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How not to squander the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot

Here's how some recent Powerball winners said they'd spend their winnings. (Video: Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post, Photo: HANDOUT/The Washington Post)

This post has been updated with the new jackpot amount.

Evidence shows that most people who make it to the top 1 percent of income earners usually don’t stay at the top for very long.

But the person who wins the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot during Wednesday night’s drawing, assuming one person wins the entire pot, will have such a large pile of cash that they can create a steady cash flow of millions of dollars a year without taking much risk.

“With this amount of money there’s really no reason to be overly aggressive,” said Jeffrey Carbone, managing partner and founding member of Cornerstone Financial Partners in Charlotte.  “Lottery winners unfortunately try to get richer but now it’s really about maintaining your wealth.”

For someone taking the lump-sum, the prize would amount to an estimated $930 million, according to the website After a 25 percent withholding for federal taxes it would come down to $697.5 million. (Though the full tax bill for the winnings, which would be subject to the top tax rate of 39.6 percent, would be due when you file your tax return.)

And after deducting a 5 percent state tax, that pot would be reduced to about $651 million — though it could be more or less, depending on the state. Ten states, along with Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, don’t charge any state taxes on lottery winnings, according to

After investing that $651 million in a conservative portfolio that earns an average of 3 percent a year, the move could generate a steady cash flow of about $19.5 million a year. (And that’s without spending down any of the actual prize money.) For the typical worker, that would be more than enough money to splurge on a new home, buy some luxury cars, offer some financial support to family and friends, and still indulge in a few luxurious vacations.

One hypothetical portfolio that winners can consider would involve investing 40 percent of the money in municipal bonds, where returns would be free of federal — and in some cases state and local — taxes, Carbone says. Another 30 percent could be invested in dividend paying stocks from high-quality companies; 15 percent could be invested in real estate, including commercial real estate and rental properties; 10 percent could be invested in alternative markets such as gold and other commodities; and 5 percent could be held in cash.

Being too conservative with the money, however, could backfire. With yields on cash accounts such as money market accounts still being low, investors who stuck all of the money in cash could end up losing some of their winnings to inflation, Carbone says.

Another thing to consider when trying to make the winnings last is to choose to receive the money over time instead of taking the lump-sum payout. The annuity would pay out the winnings over a 30-year period, which would keep some winners from blowing through the cash in a few years, says Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago-based investment fraud lawyer who has represented lottery winners who sued their advisers.

Of course, taking the annuity means giving up some of the interest that the money would earn had the winner taken the lump sum and invested it, he says. But for people who worry they won’t have the discipline to be conservative with the money, taking the cash over time might be the better move, Stoltmann says. It also gives the winner more time to build a team of advisers they trust, he says.

For many lottery winners one of the largest challenges is finding a reliable team of advisers and attorneys who can help them manage their winnings without squandering the cash, Stoltmann says.

Here's how some recent Powerball winners said they'd spend their winnings. (Video: Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post, Photo: HANDOUT/The Washington Post)

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