Here's What You Should Do If You Win The $850 Million Mega Millions Jackpot


The Mega Millions jackpot has skyrocketed to $850 million, do this if you win.

The $850 million jackpot is the third-largest in lottery history. The Powerball also has an estimated $640 million jackpot. The chances of you winning either of these prizes is slim to none. For Mega Millions, the chance of a single ticket matching all six numbers is 1 in 302 million. For the Powerball, the chances are 1 in 292 million. However, CNBC compiled this list of things you should consider if you happen to win.

Jackpot winners usually get between six months and a year to claim their prize, depending on where the winning ticket was purchased. The first thing you should do is take your time. Winning that much money will bring on a wave of emotions. Experts have found that once the excitement settles, the magnitude of the situation sets in.

“For anyone experiencing newly created wealth … there are feelings of dislocation and a sense of being overwhelmed,” said Valerie Galinskaya, a managing director and head of the Merrill Center for Family Wealth.

To help winners navigate this "burden," inquiring about the services of an attorney, CPA, and financial advisor is recommended. “You want to hire the right advisors who can provide not just good advice, but advice that’s tailored to your needs and wants,” Galinskaya said.

It's also important to protect yourself and your winnings. Experts advise winners to make a copy of their ticket, keep it in a safe place, and not run their mouth about their winnings. “Don’t blab to people about it right away, except for your immediate and trusted family,” said certified financial planner Jim Shagawat, a New Jersey-based partner advisor with AdvicePeriod of Los Angeles.

The next aspect is to be knowledgeable about the tax implications. If you win the $850 million jackpot you have the option to get it upfront in cash or as an annuity. If you choose cash, 24 percent, or $150.8 million, will be withheld for federal taxes. Furthermore, you would also be subject to the highest marginal tax rate of 37 percent.

For the $850 million Mega Millions jackpot, the cash option — which most winners choose instead of an annuity — is $628.2 million.

Before that gets to you, however, 24% — or $150.8 million — will be withheld for federal taxes. You also could count on owing a lot more to Uncle Sam due to the highest marginal rate of 37% applying to income above $523,600 for individual tax filers and $628,300 for married couples filing jointly. State taxes also are typically due. One way to avoid paying such high taxes is to be charitable.

“It’s not only about what you want to do for yourself and your family, but also philanthropically,” Galinskaya said.

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Economics, Finance and Investing