Money

The winner of the $344 million Powerball jackpot picked his numbers from a fortune cookie

Charles Jackson (L), of North Carolina, won the recent Powerball drawing for $344.6 million.
Travis Long | Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images

Charles W. Jackson Jr.'s story of how he won the $344.6 million Powerball jackpot might just cause a spike in fortune cookie sales.

Jackson, a 66-year-old retired store-owner in North Carolina, came forward to collect his massive prize on Tuesday. At a news conference announcing his good fortune, Jackson said he found his winning lottery numbers on the back of the piece of paper inside a fortune cookie given to him by his granddaughter during a recent trip to a Vietnamese restaurant.

While the fortune cookie claimed to offer lucky numbers, Jackson still did not expect them to be lucky enough to win him hundreds of millions of dollars. "You play to win, but you never really expect to win the whole dang pot," Jackson told North Carolina Education Lottery officials on Tuesday.

What's more, Jackson didn't even realize at first exactly how large of a lottery prize he'd won after checking his numbers against last weekend's Powerball drawing. Initially, Jackson didn't see that the final digit on his ticket also matched the drawing, so he thought he'd won $50,000, and not the full grand prize.

When Jackson looked again at his ticket, he says, "I said, 'Dang, I got them all.'" After looking online to find the value of his grand prize, Jackson says he told his wife: "You ain't going to believe this — I got it all," he said at a news conference at the Raleigh headquarters of the North Carolina Education Lottery, according to local NBC news station WRAL.

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Jackson, who reportedly used to own a shop selling military goods near North Carolina's Fort Bragg, will take the lump sum cash option, which means he'll walk away with a whopping $223.3 million prize. Various financial experts advise lottery winners to take the lump sum option, as opposed to multi-year annuity payments, and to invest their winnings in relatively safe, long-term stocks.

Jackson will also face a large tax bill on his lottery prize, with a standard federal tax charge of 24% along with an additional 5.5% state tax rate in North Carolina. That would leave Jackson with roughly $158 million after state and federal taxes.

But, Jackson says he hopes that huge amount of money won't change him or his family too much. "It probably won't change much," Jackson told lottery officials. "I mean, let me put it this way, I will still wear jeans. But, I will probably buy some new ones."

While Jackson plans to donate some of his winnings to charities like St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Wounded Warrior Project, he told reporters he also wants to take his wife on a trip to Vietnam. He also plans to give $1 million to his brother to fulfill the siblings' longtime promise that if either of them ever won a major lottery prize, the winner would give $1 million to the other brother.

Meanwhile, anyone with a fortune cookie handy can still try to use Jackson's strategy to win hundreds of millions of dollars, as the Mega Millions lottery's jackpot has now climbed to $530 million after no winning tickets were sold in Tuesday night's drawing. That lottery's next drawing will take place on Friday.

Disclosure: NBC and CNBC are both owned by parent company NBCUniversal.

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