There are people who are good at helping rich people become richer. Get one of them working for you.

Use your money for a purpose.

There was a great book written in the 1980’s by Ami Domini called The Challenges of Wealth.  It was a groundbreaking study of sudden wealth written during a time when few studies were available on the subject.

Her research showed that rich people are happiest when they help a cause that they really believe in.  The most joyful people were those who gave money for scholarships, helped their church and formed non-profit groups.

You can leave your children enough money to be comfortable without spoiling them.  People who leave their families too much money wind up with children like Paris Hilton.

If you study history, you will find that most of the people who amassed great fortunes, like Carnegie and Rockefeller, gave substantial amounts of money to charity while they were still alive. Even more gave money to charity upon death.

You have an opportunity to take care of family and have plenty left over to make an impact on society.  It will make you content and make the world a better place

One last thought: 

Winning the lottery is a random event.  It has nothing to do with skill, hard work or talent.

If you ever start feeling cocky about your brains and good fortune, remember that I told you not to buy the ticket in the first place.


Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the founder of McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement consulting firm,  in Richmond, Kentucky.  

He has Master’s Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

 McNay is the author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You When The Lottery.   You can write to Don at don@donmcnay.com or read his award winning column at www.donmcnay.com.   You can reach him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/donmcnay and Twitter at twitter.com/Donmcnay

 McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.

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