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How Would Sudden Wealth Change Your Life?

Proper handling can make the difference between happiness and suffering.

Two Americans — one in Florida and one in New Hampshire — started 2018 on a highly prosperous note.

One won the nearly $560 million multistate Powerball jackpot; the other won the $450 million Mega Millions jackpot, the fourth-largest in that lottery’s 15-year history.

The Powerball winner’s name hadn’t been revealed at the time of this writing. The latter is Shane Missler, 20, from a town outside Tampa, FL. Missler took the lump-sum option, which will yield $281 million. He says he has “retired” and plans to use the money to help his family and “do something for humanity.”

Would winning the lottery improve your life?

Don’t be so sure. Several past winners became bankrupt within five years, became estranged from family and friends and suffered high rates of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce and suicide.

You might say that winning the lottery is the worst thing that could ever happen to you.

But winning a jackpot needn’t destroy your life. You can improve your odds of being a happy winner by taking these three steps:

First, realize that tickets are like cash.

Whoever has possession of the ticket is the winner, so sign your ticket as soon as you buy it, and store it in a secure place.

Second, the first two people you should tell are your Financial Advisor and an estate attorney — not your spouse, your mom or your best friend. That’s because your life is going to change in ways you can’t anticipate.

It’s hard to remain anonymous for long. Today’s social media world makes that virtually impossible. As soon as you begin to wear nice jewelry, buy an expensive car or give significant cash to someone, you’ll be outed. Then everyone — parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, co-workers, charities and strangers — will press you for money. Some will ask and some will demand it, arguing they would have shared with you had they won. Guilt and manipulation start quickly.

Also, expect to get plenty of investment pitches: to open a restaurant, buy a car dealership, invest in an oil well and so forth.

Requests and demands pave the way to financial ruin. That’s why we’re here. As your financial planner, we’ll be your buffer. Instead of flatly refusing when someone asks for cash, just say “call my advisor.” Blaming us could help you preserve relationships.

Third, realize that your pile of cash is much smaller than it seems.

Federal and state income taxes will take 37 to 50 percent. And if you give your best friend $10 million, you (not the friend) will be subject to gift taxes — at the same rate as the income tax. (Ten states don’t tax lottery winnings.)

If you come into sudden money and expect it to bring you lasting happiness, think about the realities of managing a fortune. Letting us help you can increase the odds you’ll enjoy the outcome you want.

Talk with a Financial Advisor

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