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CHICAGO (CBS) — The massive Mega Millions jackpot now stands at $540 million — the biggest for any lottery ever.
The lump sum payout: $389 million, before taxes.
But what should you do with all that loot?
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Brandis Friedman Reports
Financial expert Terry Savage advises would-be jackpot winners that when they hit it big — hire up.
First she recommends a lawyer, as well as tax and financial planning professionals to establish a trust structure.
“Where you can hide behind the shield of this organization and say, ‘I’m sorry, my financial planners only allow me to distribute X each year, and I’ve come to my limit,’ ” she explains.
Savage says do that before claiming your winnings or before telling anyone.
And on the subject of telling anyone — don’t.
“If you can, stay anonymous,” she says. “Having that much money can really ruin lives.”
Lump sum or annual payout?
Savage says here’s where your tax planners come in handy.
“If you take it now in a lump sum, just figure about half will go to the government in taxes,” she says. “If you decide to take it out over the years, you suddenly are part of that one percent that has to worry about future tax rates, and remember back in the 60s, the top personal tax rate was over 90 percent.”
With all of that practicality out of the way, Savage says, yes, you can splurge on the dream house or vacation.
“You won the lottery, there’s no reason you can’t treat yourself to some of your fondest dreams, but you’d be amazed at how fast that money can go once you start handing it out to all your relatives and everyone who comes with a sad story.”
Now, for a reality check. What are your odds of winning? A math professor puts it in perspective.
To have a 50-50 chance of hitting the jackpot, a player would have to buy 87 million tickets, according to Prof. Barbara Gonzalez of Roosevelt University.
“I don’t think you can do that,” she tells CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman.