94-year-old veteran almost threw away a lottery ticket worth $6.5 million

A customer purchases lottery tickets in Richland County, South Carolina.
Tim Dominick | The State/MCT | Getty Images

Some things are worth a second glance.

For William Bowker, a 94-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran in Oregon, taking a minute to double-check a lottery ticket he initially thought was a loser kept him from throwing away a $6.5 million prize.

Bowker hit the jackpot on a recent Megabucks drawing by the Oregon Lottery, with his ticket matching all six winning numbers to make him the sole winner of the lottery's $6.5 million jackpot, state lottery officials announced on Friday.

But Bowker's big win almost went unnoticed. He told lottery officials that his granddaughter initially checked his ticket's numbers against those drawn in a recent Mega Millions drawings. When those numbers didn't match, she very nearly tossed out what they thought was a losing lottery ticket.

Fortunately, Bowker decided to take another look at the ticket first.

"She thought it was a Mega Million ticket, and started circling matching numbers on the ticket," Bowker told Oregon lottery officials. "But they were for the wrong game. I had an Oregon's Game Megabucks ticket. She got done, and later, I thought I should double-check it before throwing it away. I am glad I did. I immediately thought — 'Boom! I won!'"

A former Air Force pilot who said he regularly plays lottery games with large jackpots, Bowker bought the winning Megabucks ticket for $5 at a convenience store near Portland, Oregon. And, he still has his winning lottery ticket, which Bowker says still has markings his granddaughter made when looking for the wrong set of winning numbers. "You can still see where she circled the wrong numbers," Bowker said in a statement.

What to do when you win the lottery
What to do when you win the lottery

The probability of winning the grand prize in Oregon's Megabucks game is about 1 in 6.1 million.

Bowker decided to take the lump sum payment of the prize, which pays him $3.25 million, and will leave him with roughly $2.2 million after taxes, according to the Oregon Lottery. While he didn't release any specific details on how he plans to spend his jackpot, Bowker did say he plans to share the money with his family. In fact, his daughter is a tax attorney, who will help him plan for life as a newly minted multimillionaire.

"I have what I need, and I'm 94," Bowker said. "This is a wonderful way to help my family."

Various financial experts, including "Shark Tank" investor Kevin O'Leary, urge lottery winners to take the lump sum option on any winnings, as opposed to multi-year annuity payments. If you take the lump sum option and manage the money well, investing wisely in options like low volatility stocks, then could actually end up with more money over time than if you take the annuity.

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