We 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.