Possibly the worst thing to happen to a lotto winner is what’s happened to New Jersey Powerball winner, Pedro Quezada: Fame. Few lotto winners, sports or music stars still have their money even five years after hitting the jackpot, and much of the drain comes from family, friends, charities, businesses, and unsavory types looking for their piece of the pie. To help this money last and even have a bit left once you pass, read on, Pedro. Y, vaya con Dios!
1) Don’t do ANYTHING…
…except think. This is not the time to spend money, pick up the phone, read email or watch the news. The first several days will be an onslaught of distraction. However, keeping your winnings actually winning will be all about having the right mindset—strong and clear.
To build that mindset, sit with yourself and think hard about what you want this money to do for you. Do you really want it to last? How ‘big’ do you want your life vs. how small and maybe quiet. Surely, you’ll want to help family and community but you’ll need to focus on yourself and your needs first, or, else you’ll be sucked dry all too soon. Write down what you want your life to look like twenty years from now. That’s your goal to keep in mind every day from now on, to keep you focused on the long-term and make the money last.
And pledge to make no home or real estate purchases for at least a year. You need time to do all of the following before you make any million-dollar decisions.
2) Appoint one person as your personal representative.
Who of your family or friends has never done you wrong? Who has kept every word and is not easily swayed by others? And does this person live within his or her means?
This person needs to be the one fielding all calls (making no commitments for a long while), inquiries and requests. Just have her take notes for now, acting as a protector and assistant all at once. Of course, you’ll compensate this person but make no promises yet. One of the biggest ways lotto winners (and athletes, musicians, etc.) lose money is trying to satisfy the family and friends who surface asking for money, a job, or for you to fund their business. Not yet.
3) Plan a splurge (or two) for yourself for now.
You’re human and have been living a solidly middle class life. Of course you want to go out and buy something, big! Hold off on big and instead think of just two things that would make you and your immediate family very happy, and set a budget.
This may be a good time to take that vacation to not only relax, but lay low for a while. Maybe you’ll get some clothes and luggage. But keep yourself at or around $10,000 or less total. What you’re doing is releasing some pent-up pressure to do something with the money without totally opening up the floodgates. Set limits; don’t deviate beyond 10%-15%. And avoid buying a flashy car just yet. It will draw too much attention to you at a time when you don’t need any more.
Should you be a church-goer, consider giving a small gift now, but within that budget.
4) Move, and protect yourself.
If I were you, I’d put myself in my own witness-protection program, just telling your trusted rep where you are. Should you need to keep the kids in local schools, rent a furnished home a couple towns over and have someone drive them door-to-door.
Not to be alarmist, but money makes people crazy, so this is a good time to hire real, certified security. One for your home, 24/7, another to be with our kids at school. Not all millionaires do this, but not all millionaires end up on the cover of newspapers! Check out security firms at BBB.org and no hiring family for this one–licensed, well-reviewed strangers only.
5) Don’t give anything over $1,000 for at least 4 to 6 months.
Who knew your grandfather had another family? Or, did he? Financial requests from family and community will now come to you nonstop. Maybe at some point you can help, but for now, do only two things: Make a list of your closest ten family members in need and give them each $1,000. No more.
Add to this a script you can lean on as the requests continue, such as, “I look forward to talking to you more about how I can share in the future. Now, however, I need to focus on a plan to make this wealth last for many years to come.” It’s the same advice I give parents looking to spend or borrow too much for their kids: Oxygen mask on you first, then your kids. You can’t help others until you truly help yourself.
6) You’re not a businessman, but a business… man!
This much money means you are a personal business. You’re going to need a solid, trusted team of professionals to help you manage and protect this money. Find a fee-based, preferably independent financial planner. Research at CFPBoard.org or FPAnet.org. Interview at least five or six people with great reviews, references and credentials. This person is hopefully going to be working for you for a very long time.
You’ll also need an estate attorney who can set up wills and trusts to protect you and your family, as well as help you with tax laws. You’ll also need a great CPA (accountant). Keep in mind, every check drawn and going out should go by you and your pen. And do not give anyone power of attorney. You want to keep control to decrease the likelihood of being swindled.
Also, beware funding or investing in any other business until your own personal business is up and secure.
7) Protect your other wealth; your health.
As all too many know the hard way, the greatest riches we all hold is our health. One accident, one major illness and your winnings can disappear all too quickly. Beware the temptation to indulge too much, becoming overweight or crossing a tipping point of drinking or smoking. Research and make appointments with the highest-ranked and best-regarded physicians for a full physical, annual check ups, and referrals to specialists to keep an eye on any illnesses that run in the family (such as cancers). Preventing illness will keep you not only in better health to enjoy your winnings but will keep more money in your pockets.
And of course, a huge factor in health is stress. Counteract your new stressors with whatever gives you mental and spiritual solace. It could be prayer, meditation, simply a quiet escape or daily rituals.
All the money in the world can’t calm a troubled soul. But it can afford you the freedom and ability to truly find joy in doing good deeds and creating a legacy for generations to come.
Carmen Wong Ulrich is the President and Co-Founder of ALTA Wealth Management and Assistant Industry Professor in the department of Finance and Risk Engineering at NYU Polytech, Carmen Wong Ulrich is the former co-creator and host of the only national, daily personal finance television show, “On the Money,” on CNBC. She is a former editor at ‘MONEY’ magazine and currently a monthly advice columnist for ‘Good Housekeeping’, as well as a previous columnist at ‘Glamour’, ‘Latina’, ‘Essence’, and ‘Men’s Health’. Carmen also writes for ‘The New York Times’ and is the author of two books, her most recent, “The Real Cost of Living.”