Lottery Winners Should Set Realistic Expectations and Keep Spending in Check

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It’s human nature to daydream about winning the lottery or getting in on a hot IPO, but there are limits to how much wealth that newfound money can buy. That’s why it’s important for lottery winners to set realistic expectations and keep spending in check, even if that means giving up some of the luxuries they may have been used to.

It used to be easier to win the jackpot than it is now, but that isn’t due to any lucky numbers or insider information. It’s just math and odds. Winning the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots used to be a 1-in-300 million chance, according to College of the Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson. But after Powerball lengthened the odds in 2015 and Mega Millions did the same two years later, the chances of winning grew to roughly 1 in 258 million. That made it a lot harder to hit the big prize, but it still didn’t stop people from buying tickets in droves.

One of the biggest mistakes lottery winners can make is overspending on luxuries and impulse purchases. In many cases, that translates to debt or even bankruptcy. That’s why financial experts typically suggest that those who win the lottery put aside a year’s salary in an emergency fund and stick to more traditional investments. They should also consider putting together a team of professionals, such as an attorney, accountant and financial planner. Those professionals can help them weigh their lottery payout options, which include both a lump sum and 30 annual payments, both of which have pros and cons.