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OMG, YOU JUST WON THE LOTTERY! WHAT NEXT?

There’s no secret to winning the lottery, except maybe one: you can’t win if you don’t play. With today’s online lottery evolution, anyone, anywhere in the world has an equal chance of winning the planet’s biggest dream jackpots. Now just imagine it’s you. Seriously, close your eyes for one moment and visualize what your life will look like with millions of dollars to your name.

Now wake up! So, after you had fun imagining the boat you’d buy, the debts you’d pay off and the trip around the world you’d take, now’s the time to open your eyes and read on. Because if and when you do become a grand winner, there are clear rules experts suggest you follow and traps to avoid. Hey, you never know, this might just be the most important article you read all week.

Keep Quiet (AKA Shut the Hell Up)

The first thing that experts recommend winners do is to keep quiet. “I would recommend not telling people, not even your Mom” says Nick Holeman, certified financial planner at Betterment. “I wouldn’t necessarily go broadcasting it to the world.”

Holeman says that coming forward too early can lead to hasty decisions and can make lottery winners targets of crime and greed.

For instance, when Mavis L. Wanczyk of Chicopee, Massachusetts, won the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot in 2017, she spoke with the press in less than 24 hours. Regardless to say, this wasn’t very smart on her part.

Boston Globe | Getty Images Mavis L.Wanczyk is announced as the winner of the $758.7 Million Powerball Jackpot in Braintree, Massachusetts

Take It Slow (AKA Breath In, Breath Out)

First things first, don’t do anything. “You want to let the emotional dust settle and you want to give yourself some time to put a plan in place,” says Colleen Supran, a financial adviser and principal for wealth management firm Bingham Osborn & Scarborough. The key, Supran says, is not to go wild. She recommends taking some time to think about what just happened, to let the excitement wear off, and to insulate yourself from the public.

Joan DiFuria, a cofounder of the Money, Meaning, and Choices Institute says that lottery winners can expect to feel demands from friends, family, and the general public. After an initial honeymoon period of excitement, she says, winners can begin to feel pressure from others to share their winnings. The best way to avoid that? Minimize your social media footprint while taking stock of what you plan to do with your winnings.

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Get A Team Together (AKA Find Your Nerds)

While you’re deleting your social media accounts and taking stock of who your friends are, you should begin to develop a team of advisers you can trust, including an estate planning attorney, a competent accountant, an insurance agent, and a reputable financial adviser. (In fact, you may even want a few of each)

“It’s not someone I would go to Google or the yellow pages for,” says Cari Weston, the director of taxation for the American Institute of CPAs. “You’re looking for certified people. I would start with a referral from someone I know at the golf course, at the office, or at church.”

You want to put your team together early to help you decide on how to collect your winnings (and pay your taxes). For the lottery, you can choose to take a lump sum or collect an annuity over thirty years.

Once you have a dream team you can begin to figure out what it is you really want—and what you value in your life. “Now you’re in a position where you don’t have to work, so what gives you meaning and purpose?” DiFuria says. “If it’s just spending money, you’re going to lose the money.”

That’s why, Supran say, it’s worth taking some time—a year, in fact—to let the excitement of your big windfall wear down to figure out if you want to invest your money and live off the dividends; start a charitable foundation; or become, say, a real-estate baron. (Or, some combination of all three)

Pay Off All Your Debts (AKA Phew, What a Relief)

There is no better investment than paying off debts. Whether it is credit card debt or a mortgage, your rate of return equals the interest rate on the loan. With today’s terrible yields on relatively secure investments like CDs and Treasuries, that’s especially true. When you’ve paid down a dollar of debt, that’s a dollar you no longer owe. When you invest a dollar, you can’t be sure whether it will grow or shrink.

Avoid Sudden Lifestyle Changes (AKA Don’t Bling It Up)

You know all those movies about how a group of criminals gets away with a heist, but one idiot gets the entire crew caught because he goes out the next day and buys a fur coat and a $200,000 car? Do not do that.

For the first six months after you win the lottery, don’t do anything drastic, like quitting your job, buying a home in Europe, trading up for a luxury car or building a collection of Birkin handbags. Meanwhile, set aside a fixed amount for splurges—it’s only natural to want to celebrate your windfall.

Save the big purchases for later. For example, you could rent a house in the neighborhood where you were thinking of moving, before you make any commitments, says Guerdon Ely, a financial planner in Chico, California. If you need a new car, buy a budget model for now.

Let’s not kid ourselves, we all know that there are some seriously stacked odds when playing. But the promising fact is that every week, people around the world are winning tens of millions of dollars in lottery jackpots. So, with all this great (and free) advice, all you have to do now is ask yourself if you still want to be a lottery millionaire (let us take a wild guess- yes, you do).

Ready for some potentially huge changes to your life? If you’re looking to test your luck then why not play this week’s U.S Powerball, MegaMillions or Euro Millions? Because seriously, you’re entitled to treat yourself to a harmless thrill every once in a while. Our recommendation: check out lotterymaster.com, a quick and fun way to buy lottery tickets online from around the world. Good luck!

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