Actions Lottery Winners Should Consider

What to do if you win a lotteryWe all have those days when we dream of striking it rich with a winning lottery ticket. Never having to work again while living a life of luxury. While your chance of finding a four-leaf clover is higher than winning the lottery, we can still dream, right? And while we are dreaming, let’s talk about the best ways to deal with landing such a large sum of cash. And since lottery winners have a limited time to claim their prize, it’s important to take prudent steps when managing the money.

How Much Do Winners Actually Take Home?

Let’s take a look at actual prize amounts from recent winnings. The October 2023 Powerball jackpot of $1.2 billion translated to a cash value of $551.7 million. Depending on what the winner decides – either taking the lump sum or opting for a multi-decade annuity – they have a serious decision to make.

It’s important to consider inflation factors if choosing the multi-decade annuity option. For example, when it comes to 30 payments taken over 29 years, the first consideration is to determine if there’s a 5 percent increase in the amount for each subsequent year. However, it’s important to keep inflation and the value of money going forward in mind.

For example, between March 2021 and March 2023, the average monthly inflation rate was 5 percent or higher, according to Statista Research Department. It peaked during June 2022 at 9.1 percent on a monthly basis. If the lump sum was taken before inflation increased during the post-COVID-19 reopening, or the annuity was increased by 5 percent, lottery winners without a plan to preserve and increase their earnings would have seen their money’s purchasing power decline.

Another thing to consider is how to legally navigate the tax code. For example, when it comes to federal taxes, 24 percent is automatically withheld. According to the 2024 Federal Tax Code, large winnings will put the winner in the 37 percent tax bracket. If the winner is single or married, the 37 percent bracket kicks in at $578,125 and $693,750, respectively. Additionally, winners also are required to determine compliance with state, county, city, etc. taxes. State taxes can vary greatly; looking at you: Pennsylvania at 3.07 percent, and New York at 10.9 percent.

When it comes to being generous through philanthropy, winners can work with their legal and financial professionals to determine how to offset taxes. This can take the form of direct donations, creating a donor advisor fund (DAF) to get the tax benefit immediately, especially if the lump sum is taken, but also if an annuity is taken. With 2023’s standard deduction threshold of $13,850 (single) and $27,700 (married couples), winners might consider how to make charitable donations part of a tax reduction plan.

Another question to ask is whether establishing a trust would be helpful when sorting out one’s distribution of assets. If a winner dies intestate (without a will), the state of that person’s residence will determine who gets your money – regardless of who you may have wanted to receive it.

Similarly, setting up a trust may be beneficial for both claiming the lottery winning anonymously, and it can help determine how to give money to family members. A trust can be set up for a family member or a pet’s care and can be conditional on releasing the funds when the individual reaches a certain age.

While these steps are not comprehensive, and each winner will have unique circumstances, there are many legal and financial considerations to think about immediately upon winning and before claiming a jackpot.

Sources

https://www.irs.gov/credits-and-deductions-for-individuals

https://www.statista.com/statistics/273418/unadjusted-monthly-inflation-rate-in-the-us/

Understanding How Variances Vary

how to calculate VariancesVariance analysis is found by determining the difference between what was budgeted and what actually occurred. Additionally, when variances are added together, we get a better picture of how well a company is measuring its performance against expected metrics. It’s also important to be mindful that each metric is measured to determine what the actual cost is versus the industry’s standard cost.

Whether it’s materials, labor, electricity, or another metric, if the actual cost is lower than the standard cost for the same quantity of materials, it would be a favorable price variance. However, if the number of materials was more than the standard quantity, it would be considered an unfavorable variance. Examining variance allows us to analyze the price and quantity of the variable being analyzed. Always keep in mind that unusual or significant variances should be investigated to see why such anomalies exist.

It’s important to distinguish between variances and the types of inputs. When it comes to materials, labor, and similar variable overhead, variances to be analyzed are for price and quantity/efficiency. When it comes to fixed overhead, analysis looks at variances in budget and volume.

One way to conduct variance analysis is through the Column Method. The following example illustrates this:

A business produces widgets. The following assumptions are made:

  • 6,000 widgets are produced in a month
  • Direct labor hours are used as the basis to allocate overhead costs to products
  • Denominator level of activity is 8,060 hours, resulting in $48,360 in fixed overhead expenses budgeted.

Other cost assumptions include:

Direct Costs

Labor: 2.6 hours/widget @ $14 per hour

Materials: 10 pieces/widget @ $1/widget

Overhead

Variable: 2.6 hours/widget @ $8/hour

Fixed: 1.3 hours /widget @ $12/hour

However, the business saw the following costs for the month’s production:

Variable overhead manufacturing costs: $34,000

Fixed overhead manufacturing costs: $50,000

Both of the following are Direct Costs:

Material: 50,000 items bought @ $0.96/widget

Labor: 8,000 hours totaling $128,000

Materials Variance

Real Quantity x Real Price = 50,000 pieces x $0.96 per widget = $48,000

Real Quantity x Industry Price = 50,000 pieces x $1 per widget = $50,000

Standard Quantity x Industry Price = 36,000 pieces x $1 per widget = $36,000

Price Variance = $50,000 – $48,000 = $2,000

Quantity Variance = $50,000 – $36,000 = $14,000

When we find the difference between these two amounts, there’s an unfavorable variance of $12,000. Additionally, it’s worth looking at why there were 50,000 pieces used versus the standardized 36,000 pieces. It could be due to defective materials, problematic machinery, etc.

Labor Variance

Real Hours x Real Rate = 8,000 hours x $16 per hour = $128,000

Real Hours x Industry Rate = 8,000 x $14 per hour = $112,000

Standard Hours x Industry Rate = 7,800 x $14 hour = $109,200

Rate Variance = $112,000 – $128,000 = -$16,000

Efficiency Variance = $109,200 – $112,000 = -$2,800

Based on this calculation, there’s a total unfavorable variance of -$18,800. Management should look at why labor costs are higher than the standard and why production took more supplies than the industry standard.

While this is not all-encompassing, it does show the importance of understanding the nuances of calculating variances and how it’s essential to understanding a business’ (in)efficiency.

Documenting Fiduciary Accounting Practices

Fiduciary accounting, which is also referred to as court accounting, is a way to document and report financial activity during a discrete period of time for legal entities, such as a conservatorship, estate, trust or guardianship.

It’s meant to give adequate notice to all relevant parties when it comes to every consequential financial activity impacting the administration that occurred over the accounting time frame. It shows every disbursement and receipt that is managed by the legal entity’s fiduciary. It accounts for transactions beginning with the initial funding or principal, and the resulting future transactions, including income.

When it comes to the format of fiduciary accounting, along with the United States having its own unique modifications, the Uniform Principal and Income Act requires checking the governing instruments, in addition to state laws, to ensure fiduciary accounting compliance is met. However, looking at the National Standard Format, the following components in a filing are accepted by most courts:

  • Documentation of incoming and outgoing monetary sums of the legal entity’s starting principal and income produced
  • Documentation of the entity’s liabilities and assets
  • Documentation of any payment the fiduciary received
  • Legally authorized individuals hired by the fiduciary, what pay they received and their association with the fiduciary

The primary consideration is that being part of being a fiduciary is having a legal duty to the beneficiary of the legal entity, including “the duty to account” to the beneficiary. This duty to account is oftentimes required by the governing document, the state statute, a court order, linked to court proceedings or a beneficiary requesting an accounting. If this duty is breached, the fiduciary may be liable.

The accounting should ensure a reporting of every asset in the legal entity. During the first year, the beginning balance will list the assets that fund the account. For successive accountings, the starting balance and the ending asset values on the preceding accounting should be the same. Along with the assets in custody of the legal entity being documented, any asset that has been withdrawn, paid out or moved must also be documented. Income received from the entity’s investments is to be measured against the principal and income investment schedules to ensure that all income, dividends and interest have been received and reported correctly.  

Reasons Why an Accounting is Done

Some of the more straightforward reasons a fiduciary accounting is done is to ensure the fiduciary is compliant. There’s also greater efficiency when doing this annually versus more infrequent intervals, since mistakes can be identified and corrected sooner. The same accounting results can also be used for the entity’s tax filings.

Other reasons concern the fiduciary and beneficiaries. The beneficiary can review and challenge the accounting if there’s impropriety suspected. When the fiduciary has completed their responsibilities for the beneficiaries and entity, liability for the fiduciary may cease to exist, even if the beneficiaries decline to execute a receipt, release and refunding agreement (or similar document). If an approved accounting is necessary to be submitted with a court, the above four documents may be considered an acceptable substitution in place of an accounting.

Regardless of the type of legal entity that requires this type of fiduciary accounting, a fiduciary that is diligent and works with an accounting and legal professional can reduce the chances of exposing themself and their supervising entities from unnecessary exposure.

Wage Garnishment Considerations for Business Owners

According to the United States Department of Labor’s Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA), wage garnishments are a complex legal process for employers to account for when it comes to employment matters. This article specifically refers to Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. 

Usually authorized through a court order, a wage garnishment directs an employer to withhold or garnish an employee’s wages for a certain amount or percentage to satisfy an outstanding debt. Wage garnishments also can be implemented for delinquent tax obligations and other debts owed to federal agencies of the U.S. federal government, as well as for state-level tax collectors. 

Another consideration for Title III is that for a single debt, employees may not be fired; but if an employee’s earnings are garnished for two or more distinct debts, an employer has the discretion to involuntarily separate an employee from its business. This law also permits varying amounts and percentages of an employee’s “disposable earnings” that may be withheld.

The first step is determining how earnings are defined in the course of deciding the final wage garnishment calculation. Examples include but are not limited to retirement and pension payments to the employee, hourly wages, yearly salaries, commissions, bonuses, along with profit sharing, etc.

When it comes to lump-sum payments, the CCPA requires counting earnings that are for personal services, but not including non-personal service-related lump-sum payment compensation as the first step when calculating the final wage garnishment. 

Defining Disposable Earnings

The final amount able to be garnished is determined by the employee’s disposable earnings. This is defined as the earnings remaining once legally mandated deductions are factored into an employee’s earnings. Example deductions include local, federal and state taxes, along with withholdings for unemployment, Medicare and Social Security taxes. Voluntary deductions, such as health premiums, voluntary retirement plan contributions, etc., are not factored into the disposable earnings calculation.

When it comes to regular garnishment guidelines, which include non-support, bankruptcy or tax-based requests, for both state and federal taxes, the maximum weekly amount is the smaller amount of either one-fourth of the worker’s disposable earnings or how much the worker’s disposable earnings exceed 30 times the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 per hour x 30 hours = $217.50 (as of June 2023).

Looking at a weekly view, if disposable earnings are $217.50 or less, no garnishment can occur. If disposable earnings between $217.50 and up to $290 are considered, only $72.50 may be garnished, depending on how much the outstanding debt is in total. If the worker’s disposable earnings exceed $290 for a weekly pay period, up to one-fourth of the pay period’s disposable earnings can be considered to be garnished. It’s important to note that some bankruptcy court orders, state/federal tax debts and court orders for child support and/or alimony are not necessarily subject to the garnishment ceilings discussed above.

While this information is not comprehensive for employers, it’s important to understand all the federal, state and local regulations to ensure compliance is achieved to reduce the chances for adherence complications.

Two Ways to Measure Revenue Per User

How to Measure RevenueWhen it comes to measuring revenue, it’s essential that businesses analyze it from a variety of perspectives. While there’s revenue and net income on an income statement to show a company’s quarterly financials, another way to measure it is through ARPU (average revenue per user) and ARPPU (average revenue per paying user).

Defining ARPU

ARPU is the average revenue per customer or per unit. It looks at how much revenue is earned over a particular timeframe (multiple times a month, quarter, half-year, or 12 months) divided by the average patron during the same timeframe. This can be applied to many different types of companies, including social media and software as a service (SaaS). It’s calculated as follows:

ARPU = Total revenue/Average units or subscribers

ARPU = $10,000,000/100,000 = $100

Interpreting ARPU

This is a snapshot of a company’s profitability. It’s a way for companies to track revenue generation over a short or long period. With this information, a company or investor can analyze the business’s past and present performance. It can help determine whether or not the business needs to re-evaluate its operations and product models or if an investor should invest in a company.

When it comes to evaluating an investment, if one company in a specific industry is generating an ARPU of $5 and another company is generating an ARPU of $3, the first company could be a more attractive investment. Similarly, if the trend of a company’s ARPU is increasing, it’s worth looking at how the company’s stock has performed. Additional investment research can determine how the company’s stock price is appreciated.

Average Revenue Per Paying User (ARPPU)

ARPPU is used to determine the average revenue from a company’s paying customers only. To contrast this measurement type, ARPU factors in all users.

Assume the following: A business had revenue of $2 million, an average user base of 1 million, and an ARPU of $2.

If, however, we’re looking at the ARPPU, we need to take out the non-paying user base. If the non-paying user base is determined to be 425,000, the remaining paying base is 575,000. Use the following formula to calculate ARPPU:

ARPPU = Period of Recurring Revenue/Active Paying Users during the same measurement period

ARPPU = $2 million/575,000 = $3.48 per active paying user

Interpreting ARPPU

When the ARPPU is low, this indicates the business’ products or services aren’t well received by customers and those to whom it is marketing. A higher ARPPU indicates a company’s marketing efforts, products, and services are received well by customers. Similar to ARPU, results from ARPPU can be analyzed for trends to see when products or services are well received; and then investigated to determine whether it is influenced by the sales and marketing, customer service, product quality, etc.

Whichever way a business analyzes its sales and revenue generation processes, taking multiple approaches can provide different perspectives to help owners and employees determine when and where to make improvements to its operations.