Advice for The $1.6 Billion Lottery Winner

If you are the lottery winner, then congratulations. You have beat the 302 million to one odds! That by itself deserves celebration, but before you grab Dom Perignon, read on. If you don’t know who or what Dom Perignon is, then read even more carefully. I hope that these steps will help you do something amazing with your new fortune.

Mega Millions Lottery Ticket

But first a warning: Your life is about to be completely ruined, if you’re not careful.

First piece of advice is avoid telling friends, and most family about your winnings. As tempting as it is, you must fight the urge to post a snap of your winning ticket on Facebook. Why, well because quite simply there’s people that will do anything to get money from you. And when I say anything, I mean just-about-any-thing. Some will beg, borrow, others might literally kidnap, or kill to get that kind of money.

And as difficult as it is for you to avoid telling the world, imagine how hard it will be for your mother, aunt, cousin, sister, best friend, coworker etc. etc. Basically, every person you tell increases the odds that you will be featured on the nightly news, along with a streaming video of a bunch of news vans on your street.

If it’s too late and the word is already out on the street, you need to get out of town immediately. Get your family on a chartered plane, car or boat and out to an undisclosed location, where you can all sit down and quietly work things out.

Before you leave, here’s a sample letter you can use to quit your job:

Back to being serious (mostly). You’re going to need some really good and extremely trustworthy advisers very soon. You’re going to need an excellent lawyer familiar with setting up trusts, an outstanding accountant, and several investment advisors. Why several advisors, well remember Bernie Madoff? Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket! Perhaps most importantly, you’re going to need a very insightful psychiatrist. But first set your priorities. If you don’t have an idea of your direction, your advisers will be of limited help.

So before you start googling lawyers and accountants, set yourself the following outline:

  1. Determine what makes you happy in life
  2. Act immediately to remain anonymous, or leave town
  3. Assemble a team to help you with #1 and #2
  4. Create a trust or foundation to help you expand on #1
  5. Prepare to donate a lot of money
  6. Diversify your assets

Why is there this touchy-feely step listed first? That’s because it is the most important. Grab a pen and paper and start writing down all of the ideas that bring you joy. Go back to when you were very young and think of what you were imagining for your future when you were going to grow up. Don’t start a list of things you’re going to buy. This is not the purpose of this step. Sure a new Bugatti, that ranch in New Mexico, the island in the Caribbean and a Gulfstream to get you places all have crossed your mind. But they won’t sustain your happiness if you don’t have a goal in life, beyond buying expensive things.

Then make a list of people in your life that you want to bring along on your journey. These are the people that have their most of their ducks in a row and will help you achieve your goals. Don’t even think of including your cousin that has a slight drinking problem, or your buddy that loves to party. You will destroy their lives and they may very well bring you down along with them.

Picking the right team of advisers, lawyers and accountants is going to be a good amount of work. You might be well served by reaching out to Melinda Gates, or another well-known philanthropist to ask them about their trusts and foundations. You’ll be amazed that they’ll talk to you now. Which law firm did they use to set up their foundation? You can also contact community foundations in your area to find out who they work with. Not only will they be happy to help you, they will be very interested in the prospect of you becoming one of their major donors. Thinking outside the box, perhaps other lottery winners that have gone public, might share valuable information.

Having a lot of money creates a lot of new responsibilities. It doesn’t manage itself, it’s easier to lose it than to acquire it, and it’s a very sharp double edged sword. Money can be used for good, and bad. It doesn’t care. It doesn’t judge. If you lack the self-control and discipline, you’d be better off giving away the entire $1.6 billion. This is why the first step is so important. To paraphrase Bob Marley, you don’t want to become one of the people that are so poor, all they have is money.