Money

Grandfather found a $24 million lottery ticket in an old shirt just before it expired

New York Lottery

On May 25, 2016, Jimmie Smith of East Orange, New Jersey, won $24.1 million from the New York Lottery. But he had no idea.

It was only once the one-year deadline approached and local news outlets started to report that no one had claimed the prize money, that the 68-year-old decided to take a look at the shirt pocket where he accumulated old, unchecked tickets, reports Park Slope Patch.

When he realized he had the winning number, Smith said, "I had to stick my head out the window and breathe in some fresh air. I was in serious doubt. I really had to convince myself this was real."

He also did not rush to Manhattan to collect the winnings, saying he needed time "to clear out some cobwebs" before he went.

That kind of calm, collected response is exactly what financial experts recommend.

The retired security officer again demonstrated patience by opting to take his $24.1 million distributed in laddered payments over 26 years. Many financial experts argue that this is the responsible choice.

CNBC's "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer, on the other hand, recommends collecting the earnings in a lump sum.

"Take the money all at once," Cramer said. "Don't let them string it out like that. You want the time value of all that cash working for you. That's vital."

Cramer's advice notwithstanding, Smith, a father of two and grandfather of 12, plans to have an "all-family discussion" about what to do with the money, according to lottery officials. Hopefully that will lead to some wise investing and smart financial planning.

After all, as CNBC Make It reports, "lottery winners are more likely to declare bankruptcy within three to five years than the average American."

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