Banking & Finance

12 Things Not to Do If You Win the $1.3 Billion Lottery

Buy everything for everyone and for yourself.

There has to be a huge temptation for lottery winners to go out and buy all the millionaire toys they can think of. The answer here is simple to say and hard to follow, but you likely will regret the decision if you go out and buy dozens of cars, houses and whatever else you can think of for you and your friends and family members. This will start you on a bad path, and you could easily become the next friends and family personal welfare department. If you start buying everything for everyone, chances are high that they might expect that to last forever. The other end of the story is that you do not have to be a cheapskate either. Now consider a personal lottery story that was told in which a lucky winner bought more than 30 cars and multiple houses in three months for himself and friends and family.

Say to hell with a budget.

Do millionaires have budgets? The smart ones do. Maybe it sounds crazy that you have to live within means when you get instant empire-making money. After all, most lottery winners instantly become wealthier than everyone they know combined. This also goes back to having advisors and being prudent, but at the end of the day you do still have a finite sum of money. Chances are very high that you will make some serious purchases and your lifestyle will be changed forever. Without setting limits for yourself and for what you do with others is a recipe for disaster. Again, many lottery winners go broke. If they went broke in a very short period, what do you think the reflection about wishing for a proper budget would be?


Become the business backer for all your friends and family.

Leave being a venture capitalist up to the venture capitalists. One common theme that has come up with lottery winners with instant vast sums of cash is that friends and family start pitching them on endless business ideas. Sure, some will sound great and some will sound crazy. If someone has no knowledge of a particular business and does not know what it takes to actually run a business, will that person do better because a lottery winner who lucked into vast wealth provided money to start it? If your answer is yes, you seriously need to protect yourself (from yourself). Now think about whether most lottery winners had the understanding of how to run a business the day before they won the lottery.

Give the whole thing away.

Some lottery winners might feel so lucky that they want to give away just about all their money to a charity or to a religious institution. This sounds great, but even the truly wealthy who earn their money the hard way do not do this. You can be more than generous without doing the unthinkable. Imagine what you will feel like down the road if or when a serious crisis arises in your life or your family’s lives and you no longer have the finances to help. Should you be charitable? Absolutely! Should you give it all away just because a church or a charitable group does good things? Absolutely not. If you insist on giving away your new-found fortune, do it the way the wealthy do it — structure your will and estate to give away your fortune upon your death.

Get celebrity and athlete envy.

Being a high-roller is one thing, but you can go incredibly broke trying to keep up with celebrities. Keeping up with the Jonses is bad enough, but do not try to keep up with the Kardashians or other celebrities. It may seem cool to own a 200-foot yacht or private jet or to have your own entourage. It may also seem cool to own castles in Europe or Picasso paintings. These can easily drain your financial statement to zero. Trying to dodge taxes might even sound appealing to misguided people. Now go add up the price tags of these things, plus the cool cars and houses and the rest of it. You can go broke real quick. Just ask people like Nicolas Cage, Wesley Snipes, M.C. Hammer, Evander Holyfield and many other famous people who had it all and ended up broke or close to it how they feel about things. And dodging your taxes may come with a greater price than just mere penalties.

Think that laws and decency no longer apply.

It is true that the wealthier you get, the better attorneys and legal defense you can afford. Still, you will have to live under the “good citizen” laws, and you still likely will have to pay taxes just like Warren Buffett’s secretary. Living a reckless life without concerns about the laws of the land will not keep you from going to prison (or worse). Most good sports coaches will tell their star athletes upfront that chances are high they will have to be human for far longer than they are going to stars. Movies can glamorize scoundrels, but what good does it do you if you are incredibly wealthy and such a pariah that no one will associate with you? Remember, you don’t get to take any of your wealth with you when you die. And how fun will it be to be paying out all of your winnings to attorneys fighting to keep you out of jail or fighting civil suits looking to take your new wealth away?

There is now a thirteenth runner-up issue.

Can you imagine that you need to think about the solvency or financial position of the state you are playing a lottery in? The State of Illinois did not have a budget resolution for much of 2015. The state’s finances have been challenged for years, and the state sadly did not have the money legally in place to pay out the winnings to its top lottery winners. Imagine getting the winning numbers, only to receive a state voucher. Can you change your life in a meaningful manner on a state voucher that is nothing more than an IOU?

NPR liked this enough to feature it in the $800 million Powerball story for its All Things Considered radio show, including an interview with 24/7 Wall St. founder Jon Ogg.