Win big? Here's what you should do with the money
Published Monday, April 2, 2012 1:47PM EDT
If you believe winning the lottery is all about wine and roses, you may want to rethink that happy dance, one expert says.
Jackpot winners sometimes learn they're worse off after a lottery win than they were beforehand scratching out a living, paying monthly hydro bills and mortgage payments, Peter Merrick, president of Merrickwealth.com, told CTV News Channel Monday.
"The reason is they're not prepared for it and they might buy a big house, an expensive home and they start buying all these great toys and giving a lot of money away . . . but they don't realize they have to carry these things," he said.
It's likely, though, the three winners of the Mega Millions draw in the United States Friday aren't concerned about being too rich.
Winners of the $656 million Mega Millions draw have yet to come forward to claim their prizes, estimated at around $219 million each before taxes.
The record-breaking jackpot was $640 million, but officials increased it another $16 million on Monday when sales from 44 state lotteries were tallied.
Once federal and state levies are applied, the lucky winners will receive about $88 million each if they choose a lump-sum payment.
But controversy is already erupting as one of the Mega Millions winning tickets is being disputed by workers at a Maryland McDonald's, a newspaper reported.
Employees apparently pooled five dollars each to buy tickets but the worker holding one of the jackpot stubs claims she bought it separately, saying she has no plans to share, the New York Post reported.
So what do you do if you're one of the jackpot ticket holders?
"Basically, take a big breath and be prepared that (your life) is going to change and you're going to have to make a lot of major decisions before and after (claiming the money)," Merrick said.
The first thing a winner should do is seek out a professional who has experience dealing with people who suddenly find themselves with a large sum of money.
Once the ticket is cashed, the winner should simply "park" the money, Merrick said.
"They should not make any major decisions," he said, adding the money -- whether a lottery win or an inheritance -- should stay put for six months to two years.
"They should make a wish list of what they want to do and then they should be realistic," Merrick advises.
There's also that catch of having to give your name to the public and conduct media interviews.
Luckily, in two of the three states where winning Mega Millions tickets were sold, the fortunate ones can remain anonymous. Both Maryland and Kansas don't require the person's identity to be released, but Illinois, where a third winning ticket was sold, does require public confirmation.
"In Canada, if you win a lottery you actually have to have your name released and you could have an interview and have the press come and meet you," Merrick said.
A study found the number-one action lottery winners choose is to put the money in the bank.
After that, the priority list includes paying bills, purchasing a car, sharing with family, vacations, mortgage payments, charitable donations and investing in stocks, not always in that order.
Merrick cautions that the windfall conundrum won't be restricted to lottery winners in the years ahead, as Canada sees a major redistribution of wealth.
"Over the next 10 to 15 years, there's going to be about $2 trillion of inheritance in this country, so there's going to be a lot of people going to have windfalls," he said.