Mega Millions is Now at $1.6 Billion

Five things to do if you win the lottery:

Fortunes can change overnight – especially because the winning ticket in Mega Millions is now worth a staggering $1.6 billion – the largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history.

Dealing with a dream financial windfall, though, can bring you new financial issues you might well find unexpectedly challenging.

If you’re planning to win Mega Millions, know that advanced planning can ease your transition, provide long-term stability and eventually calm your emotions. Here are five things to do if you win:

  1. Get objective advice. Many people will want to give you advice, most well intended, some self-serving. You want to speak with a financial advisor who can provide unbiased recommendations. Choose a financial advisor like you choose other important professionals: reviewing qualifications and looking for a good match with your values and priorities. Financial advisors come with varying credentials, experience and expertise. Interview a few advisors before making a final decision. Ask each how he or she might approach working with you. Listen to your intuition and find someone who you feel listens to you and understands your needs and goals.
  2. Give yourself permission to succeed. If managing wealth is new to you, you might feel intimidated or even guilty for having money. Emotional barriers may make wise decisions harder. Therapists even coined a term for your situation: “Sudden Wealth Syndrome.” Symptoms include feeling isolated from former friends, guilt over good fortune and an extreme fear of losing all the money. Trust yourself to be responsible and remember to take the long view. You haven’t changed – just your finances have.
  3. Don’t be intimidated. Few people without specialized training can understand all the documents you see when considering your big-dollar investment options. Don’t hesitate to ask those you trust for advice or admit that you don’t understand everything. Don’t sign any paperwork you don’t understand. Make sure the financial advisor you choose will take time to help answer your questions.
  4. Take inventory. Before you can set new goals and make long-term decisions, gather information. What do you own? What is it worth? Do you face new tax implications? Identify your real estate holdings, cash, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, retirement funds, insurance proceeds, automobiles, art, antiques and collections. This process can take months, so give yourself time to fully gather all of this important information.
  5. Set goals. What does wealth mean to you? In an article titled “The Financial Psychology of Four Life Changing Events” in the Journal of Financial Planning, authors William L. Anthes and Shelly A. Lee wrote, “Money not only is a medium of exchange, it is also a substitute for love, a symbol of power, a benchmark of success, a tool for doing good deeds, a source of great anxiety, a scapegoat, a flashpoint in a marriage, and an emotional force of its own.”

Preparing and sticking with a well-managed financial plan can provide freedom from these intense emotions. Again, your financial advisor can help identify your risk tolerance, guide you on appropriate levels of debt, help you prepare for retirement, set up charitable contributions and direct you to a tax specialist.

Good advice and solid planning can take the anxiety out of managing a sudden mass of wealth and let you enjoy the benefits.