Congratulations! You can win the Mega Millions Jackpot tonight! Currently, the jackpot sits around $1.6 billion (that number is likely to increase as some estimates have lottery ticket purchases to exceed 1 billion by tonight’s drawing!). That is $1,600,000,000. Or 1,600 million. And I have the secret to winning it all! Many of you may not be fooled by the title of my post because you have had the same thought… just buy all 302,575,350 possible combinations and go to bed knowing that in the morning, you can start the process of collecting your winnings (more on that in a minute). If you were to do just that, here is what your winnings would look like:


There you have it… a fool proof way to wake up $373,579,876 richer…before taxes. Unfortunately, there are a few inherent reasons this probably isn’t a good plan.

As I mentioned earlier, you and I aren’t the only ones who thought of this plan. What happens (assuming you and your friends can rally the cash to buy all of these tickets) if others have the same idea and buy up all of the lottery tickets? What if private equity firms, banks or other financial institutions decide to win the lottery by buying up each combination? All of a sudden, for each winner, the jackpot is split. With over a billion lottery tickets expected to be sold for tonight’s drawing, it stands to reason that there will be more than one winner—even if there aren’t several institutions or wealthy investors buying all of the tickets. All of a sudden your net profit turns into a net loss.


Additionally, it is going to take some time to fill out all of those entries to insure that each combination is carefully filled out and submitted—can’t have any combinations fall through the cracks if we are going all in on winning. It is likely physically impossible to complete the entries between drawings without employing a small army of workers to diligently complete entries.


Putting all of that negativity aside, let’s get back to the exciting concept of winning the drawing. Now that we have won the drawing it is time to enjoy our winnings to make sure that this magnificent windfall is a blessing and not a curse. We will skip the legal set up of multiple trusts to protect your privacy (but seriously, if you are the winner, please make sure to talk to a qualified estate attorney first!) and fast forward straight to the decision at hand—do I take the lump sum option (almost everyone does) or the annuity payout over 30 years? Let’s assume for the purposes of this conversation that you are like most and take the lump sum. What do you do with it?


· Breathe. Take your time. Winning the lottery or experiencing any other financial windfall can be emotionally overwhelming. We work with clients who have sold multimillion-dollar businesses, inherited large estates and signed lucrative contracts. In each case, our first recommendation is to slow down and realize there aren’t any major decisions that need to be made immediately. Once you have had time to process the “new normal,” you will be in a much better headspace to begin walking through some of the key areas that will be crucial to your success.


· Wisdom is found in the counsel of many. Financial topics can be confusing and further exacerbated with misinformation found on the internet or around the water cooler. Interview professionals and find those with a heart of the teacher, not a salesman. For financial planning and wealth management, look for fee-only fiduciary advisors who sit on the same side of the table as you and represent your best interest at all times. It is also important to have a high caliber accountant and estate planning attorney. These individuals can act as your personal “board of directors” to help you make decisions about your finances.


· Be generous. Although you will find you have many new “friends,” that’s not the kind of generosity I’m talking about. Think about how you want to impact your family, community and the world around you. People who have built substantial wealth typically discover there are only so many things that you can buy. After that, it is the impact of what you do that will define how you are remembered.


My prediction is that someone will win tonight, and most likely there will be multiple winners. It’s always fun to dream a little about what you would do with a $1.6 billion winning ticket. Good luck!