Dream come true: The eight winners of the $365 million Nebraska Powerball lottery hold up their ceremonial checks. (Nati Harnik/AP)

The Powerball jackpot is now a whopping $500 million and expected to keep growing before Wednesday night’s drawing.

Despite the odds of actually winning — a meager 1 in 175 million — millions of Americans are lining up to buy lottery tickets and dreaming of early retirement, tropical vacations and new cars.

Let’s say you win. Before you quit your job, buy that Maserati and fly off to Fiji in a private jet, here are five things you should do:

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 versus 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).


Big lottery winners offer advice, cautionary tales