Money

An 18-year-old won the lottery on her first try—and she’s doing something unusual with her prize

Earlier this month, on her 18th birthday, Charlie Lagarde won the lottery the first time she played, CNN reports. The Quebecois beat the one in 6 million odds to take home the grand prize: a lump sum of $1 million ($776,730 USD) or $1,000 ($776.73 USD) a week — for the rest of her life.

She went for the annuity. Assuming she lives a long life, the decision is going to pay off. Over 60 years, $776.73 USD a week comes out to roughly $2.4 million USD.

Most lottery winners opt for the one-time pay out when given the choice — expert opinion on the best option varies.

Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money," says taking all your winnings at once is the thing to do. "You want the time value of all that cash working for you," he said.

But others argue that such a windfall can be dangerous. "If you get a huge lump sum, it's easier to make a mistake, whereas if you choose the annuity, then at least if you mess up and blow the first year's worth, you have another chance," said Nick Holeman, certified financial planner at Betterment.

Mark Cuban agrees that the annuity is the way to go.

Charlie Lagarde,18-year-old winner of the Gagnant à Vie lottery
Source: Loto Quebec
Charlie Lagarde,18-year-old winner of the Gagnant à Vie lottery

After all, astoundingly, lottery winners are more likely to declare bankruptcy within a few years than the average American.

Many winners struggle with depression, get divorced and deal with relentless requests from friends and family who want a piece of the prize, CNBC Make It has previously reported. Often the lottery doesn't improve lives, it tears them apart.

"If you're not disciplined, you will go broke. I don't care how much money you have," Missouri lottery winner Sandra Hayes told the Associated Press.

It's not a guarantee that Lagarde will be discerning in how she spends the annuity, but she's at least set up a situation that will make it more difficult to do something she'll later regret.

So far, it sounds like she is putting the money to good use. According to lottery spokesman Brian Lecompte, she just bought herself a nice camera.

"I want to study photography," said Lagarde. "One of my dreams would be to work for National Geographic."

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