The $700 million Powerball jackpot is up for grabs. Here are disappointing stories that reveal what it's really like to win the lottery.
The Powerball jackpot prize is $700 million ahead of Saturday's drawing, the tenth-largest in US history.
Lottery players everywhere dream of hitting a multimillion-dollar jackpot with a winning ticket.
But there's a dark side to coming into a windfall of sudden wealth if you're not careful.
In reality, your chances of winning are slim.
Lottery players everywhere dream of hitting the jackpot, as a lucky person did after beating the odds on Friday and winning the $1.35 billion jackpot from a ticket purchased in Maine.
In fact, the idea of striking it rich is enticing enough for Americans to still spend billions of dollars each year on tickets despite the low odds of winning a cash lottery.
In reality, your chance of winning is pretty slim — you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than you do of winning a Mega Millions or Powerball contest.
But eventually, someone — or some people — will win.
But winning can be life-changing.
If the winning numbers are listed on your ticket, your next step is to turn it in to the local lottery commission. Winning is understandably a life-changing moment that can cause stress or excitement, which can lead to rash decisions. But there are a bunch of precautions to take before you even turn in your ticket.
Robert Pagliarini, a financial adviser, told Business Insider that taking "a very deep breath" should be the first thing you do if you win a large jackpot, followed by hiring an attorney, a tax specialist, and a financial adviser. "This financial dream team can help you make smart financial decisions and help you plan for the future," Pagliarini said.
Get a financial advisor.
Financial advisors can help you decide whether you want to receive payouts over a certain number of years or collect the price in a lump sum, which is considerably lower than the official jackpot amount.
Another thing to remember is that the jackpot's dollar amount and what you will actually pocket are two very different numbers because the lottery prize money is taxed — the IRS will collect 24% of it. For example, if you scored a $900 million Mega Millions jackpot, you'd have to give $216 million to Uncle Sam.
The last Mega Millions jackpot — $502 million — was won in October 2022, with a $252 million cash payout.
In 2002, Andrew Jackson Whittaker in West Virginia won a $315 million lottery, but he actually walked away with $114 million after taxes.
Sometimes winners have to split the prize money.
Even when you do win in a draw, sometimes others do as well, meaning you have to split the prize. In 2018, 40 lottery players in New Zealand won a jackpot of 1 million New Zealand dollars (or about $655,000 USD). Since they were forced to split it 40 ways, each received only 25,000 New Zealand dollars (or about $16,500 USD).
Other winners have landed themselves in hot water for not splitting the jackpot with colleagues or friends who contributed to the winning ticket purchase.
In 2012, former construction worker Americo Lopes cashed in a $38.5 million lottery ticket in New Jersey without telling his coworkers who had pitched in to buy it. They took him to court, where Lopes was ordered to share the prize money.
Don't get lost in the honeymoon phase.
Many lottery winners experience what Pagliarini calls "the honeymoon stage of sudden wealth." He wrote in Forbes that winning such a large sum of money is an unsustainable high, and winners should not let the prize money dictate how their lives change.
Avoiding feeling lost "involves exploring what they want their new lives to look like and creating a strategy that uses the money to help them achieve this," Pagliarini said.
Be prepared to say no to leeches.
Lottery winners have to be prepared for mooching friends who want to benefit from their newfound wealth.
Sandra Hayes of Missouri split a $246 million jackpot with several co-workers in 2006, but she soon found that certain acquaintances were more interested in her assets than her friendship. She said that when she dined out with her friends, they would belatedly announce that they didn't have enough money to foot the bill.
"These are people who you've loved deep down, and they're turning into vampires trying to suck the life out of me," Hayes said at the time.
When people know you have that much money, you're also in greater danger of being robbed. Whittaker, the 2002 West Virginia lottery winner, said he was robbed of thousands he'd left sitting in his car.
Consider the impacts on your family as well.
Your winning might also bring out the worst in family members, too.
When Denise Rossi won a $1.3 million jackpot in 1996 she abruptly decided to divorce her husband without telling him about the prize money in order to keep it all to herself.
Her plot backfired three years later, though, when a court ordered her to transfer every penny of her winnings to her ex-husband.
One Pennsylvania man, William Post, won $16.2 million in 1988 and was pursued by a hit man hired by his brother who hoped to inherit a share of the winnings.
Winners have a higher risk of going bankrupt.
Lotto winners also face an increased risk of bankruptcy. With such a vast amount of credit available to them, winners sometimes opt to make purchases using credit rather than use cash and overspend.
Coming into a substantial amount of money can also mean being thrust into the spotlight. Some states require you to publically announce your winnings. It's likely you might never enjoy anonymity again — which is partly why Pagliarini suggests hiring a financial team to help with the flood of media attention.
And in addition to media attention, you might be bombarded with requests from investors and scammers.
Many lotto winners end up squandering their money.
Some winners lose big time after hitting the jackpot, even faring worse than they did before.
One winner in Canada, Sharon Tirabassi, spent most of her $10 million jackpot on extravagant homes, cars, designer clothes, parties, vacations, and handouts to family and friends. Within a decade, she was riding the bus again to her part-time job and renting a house.
A Texas man, Billy Bob Harrell Jr., won a $31 million jackpot in 1997. He spent it on things like vacations, homes, and cars, but he also obliged too many money requests. He eventually squandered all his money.
Another winner, Michael Carroll, won a $15 million British jackpot in 2002 but lost it all within five years.
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