Each week, the lottery makes a few lucky Americans wealthy. These people go from the working-class to the upper class overnight. But most winners find themselves unprepared to handle this financial windfall.
We’ve given you 5 tips on how to manage your lottery winnings below:
1. Keep a Low Profile
When you hear you won the lottery, you may feel the urge to tell everyone. Your family. Your friends. The people from your high school. You may want to shout your winning numbers from the rooftops.
But your lottery winnings are no one’s business but your own.
Until you have claimed the ticket and actually have the money, you should keep your winning to yourself. Anyone can present an unclaimed ticket as their own, so keep it safe. Take photocopies of the front and back of the ticket as proof of ownership.
Some states will release your names as part of the claiming process. This makes keeping a low profile difficult. Once the lottery releases your name to the media, people will come to you with business opportunities or appeals for handouts.
You may want to leave town for a few days after claiming your ticket. When you get back, things will have cooled off and you can go about your business.
2. Talk to the Professionals
Talk to a professional soon after you claim your winnings. Lawyers and tax professionals can help you understand your legal and tax obligations in this situation.
Most lotteries have two options for payments: all at once or a little bit over a long period of time. Both of these options are subject to taxes, and if you have not prepared to pay them, you may soon find your winnings don’t add up to as much as you thought.
These professionals working together can help you understand all the aspects of your new financial standing.
3. Pay Off Debts
Your overall worth equals what you owe minus what you have. So before you run out and buy a new home or that car you’ve always wanted, make sure to settle your debts first.
If you have decided to receive the bulk of your money up front, make sure to pay off any outstanding debts you have. Credit cards, medical bills, back alimony, and personal debts can take a chunk of your money. Left unpaid, these smaller sums can grow into huge legal fees and take more of your money than you would wish to pay.
4. Plan for the Future
Now that you have money and you’ve paid off your debts, where do you want to see yourself in 10 years? 20 years? Do you want that money to create long-lasting financial security, or do you want to spend it now? If you spend it now, how will you make your money last through retirement and beyond? How will you financially handle the unexpected?
Instead of spending your winnings, use it to invest, budget, and create an emergency savings account to provide for your future.
Once you get out of debt, stay that way. Speak to a financial advisor and invest a portion of your money. You want your money in a safe place. Find a financial investor with a successful record who you trust to handle your money.
When you choose an investor, ask him or her to present a wide variety of investment plans and have him go through the risks of each.
If you have never budgeted before, talk work with your advisor to create a suitable budget for your monthly spending. This should include money for:
- Monthly bills
- Fun activities
By living within a conservative budget, you can stretch your money to last longer.
Prepare for Rainy Days
Nobody can predict the future. Markets rise and fall, and sometimes investments go bust. Prepare for the unexpected by setting a little money aside in the form of a rainy-day fund.
A rainy-day fund is an account you can draw from when an emergency hits. An emergency fund should cover your expenses for up to six months. In the event something terrible happens to your money, your rainy-day fund should keep you financially stable until you can figure out your next move.
5. Stay Busy
Once you have paid off your past debts and planned for the future, you likely have a giant chunk of change you want to spend. But if you want to have money 5, 10, or 20 years down the road, you need to stay busy.
People who have nothing to do have an increased likelihood of spending money. Staying busy helps you not to spend your winnings all at once.
If you are working, continue to do so, even if only part-time. This will keep you busy enough that you won’t seek out massive shopping opportunities. It will also keep other money sources flowing in.
If you don’t like your job, take this opportunity to find your dream job. You may have always wanted to work in a bookstore, as a teacher, or as a firefighter. Explore your options and find something you have passion for. You may have to return to school to receive additional training.
No matter what you end up doing with your lottery winnings, make sure to talk with a trusted financial advisor so you can enjoy your money for years to come.