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You just won $540M -- now what?

Winning the record-breaking Mega Millions lottery won't necessarily buy you class. Spend to fit your surroundings.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 29, 2012 4:25PM

This post comes from Jonathan Gill of MSN Money.


Image: Gold (© Stockbyte/SuperStock)Somewhere out there, one of you just might get lucky on Friday night. Really lucky, by winning the $540 million Mega Millions lottery. Never mind the odds (1 in 176 million) or that you stand a better chance of getting killed by a meteorite (1 in 700,000) or struck by lightning (1 in 280,000).


Though your chance of winning is nearly zilch, it is possible, and someone will eventually win. So, if it turns out to be you, congratulations. But what do you do next?


How much is that? First of all, let's take a look at the numbers. Say, instead of an annual payment of about $20 million over 26 years, you take the lump-sum payment of $389.8 million. But you have to pay taxes on that. Take-home pay will be something like 70%, depending on where you live, so let's say $273 million.


If you invest that conservatively (dividend stocks, etc.), you're still making $10.92 million every year. That's nearly $1 million every month or $100,000 every three days. That's without spending a penny of the initial jackpot. (Post continues below.)

Protect yourself. Hire an experienced wealth manager. Not your neighbor. Not your relative. Not the treasurer of your PTA, even if he does claim to know something about "investing."


"Oklahoma City attorney Richard Craig, whose firm has represented a handful of lottery winners, says it's essential to assemble a team of financial managers, tax experts, accountants and bankers," The Associated Press says.



Give generously, but don't be stupid. People will line up at your door to ask for money. Your mailbox will fill with sad stories and investment "opportunities." Your friends and family members will feel entitled to some of your wealth. Don't let them control you.


Give to legitimate charities you have thoroughly vetted and that reflect your values, but beware of charities that come looking for you.


Set up a giving budget. Remember that $1 million a month of interest income? You have cash to spare.


You still need an occupation. Your first reaction will be to quit your job. Not so fast. Think about how you're going to spend your time. Vacations are fun for a week or two. But after a while, they get pretty boring. We all still need a purpose, a way to contribute to feel good about ourselves.

What will you spend your time doing? What's your dream job? Volunteering? Teaching kids? Building homes for Habitat for Humanity? Get out there and make yourself useful.


You still need to raise your kids. The die is already cast for you. But how are you going to raise your kids to be good people? Giving adults piles of money is risky enough -- plenty of lottery winners have lost it all -- but you still have your kids to raise. Don't ruin their lives. They still need to be productive members of society in the future, and you're still responsible for seeing that they get there.


Avoid excess. It's OK to buy a nice house. Don't buy five houses. Or an island. Or a town.

Lease your cars rather than buy them. You'll probably want to change them frequently, and you can afford to. You're a perfect candidate for leasing.


You can rent vacation homes, yachts and airplanes. That's a lot less hassle than owning expensive, high-maintenance things that get only occasional use.


Don't be tacky. Money doesn't necessarily buy you class. Spend to fit your surroundings.

If you live in the country, you'll look silly driving through town in a Lamborghini. Or a Bentley. Exotic sports cars break down and get easily stuck in the mud. Don't be that guy. Rather, spring for a loaded Ford F150.


You don't need a football stadium in your backyard. Instead, build a nice one for your local school if you like. That would be a lot more fun anyway.


You really don't need 50 D&G purses, or 100 pairs of Prada shoes.


Really resist the urge to get plastic surgery. You're not going to look like Brooklyn Decker or Daniel Craig, no matter how much you spend.


Karen Datko contributed to this post.


More on MSN Money:

Mar 30, 2012 6:50AM
With that amount of money, I could almost afford health insurance. I may splurge and put gas in my car as well....
Mar 29, 2012 4:53PM

Lease a car?  Really?  The rest of the advice was pretty good- but if the best reason for leasing a car is that you can afford it, why not just buy the car?  Then, if you want to sell it in a year or two, no big deal- sell it and buy another car.  Leasing a car is one of the biggest money mistakes commonly made.

If you purchase the car outright, you could get a deal.  If you lease it, you're paying full price for it.  When your lease is up, you get nothing back from the car.  When you sell the car you own, you at least get the value of the car back in your pocket!

Mar 30, 2012 9:23AM
Mar 29, 2012 8:29PM
I give my wife the dollar back for the ticket
Mar 30, 2012 9:42AM
Man...that's a boat load of money and I could be happy with only 1 million!  Don't care for fancy cars or big honkin' houses, I'd always worry some homeless person broke into and is living in a wing of the house, 5,000 square feet from me.  Honestly though, I've always dreamed of turning older hotels into temporary housing for our returning war vets.  A place of refuge, their own personal quarters, food service, counseling, recreation etc., all for free. Essentially help them acclimate back into civilian life.  There is no reason why any of our war vets should receive any less than 5 start treatment upon their return!
Mar 29, 2012 10:59PM
Id buy the company I work for out and fire each and every one of those mother****ers that ****ed with me.
Mar 30, 2012 1:15AM

I would get a house with enough bedrooms for all of us. I would buy a car that doesnt leave us on the side of the road when it feels like it. I would set up trusts for all of my children, neices and nephews. I would take so much pleasure, in going into a store, and buying my kids new shoes and clothes because I felt like it, at that moment.. not having to wait until I think I can pull it off because the electric bill was lower this month. I would buy a library full of books for my middle daughter. I would buy my oldest son brand spankin new football cleats, so he wouldnt have to keep "borrowing" from his friends. I would pump gas, all day long at my local station, and pay for it all. I'd buy my grandmothers house, and make it look like it did when i was a kid. I would pay off my bestfriends house for her and her husband, so they would never ever face foreclosure again.  For my baby girl, I'd buy her a fancy carseat, that she actually fits in. Maybe even put a dvd player in our new car for them to watch while we take a long drive with no real destination planned. And not worry about if the gas will last until payday. I would pay for my youngest sister to go to and finish college. I would buy my other sister a house and pay the taxes and bills on it, so she could actually be a stay at home mom to her 2 kids. Then, maybe I would just buy myself a "few" pairs of shoes, to add to the 2 pair that I currently have. I would go to the social services department, and give my worker a huge gift, and a thankyou card, for atleast being the warm body that seems to care when I needed help.


Mar 29, 2012 9:43PM


Mar 30, 2012 4:18AM
i would pay off some really high end government scientist to give me a cure for my sons autism and buy a new kidney for my 3 year old daughter and live comfortably
Mar 29, 2012 6:58PM
Mar 29, 2012 10:47PM

I would eat the good beef bologna instead of the cheep crap i have to eat


Mar 30, 2012 11:41AM

I would look for a cure for cancer and take my mom anywhere in the world and do anything and everything she wanted...she has ovarian cancer and is at  stage 4  . I love my mom she is my best friend .....

Mar 30, 2012 9:41AM
Damn! I feel rich just reading about all the truly good things people would do for those in need. Thank you all for the uplifting thought. I feel better!! 
Mar 30, 2012 1:46AM
I'd definitely share various amounts with family.

Give to some legitimate charities... ?   Sure. 

Then work full time managing the money, as I have lost
all trust in mankind.    

Mar 29, 2012 7:33PM
There's 35 of us in the work pool ...... that's 7mil each after taxes ............ winning will create 35 new jobs and a lot of economic stimulus ! !
Mar 29, 2012 7:20PM
I would spend half on wine, women, and song. The other half I would spend foolishly. 
Mar 30, 2012 10:21AM

Your right that is a boat load of money.  Here is my plan.  There are a lot of elderly people who need some  help, yard work, heater repairs, roofing, you get the picture. Also there are a lot of older people who are retired and have lots of experience but lack the physical ablility to help.  So I would hire some retired folks and pair them with young people who want to work and help the elderly that need it.  Everyone wins.  The young get knowledge and experience, the retired get to pass on the wealth of knowledge they have and someone gets work done for free. 

Mar 30, 2012 7:28AM
I'm already retired, so I don't have a job to quit. I have plenty of things that already keep me "busy" so I don't need to start doing anything else. But, I know that having this type of money would come with a lot of new problems. I heard a story about a guy that won a big lottery a few years ago and his family (i.e. brothers/sisters, cousins, etc) became so demanding of "getting their share" that when the guy cut them off one of his relatives burned his house down. So, I'd make sure that I gave my immediate family (i.e. children, grandchildren) a reasonable amount set up in a a trust fund, but the extended family will just have to buy their own lottery ticket. I would also donate a huge chunk to charity so that I can get the tax write off and I'd invest in some solid mutual funds. As the articles suggests you will need a team of financial advisers and lawyers to handle this kind of money and I know several people who are in this type of work that I golf with every week. I'm sure they have the expertise to help guide my windfall and ensure it is spent prudently.
Mar 30, 2012 1:20AM
I would go to the airport,  buy a ticket, no bags, contact lawyers, figure it out, buy clothes , call my kids tell them to do the same. enjoy quality time with them,  Go home .. take care of family and friends.  and donate a lot of money to breast cancer awareness and Alzheimer's
Mar 30, 2012 1:05AM
Can't imagine ever winning, really.
But seriously, we've all had our lotto dreams--and here are mine.
1. Pay off remaining debt
2. Buy a good, reliable car (nothing too fancy, but nice)
3. Buy a condo (again, not super glam but nice and safe)
4. Give to charities: Head Start, ASPCA, some local social service agencies, Children's Hospital, Humane Society (animals and children-those are my platforms)
5. Give generously to family and close friends
6. Take said friends and family on an amazing trip-like a cruise, or to Atlantis!
7. Invest
8. Shop! (not much of a shopper, really, but it would be nice to have a couple of really nice pieces of jewelry and maybe 2-3 handbags!).
9. Travel
10. Volunteer/Go to school: Yes, I would quit work immediately, but would divide my time between volunteer work and school (after some travel)
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