Powerball Millions - What Happens If You Win?

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We’ve all heard the odds: Your chances of holding tonight’s winning Powerball lottery ticket (at this time an estimated $500 million jackpot) are just one in 175 million.

That’s worse than being struck by lightning (576,000 to 1) and much worse than dating a supermodel (88,000 to 1). Still, Kai Ryssdal, senior editor of public radio’s Marketplace, says he’s playing. We’re betting he knows what to do with a winning ticket. Do you?

First, do nothing, says Rene Lynch of the LaTimes. Resist the urge to post it on Facebook, experts agree. Just put the ticket somewhere safe (make sure it’s signed), and host a quiet celebration with yourself.

Second, after you’ve pinched yourself and triple-checked the winning number, call in a lawyer or financial planner. Preferably both. Start planning.

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Third, splurge. Take that vacation or go house-hunting. Do one of the things you dreamed about doing if you won. Make a list of the rest, to discuss with your financial team. Don McNay, author of the book “Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win the Lottery,” told the Associated Press that nine out of 10 winners burn through their winnings in five years or less. “It’s too much, too fast,” he says. “Nobody is around them putting the brakes on the situation.”

Fourth, protect yourself. Keep the news as private as possible. Past winners advise against giving money away, especially publicly. Even if you can tell the difference between your long lost cousin’s request for help financing culinary school and a Ponzi scheme, you probably don’t want to spend your time sifting through requests for cash.

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Fifth, take the annual payments, unless you are financially savvy (and disciplined) enough to manage the lump sum.

What makes us continue to buy lottery tickets when the odds are so against us anyhow?

It’s simple: Hope.

Dr. James Gottfurcht,  who specializes in the “psychology of money,” told NBC that humans are “wired for hope. And the lottery gives them that and more.”

Photo: Corbis