Happy Tuesday! Have you ever daydreamed about winning the lottery? If you aren’t already a multi-millionaire it’s likely you have had at least one moment of wishful lotto thinking sometime in your life. So, do you play the lottery or think you might as well light a ten dollar bill on fire? Do you go Han Solo and yell, “Never tell me the odds!” (Kris) or figure you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than win a jackpot? (Seriously. Why can’t Kris and/or Kym be that 1 (or 2) out of 175 million? Why? WHY???) What’s your playing style: Quick picks? Specific numbers? Play every game, only once in awhile or only when the lottery pot is big enough?
Speaking of pot…let’s just say right now even though today’s episode is all about what Kris and Kym would do if either of them hit those 6 Powerball, Mega Millions or Super Lotto numbers, they do take an immediate detour down memory lane right from the start, talking about the old Dr. Demento show from classic 70s/80s radio (remember Dead Puppies? Fish Heads? Star Trekkin? Shaving Cream? No?? What are you, 30?? *Sigh*) and then somehow segue into talking about legalized marijuana. Because NONE of that has anything to do with winning the lottery, it only seemed right to start the show off talking about it. Boom. Done and done.
So what would you do? Assuming you’ve survived the initial shock, it isn’t as simple as walking into a lottery office to shakily hand them that precious slip of paper.
The following is an opinion piece based on personal research about winning the lottery. The author is not a professional financial advisor nor is The Mugly Truth Podcast advising anyone in any financial matters.
Lump Sum or Annuity
There’s the big question about taking the lump sum versus taking the 30 year annuity. You have to consider the odds of the taxes being in your favor over 30 years versus the instant gratification of a ginormously fat bank account in one fell swoop. Lots of people automatically think it’s smarter in the long run to take the lump sum. But is it? Seven million dollars does not have the same ramifications as $500,000,000. Here’s food for thought on that subject. And yes, you should be able to bequeath your annuity winnings in the event of your early demise (unless you have a will that specifies natural vs. suspicious causes. We’re just saying.) Double check your particular state lottery rules.
It is also really important to be honest with yourself: what are your habits now, pre-millions? Do you blow through your money NOW, as a thousand- or hundredaire ? Or do you save a bit here, donate a bit there, keep your bills manageable and indulge occasionally? Do you feel like you’d lose your freaking mind throwing thousand dollar bills out your car window because you CAN, or would you try some controlled spree shopping to get it out of your system, putting the rest away for better use? It also depends on the size of the jackpot. Is $7,000,000 (pre-taxes) enough for you to feel like you can quit working and retire comfortably for the rest of your life? Clearly, winning at 50 and preparing for 25-40 years of retirement isn’t the same as cutting employment ties (and the benefits of it…medical insurance anyone??) at 30. Where do you plan to live? Let us just say that a $500,000 house – nay, more likely a condo – in Orange County, California won’t get you much and it certainly won’t get you nearly as much as it will get you in Scranton, Ohio.
Do you live in a state that keeps its mitts off your winnings? Surprisingly, if you’re in California you do, but it’s only one of nine states in the country to allow you to have your winnings sans state taxes (Puerto Rico makes that 10). Everywhere else the state gets a bite of your millions (ranging from 3% to almost 9%) after the feds get their feast (a whopping 24% off the top as of this writing).
THEN – and here’s where a bunch of newbie rich folk start going down the drain with their dough – the taxes taken out of the winnings right off the bat do not account for the taxes that you will STILL OWE because guess what? You, dear sir, who used to only make $80,000 a year and now have $600,000 or $40,000,000 coming to you, YOU are now in a totally NEW TAX BRACKET. Taxpayers fall into one of seven brackets, depending on their taxable income: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% or 37% (thank you bankrate.com). So, do the math and figure out that even though taxes are shaved off the top before you ever see your winnings, depending on the payout you receive you will most likely have to pay additional taxes to make up for the deficit since you’ve jumped brackets pretty much exponentially. Even if you take a lump sum, depending on how you set up your accounts, you’ll still pay taxes on your interest, which itself has the potential of being a lot of money.
When you do get into the weeds and break it all down into what funds go where, it’s pretty deflating to realize you need to set aside a huge chunk of money to hand over to the government. AGAIN. Oh, and don’t forget that if you give Grandma a windfall of her own, she’s going to have to pay her share of taxes too, just how much depends on what you give her and where ya’ll live.
Oh, those government people are tricksy ones ain’t they?
Don’t Forget About All the Other Stuff…and Other Taxes
If you think your multi-million dollar bank balance is going to cover a Lambo, an estate, gifts for friends and family, shopping sprees, charity balls, champagne, caviar, jetting across the globe, and Gucci track suits, well, you may be right, but make sure you have enough left over to pay that tax bracket deficit AND property taxes on that new estate, and maybe even a sweet little Homeowners Association Fee. And if your HOA doesn’t cover it, that estate is probably going to need a gardener, pool maintenance, a house cleaning service, and security to some degree or another. Probably stuff you DON’T have (or use as much) in your current state of affairs. So unless you WANT to do all that work yourself instead of lounging by that sparkling pool (but WHY??) …you’re going to pay someone else to do it for you.
If you’re blissfully retired at whatever age, you still need to pay for health insurance, and it’s doubtful state medical benefits are going to be in your cards. Nope. You’ll be paying a pretty premium because you, my friend, can afford it!
There’s also the planning for disaster: your new beautiful estate just sprung a leak and your 10,000sf roof needs an overhaul. Yikes. That is gonna hurt if you don’t set aside money for such emergencies.
But let’s not focus on just the burdensome stuff. What about going back to school? You can pay full tuition without batting an eye! How about private cooking lessons in your new state of the art gourmet kitchen? Want to learn guitar? You can hire someone to teach you! Stressed about all this financial crap? Hire a regular masseuse for daily massage therapy! By the way, you’ll want your body in shape for all that yachting off St. Tropez …so you’re going to need a personal trainer for that, yes? Of course you are. Going to put your kids in private school? What about private tutoring and classes for them as well? Sure, not a problem. Need a security detail to protect your new trust fund babies? Heck to the yes. It’s a whole new cost of living for the new mighty millionaire you!
Preparation is Key…And Be Quiet About it for Heaven’s Sake
The good news is there’s a ton you can do to prepare for all of the saving, spending, donating and gifting. But, let’s get back to that moment when you realize your life has changed forever. In our humble opinion, first things first. And by that we mean pretty much the same hour you’ve discovered you won:
- Keep your damned mouth shut. Do NOT scream from your balcony that you’re holding the golden friggin’ ticket! Don’t call 30 of your best friends yelling “I’M RICH!” STAY. THE. FUCK. OFF. SOCIAL. MEDIA. That sentence deserves a page of its own. Do scream into a pillow. Dance. Cry. Laugh. Cry and laugh all at once, probably hysterically. Go ahead; pee your pants (you can buy new ones). Whatever it takes, just celebrate as privately as possible because eventually the cat will be out of the bag. But for now…Breathe. Be. QUIET. As hard as it may be, contain the urge to share the joyous wealth. Even though all but six states require you to release your name as a winner, it’s not smart to let the world know you have millions coming your way right off the bat. Money does really weird shit to people, even people you think you know well. If you have to tell someone, at least do the following steps first, and then consider who can keep THEIR mouth shut the most before letting ’em have it in one big wiggle-jumping-giggle-shout-fest. And DEFINITELY do NOT tell ANYONE you’ll be giving money to them. Just. NOPE. Stop. Because hinky lawsuits. Instead, consider the fun of creative ways of letting those closest to you know you won after you’ve got your ducks in a row. After the financial plan is set, then throw a reveal party, or treat a select few to a nice private dinner, or do what Kris plans and show up in front of their house(s) with pre-packed suitcases and yell, “grab your passports and get in the limo losers, we’re flying to London!” BUT FIRST:
- Put that ticket in a safe or bank deposit box. NOW. YESTERDAY. DO. IT. Don’t have one? GET ONE. (By all that is holy, do NOT fold it up in your jeans pocket and then do laundry). But before you snap the box lid shut, consider how you’ll be claiming that prize:
- Speaking of anonymity, before you put that winning ticket in your bank box, did you sign it? How’d you sign it? Your name? Hmmmm. It’s advised to always sign your ticket as it is a legally binding document. If you drop it on the sidewalk on your way to the bank and someone picks it up…if it’s not signed, they now have your millions. It’s possible if you sign it with your full name, which is the natural thing to want to do, you may be stuck with the lottery department taking that photo of you holding that oversized fake check with your full legal name right on it for the world to see. So…if you’re not 100% ok with that, then consider putting that unsigned (gasp…ok maybe print your name across the top rather than sign on the line???) ticket in the box and WAIT until you do Step 4 first:
- Immediately get an appointment with a reputable, unbiased (KEEP YOUR CPA UNCLE OUT OF THE LOOP FOR GOD’S SAKE) financial advisor (the California Lottery office advises interviewing at least three advisors before choosing who to entrust your money with) who is familiar with large finances to lay the groundwork for you to make to the most of your newfound wealth and how to reap the rewards for years to come, even after your 30-year annuity payroll (if you chose it) has ended. This is where you’ll find out if it’s possible to set up some sort of fund account under which you can somewhat safely/anonymously accept your winnings rather than plaster your name all over kingdom come once the money is claimed (edit: sorry Californians, CA State Lottery won’t let you claim under a trust fund name. But it’s still a good idea to look into all your options, including setting up a trust fund if you want to protect your money). Your state lottery website probably has a list of resources for you so check there if you have no idea what to do first.
The reality of the lottery daydream is that there is a LOT to think about really seriously: lump sum vs. annuity payouts, tax brackets, trust funds, partnerships, how much what you buy will impact you in the future, where to live, who to give money to, who to protect you and your family from (Yes! Remember hinky lawsuits from above? Really.), who you associate with, who you trust, who your latest and greatest family members and friends suddenly are, what charities do you want to work with, and do you think more money will make you truly happier? It’s enough to make Kym ask, “Maybe it isn’t worth it?” To which Kris replies, “Are you effing kidding me? BRING ON THE BENJAMINS!” Kym is only kidding. She would totally be fine with millions. TOOOOOTALLLYYY fine.
We top off the discussion with a list of 23 statistics about winning the lottery, which you can find here.
If you’re in California, this link at the California Lottery website takes you to a downloadable PDF with information on what to do if you’ve won it big. The USA Mega website is not only a great resource with tons of information on the Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries, but it provides a regularly updated break-down of what your projected annual payments would be for annuity options state by state. It makes financial planning that much easier.
If you read nothing at all in this article, we hope you at least read this: if you have won the lottery, it is in your very best interest to calmly as possible research what you need to do to protect yourself, your family, and your newfound wealth before you even claim the prize. Finding a group of reliable, unbiased advisors (can’t say that enough) will help you navigate a financially secure future.
Check out our DEMENTO AND THE LOTTERY episode on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Libsyn, Pocket Cast, Stitcher or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Then all you need to do is 1) subscribe 2) download and 3) listen! AND!!! 4) If you enjoy what you hear, please leave a rating and a review (pretty please?). The more subscribers and reviews we get, the more opportunities we get to grow this podcast and bring you richer content.
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Intro and outro music, “Clever as a Fox” by Espresso Music through premiumbeats.com