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What would the $540M jackpot buy?

No matter how you look at it, the Mega Millions prize is a whole lot of money.

By Karen Datko Mar 29, 2012 7:19PM

Image: Lottery Tickets (© Scott Speakes/Corbis/Corbis)The Mega Millions jackpot is now officially a world-record-breaking $540 million, and it's bound to get even bigger -- $600 million has been mentioned as a possibility -- before Friday night's drawing. People have lottery fever -- big time.


"It's spiraling out of control," California state lottery spokesman Elias Dominguez said. "This is uncharted territory."


Sure, if you take the lump-sum option, you'll get only $389 million. Otherwise, it's 26 annual payments of about $20 million (the forced-discipline option we'd pick if we were the lucky winner). And then there's 25% for federal taxes and also maybe state and local taxes, depending on where you live.


But for the fun of it, let's just imagine how much money $540 million really is.


Here's a visual: If you walked down the street and found a dollar bill on the ground every 10 feet, you'd have to walk the circumference of the Earth 41 times to pick up all 540 million of those bills. Please don't ask how long that would take. (Post continues below.)

There are other ways to look at this. Imagine your buying power. CNN's Jack Cafferty provided some help:

  • It's your salary for 5,400 years if you earn $100,000 a year.
  • You could buy a thousand $500,000 homes. (Or if you're looking for more spectacular homes,, in recognition of the $540 million prize, has a slideshow of mansions, a private island in the Bahamas, supercars, and other expensive items now within your budget.)
  • "Or if you paid half of your winnings in taxes and invested the remaining roughly $270 million in tax-free municipal bonds earning 3%," Cafferty wrote, "you would garner about $8 million a year in interest."

KOMO News provided other ways to visualize just how rich you'd be with $540 million. Among them:

On very rare occasions when I feel like splurging, I can come up with a $5-plus drink at Starbucks. But with $540 million, it's triple venti caramel macchiatos on the house! You could buy over 98 million of the drinks -- or one for everyone in the state of California, New York and Texas and still have enough to buy two of them for all your friends in Washington state plus if you were feeling generous, one for everyone in Oregon too.
Or, you could buy 1.3% of Starbucks, the company.

Live in Yakima, Wash.? The jackpot is big enough for you to buy 12 million of your closest friends premier passes to the Spring Barrel Tasting at wineries between the Yakima Valley and the Tri-Cities.

Let's hope these suggestions keep you in the sharing mood. It's likely that if you win, you're not going to get the whole pot for yourself. As more people buy tickets, the likelihood of multiple winners increases. The Wall Street Journal says:

… up to a certain point, higher jackpots mean higher expected payouts. But after a certain point, the risk of multiple winners overwhelms the higher jackpots, and the expected payout goes down.

More on MSN Money:

Mar 30, 2012 8:15AM
I would fill my car full of gas and maybe my truck too
Mar 30, 2012 7:45AM
I would piss some of it away, give some of it away, invest some of it, for sure buy some land, lots of land! Set up a scholarship found for kids of hard working parents that never get anything for free and actually work for a living.You know the people that are the back bone of this country, The tradesmen, the laborers. People who don't think that ther owed a living!!   
Mar 30, 2012 1:01AM
1. Keep my mouth shut.
2. Lawyer
3. Quit job.
4. Quietly move (unlisted phone, address) to secure house.
5. Help family,  friends but get confidentiality agreements as I do not want to put them  or myself in danger.
6. Charity (a number I support)
7. Travel for a while.
8. Volunteer work (don't take job from someone who needs it).
9. Again keep my mouth shut.

Mar 29, 2012 10:19PM
I would finally fill my gas tank to full !!!
Mar 30, 2012 7:01AM
I don't need that much money, but I played anyway, If I win I'm gonna buy up a boatload of those empty HUD houses and give them to needy families.
Mar 30, 2012 8:13AM
How come ya never see headlines like: "Psychic wins lottery!"
Mar 30, 2012 7:15AM

I feel like I lost 20% of my brain cells after reading this article.....

Mar 30, 2012 11:07AM
Mar 29, 2012 9:50PM

Not a hard question to answer.  What would I do with it?  Make sure myself and my family were taken care of, then give the money away.


I can imagine what it would be like to walk into a children's hospital that treats kids for free and asking them what they needed the most in the way of new technologies or replacing the old and then writing a check to cover it.


The local food bank would have a new trust set up to ensure that those in need got the foods they need.


Research for cancer and a number of other illnesses would get a boost.


PBS who get some as would the sunshine foundation.


 I would seek to create a documentary on how quickly I could give away $300 million and do the most good with it.


Local small charities that helped children and animals would also reap the benefits.


After all, money has no value once you reach a point where you have enough to live on for the rest of your life.  What good is it sitting in a bank somewhere gathering dusty when it can be used to help make our world a better place to live.

Mar 30, 2012 9:11AM
I would have to get my transmission in my truck fixed. It's been slipping.
Mar 29, 2012 10:35PM
pizza with double pepperoni for the western hemisphere, except for my ex-wiife
Mar 30, 2012 7:32AM
My two adult children would never have to worry about money... I would build  HUGE animal rescue facility, also donate to the small animal rescues that struggle everyday to rescue and provide much  needed medical care. Help our wounded warriors lead the best life possible.
Mar 30, 2012 10:26AM
i would buy about 19 gallons of gas
Mar 30, 2012 8:49AM
I would go to Vegas and put 540 Miillion on Black.
Mar 30, 2012 11:53AM
I would take the majority of the money and set up a fund that would secretly help middle class people who have lost everything thru no fault of their own and help them get back on their feet. There are more than enough programs that help people who have contributed nothing to society, but hardly none that help those that have worked and paid taxes for many, many years and for various reasons, not of their own doing, are really struggling as they approach the time to retire. I would like to help some those people retire without financial worries. Sort of like the show "The Millionaire" from the sixties. 
Mar 30, 2012 12:11AM
Mar 29, 2012 10:31PM
I m sure not peace.... I m a cancer survivor twice so I got my winning tickets already.  dreams are free...I m asking 20 more years to see my grandkids growth...Money? it will be a caos hiding all the time what ever u go...good luck to all...
Mar 30, 2012 12:41AM
Mar 29, 2012 9:12PM
Tell my boss to kma! And then buy his companySmile
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