Before last month's $768 million Powerball drawing, 24-year-old Manuel Franco was just trying to save $1,000 in the bank.
Franco, who lives in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, Wisconsin, bought the lone winning ticket for the March 27 Powerball drawing. On Tuesday, he chose the lump sum payment option for the the jackpot prize, which equals $477 million. After paying state and federal taxes, Franco will take home about $326 million, Wisconsin lottery officials said.
"Trying to get the bank account to $1,000 was my biggest concern [before winning the lottery]," he told reporters at a press conference.
Franco said he showed up for work for one day after realizing he'd won the lottery, but he quit that day and never went back.
Franco bought his winning ticket at a Speedway gas station near Milwaukee, and he says he "pretty much felt lucky" when buying about $10 worth of Powerball tickets that day.
"It's a weird lucky feeling. It's not natural, not normal at all," Franco told reporters, adding that he felt so lucky he even thought about winking at the gas station's security camera while buying the tickets.
When checking his tickets the day after the Powerball drawing, Franco says he was already "super excited" when he first realized that he won a $4 prize with one of the other tickets before even getting around to checking the numbers on the jackpot-winning ticket. But, his "heart started to pump and whatnot" when he checked (and double-checked) the ticket that won the $768 million prize.
"I screamed for about five or 10 minutes. Good thing my neighbors didn't hear," Franco says.
While some states allow lottery winners to remain anonymous after they win, Wisconsin is not one of those states, which meant that Franco had to reveal his identity in order to claim his prize. He had 180 days to do so, but waited only a little under a month after the drawing. In that time, he says he hired a team of lawyers and financial advisors to help him plan out what he'll do with his financial windfall.
While Franco promised that he won't become "one of the people who went bankrupt or broke or anything like that" after winning the lottery, he also says he's not entirely sure yet what he'll do with his winnings. However, he does plan to travel, pay for family members to go to college, and he also wants to donate some of his prize to charity.
"I'm not sure what the next chapter is going to bring for my life," he told reporters. "It feels like a dream, and it feels honestly like, any moment, I'm going to wake up and I'm just going to be back in my room, in my bed."
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