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What to do if you win the Mega Millions lottery jackpot

March 29, 2012 |  9:13 am

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As average Joes across the nation fantasize about winning the largest-ever Mega Millions jackpot on Friday, experts are offering advice on what to do if, by some miracle, you win the big prize.

Don McNay, author of the book "Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win the Lottery," has consulted with multiple lottery winners and offers four primary pieces of advice.

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1. Never tell anybody you won

In California, a lottery winner’s basic information is a matter of public record, but only the very basics like your name, the place you bought the ticket, the date you won and the amount you won must be disclosed.

McNay said that once you turn your ticket in and  deal with the inevitable media circus, the best thing to do is hide under a rock.

If you put your good news up on Facebook or advertise it in any other way, “You’re asking for all kinds of trouble,” he said. “I had somebody tell me he got 800 phone calls the first day.”

2. Think for a minute

McNay also has stories of people running to buy cars even before they turn in their ticket, which may seem like a good spontaneous move, but likely isn’t the most rational.

“You don’t have to run and cash it in the first five minutes,” he said. “Think about setting it up properly, think about what you want the rest of you life to look like.”

3. Work with a financial adviser who works with more money than you have

Too many times, McNay said that lucky winners team up with their buddy, the accountant down the street, to manage their winnings. If your money manager has never handled huge sums before, it’s unlikely he’ll know how to best handle your cash. So McNay advises to go with the name brand instead.

4. Take the money in payments instead of the lump sum

The lottery offers a relatively smaller single lump sum payment or the full payout divided equally over 26 years. For example, the current $500 million jackpot offers a $359.4 million one-time payment.

Such a boon is appealing to most winners, McNay said, but not the best option. He uses the example of winning $100 million paid out over 20 years.

“If you blow through your first $5 million, you have 19 more chances to get it right,” he said. “If you blow through the $100 million, you’re not going to win the lottery again.”


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Photo: Staff Sgt. Ana Zepeda, of Mira Loma, in a U.S. Army uniform, stands in line Tuesday outside Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne to buy her Mega Millions lottery ticket. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.