A single winning ticket for the $2.04 billion Powerball lottery jackpot — the largest ever in the U.S. — was sold in Altadena, California, lottery officials announced Tuesday.
While the windfall is large enough to buy a private island or a sports team, managing the winnings is not as easy as it might seem. In fact, lottery winners are more likely to declare bankruptcy within three to five years than the average American, according to 2011 academic study.
To maximize a lottery jackpot, financial planners recommend making these moves first.
Lottery winners of large jackpots "should absolutely remain anonymous for at least the first six months after confirming he or she is the winner," says Kevin Brady, a certified financial planner in New York City. This will give the winner time to consult with a financial planner before any commitments are made on how to spend the money.
Lottery winners attract a lot of attention from family and friends that have their own ideas on how the money should be spent, but it's better to talk to professionals before you start spending the prize, says Brady.
In California, where disclosure laws require the winner's name be announced by the lottery, keeping your name a secret will not be possible. However, the winner can consult a financial professional before they formally claim the winning ticket, says Brady.
Hire a financial team consisting of a fiduciary financial planner, estate planning attorney and accountant "at a minimum," says Brady.
Additionally, "at this level of wealth, it's likely prudent to hire a business manager to assist day-to-day with the inevitable pitches and business opportunities that come along."
A financial plan for newfound wealth goes beyond "budgeting conversations," says Marianela Collado, a CFP in Florida. With proper planning, the decisions a winner makes "will change the lives of all their future descendants," while letting them live the life they want without ever having to worry about money, she says.
A fiduciary financial planner can be found on the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors's website, Collado says. These tips can help people find a financial planner that's a good fit for their needs.
Once they have a financial team in place, Tuesday's Powerball winner might want to consider the $997.6 million lump sum payout instead of the full $2.04 billion as an annuity spread over 30 years.
Even though the lump sum is much less money, you would be able to grow the sum by investing it right away.
"I would choose the lump sum payout because with proper financial advice you should be able to earn more over time than the annuity payout would give," says Lora Hoff, a CFP in Dallas. But everyone's situation is different, which is why consulting a financial planner is a good first step.
To avoid overspending, lottery winners should know how much money they actually have. Even though the jackpot was $2.04 billion, the winner will take home much less than that after taxes.
If they choose the lump sum payment, the winnings are automatically less than a billion dollars. They would also likely owe 37% in federal income taxes, which would reduce the lump sum to $634,785,984. For the annuity option, federal taxes would reduce the winnings to $1,285,200,000, according to Powerball's calculations.
In California, no state taxes are incurred for lottery winnings, but if the winner happens to live in another state, up to 8.82% in state taxes would also apply.
Estate taxes worth up to 40% can further reduce winnings in case of death, and a winner's heirs may be charged additional inheritance taxes, which vary depending on where you live, says Jon Ulin, a CFP in Boca Raton, Florida.
With Uncle Sam as the "largest benefactor," you'll want to know exactly how much money you'll have left over before you plan on spending the money, he says.
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