After winning the equivalent of $1 million from the Super Lotto jackpot in May, a recipient known only as N. Gray of Jamaica finally collected her check last week. And she did it while wearing an emoji wink mask.
While her disguise elicited laughter, it was also quite smart.
Experts say that if you ever win the lottery, the first thing you should do is keep quiet. "I would recommend not telling people," certified financial planner Nick Holeman tells CNBC Make It. "I wouldn't necessarily go broadcasting it to the world."
Lottery winners typically have three months to present their ticket but they often come forward much more quickly. Take Mavis L. Wanczyk of Chicopee who, after winning the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot in 2017, spoke with the press in less than 24 hours.
Experts recommend moving slowly the way Gray did: She waited nearly a month to pick up her winnings. After all, coming forward too early can lead to hasty decisions and can make lottery winners targets of crime and greed, says Holeman.
It's also smart to come up with a media plan — whether that means hiring a spokesperson or staying in a hotel to avoid reporters who may be flooding your front lawn — before you cash in the winning ticket.
Next, experts say to consider the annuity option, find a trusted financial planner to help manage the cash windfall and prepare to say "no."
"People always joke that when you win the lottery, you find new cousins and new friends that you hadn't spoken to in forever," says Holeman, who warns that you should be prepared to turn away friends or relatives that may come knocking on your door. "It can be difficult. You're going to risk being called selfish or stingy, but the truth is, even if you win millions, you can't help everybody. You have to be smart with who you lend money to and who you help out."
And it's OK to treat yourself after you collect your winnings, but beware of lifestyle inflation, Holeman tells CNBC Make It: "You should be saving the majority of it and also looking to donate and help out others. Then, you can go ahead and splurge a little, but give yourself a spending cap."
As for how Gray plans to spend her newfound wealth, "I want to clear my debt, invest and I want to do some traveling," she tells the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. Plus, "I would like to construct a community center for the youths in my community, so they can engage in something productive; somewhere where they can do information technology."
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