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Shhhh! If you win the Mega Millions jackpot, be quiet. Then, do this.



Lotto fever is rising again, with the Mega Millions jackpot surging after a win-less weekend, making it even more important that you know what to do if you beat the odds and win.

The top Mega Millions prize for Tuesday night’s drawing is estimated at $875 million, the sixth-largest ever. Your odds of winning the Mega Millions are 1 in 302.6 million, but if you do, be prepared to keep your cool. As much as you might want to scream your win from the rooftops, the smartest thing is to shut your mouth and turn off your social media so you’re not tempted to post about it, financial advisers say.

Claiming that much money likely will draw taxes, scammers, and friends and family members looking for financial help, they say.

“If you’re lucky enough to win the lottery, keep it quiet,” says Rob Burnette, financial and investment adviser at Outlook Financial Center in Troy, Ohio. “Get organized and make a plan. Consider staying anonymous, if it’s a possibility.”

Why shouldn’t you tell everyone?



They may contact you to tell you you’ve won or if they know you’ve won, “the crooks usually try to get you to wire money for “taxes” or “fees,” or may try to get you to provide them with a bank account number, which they will then clean out,” Mega Millions warns. “No real lottery tells winners to put up their own money in order to collect a prize they have already won.”

Be suspicious of people who contact you out of the blue. No representative of Mega Millions would ever call, text, or e-mail anyone about winning a prize. In some states, you can remain anonymous if you win.

Steve Azoury, owner of Azoury Financial in Troy, Michigan, says he has advised many lottery winners, including a $181 million winner “who said ‘If I didn’t know you before, I don’t want to know you now.’”

If you can’t tell everyone you won, what can, or should, you do?

“Get a tax attorney and a tax accountant right off the bat and then a financial adviser,” says Azoury. “They’ll work hand in hand to figure out the plan.”

The plan will include which payout option to choose:

  • An annuity option makes an initial annual payment followed by 29 annual payments. Each payment is 5% larger than the previous one.

  • The cash option is a one-time, lump-sum payment equal to all the cash in the jackpot prize pool.  At Tuesday’s drawing, it’s $413.5 million.

The plan also should include a “fall guy,” Azoury says. “That’s the person or adviser who keeps you from giving loans to anybody, who tells people all the money’s tied up in investments, not available. We have nothing available to help you out, and we’re not interested in your project.”

Should you take the lump sum or installment payments?

That decision depends on your goals, your age, and what lottery rules are for beneficiaries to continue receiving payments, or if you’d likely squander a lump sum.

Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt, recommends considering the following:

  • Size of the lottery winning: The size can help determine the taxes you may owe and the financial security you may derive from the winnings. If the amount is on the smaller side, a lump sum may be easier, but all the taxes would be paid upfront.

  • Current and projected earnings: Consider your ability to earn money and tax rates over your lifetime. If you take an annuity, you would pay taxes each time you receive an annuity payment.

Don’t do list: 12 things not to do if you win the lottery

Don’t forget it: A Washington woman forgot about her lottery ticket for months. Then she won big.

How much do you bring home?

That depends on complex state laws and how you decide to take your money.

If you win the lottery, you’ll likely be propelled into the highest federal tax bracket. The state where you live and the place where you bought the winning ticket can greatly impact what you pay in taxes.

If you’re a California resident and purchase your ticket there, you pay the 37% federal tax rate. But you’re in luck because California doesn’t tax lottery winnings, Steber says.

But, if you’re a California resident on vacation in Rhode Island and decide to buy a ticket there, you’ll have to include your lottery winnings on your federal and California tax returns and file a nonresident Rhode Island tax return for your jackpot. You should claim a tax credit for the Rhode Island taxes on your California return so you won’t be double-taxed on the same income in two states, he says.

California doesn’t tax lottery winnings. Other states, according to Jackson Hewitt, include:

  • Alaska

  • Delaware

  • Florida

  • Nevada

  • New Hampshire

  • South Dakota

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Washington

  • Wyoming

“This is where a tax professional really comes in handy,” Steber says. “State taxes can be very tricky.”

How long does it take to get your money if you win the Mega Millions?

Once you claim the prize, it shouldn’t take too long, Azoury says. “Maybe a couple of weeks,” he says.

Remember, most people won’t claim their winnings right away because they’ll take time to set their plan. Claim periods vary by jurisdiction so people should check with the lottery in the state where the ticket was purchased to get the applicable claim period for that ticket.

“Winning tickets must be redeemed in the state in which they were purchased, but lotteries typically have a claim-by-mail option for most prize levels,” Mega Millions said.

Mega Millions claim periods range from 90 days to one year from the draw date, the lottery said.

Where should I park my money until I decide what to do with it?

After a lottery win with a large payout, the question of where to park the money until you can make decisions with a financial adviser, tax accountant and attorney is important to think about, says Azoury.

“One suggestion would be putting your winnings in a brokerage account, as many brokerage firms can spread the cash deposits across multiple banks,” he says.”Within one brokerage account, up to $4 million can be insured, if single, and up to $8 million can be insured on a joint account.”

When is the drawing and how do I play?

The next drawing is on Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET. If no one wins, the next drawing is Friday night.

Each ticket costs $2. Players may pick six numbers from two separate pools of numbers – five different numbers from 1 to 70 (the white balls) and one number from 1 to 25 (the gold Mega Ball) – or select Easy Pick/Quick Pick. You win the jackpot by matching all six winning numbers in a drawing.

Can I boost my odds of winning?

The single chance of matching all Mega Millions numbers is 1 in 302.6 million, but some say you might be able to boost those odds.

One method, lottery information site says, is to look at how often numbers are chosen. Since October 2017, when the main ball pool shifted from 75 to 70 and the Mega Ball pool grew from 15 to 25, the most frequently-drawn, or “hot,” white balls are 10, 3, 17 and 14 followed by 31, 46 and 64 (tied) and the most frequently-drawn gold Mega Balls are 11, 22, 18, 24, and 13, it said.

Others like to look at “overdue” numbers, which have gone the longest without being chosen. Those are 48, 56, 24, 63, 7 and 43, according to another lottery information site Gold Mega Ball overdue numbers are 23 and 19, it said.

Medora Lee is a money, markets, and personal finance reporter at USA TODAY. You can reach her at and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.    

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Here’s what to know (and do) if you win the Mega Millions jackpot

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