1. Take a deep breath. Yes, you’ll be excited, but try to stay calm and think through any decisions you make.
2. Sign your ticket. The ticket is the only claim you have to the prize. Make sure you sign the back and put it in a safe place. Some lottery officials even recommend placing it in a safe deposit box.
3. Keep quiet. As tempting as it is to shout about your windfall from the rooftops (or post it on Facebook), experts recommend keeping the news of your win to yourself, at least until you’ve stashed the signed ticket someplace safe.
4. Get professional advice. Consult with a professional financial adviser and/or lawyer. They can help you decide how to claim your prize (annual payments vs. lump sum) and help you tackle tax, investment and estate-planning issues that will come up.
5. Visit your local lottery office. To claim your prize, you must provide photo identification and your social security number. (Find locations in Maryland, Virginia and the District).
Past lottery winners also have some advice for winners, according to the Associated Press:
Past winners of mega-lottery drawings and financial planners have some more sound advice: Stick to a budget, invest wisely, learn to say no and be prepared to lose friends while riding an emotional roller-coaster of joy, anxiety, guilt and distrust.
“I had to adapt to this new life,” said Sandra Hayes, 52, a former child services social worker who split a $224 million Powerball jackpot with a dozen co-workers in 2006, collecting a lump sum she said was in excess of $6 million after taxes. “I had to endure the greed and the need that people have, trying to get you to release your money to them. That caused a lot of emotional pain. These are people who you’ve loved deep down, and they’re turning into vampires trying to suck the life out of me.”
The single mother kept her job with the state of Missouri for another month and immediately used her winnings to pay off an estimated $100,000 in student loans and a $70,000 mortgage. She spent a week in Hawaii and bought a new Lexus, but six years later still shops at discount stores and lives on a fixed income — albeit, at a higher monthly allowance than when she brought home paychecks of less than $500 a week.
“I know a lot of people who won the lottery and are broke today,” she said. “If you’re not disciplined, you will go broke. I don’t care how much money you have.”
Lottery agencies are keen to show off beaming prize-winners hugging oversize checks at celebratory news conferences, but the tales of big lottery winners who wind up in financial ruin, despair or both are increasingly common.