Here’s what it’s like to win the lottery

by | Jun 10, 2020

Here’s what it’s like to win the lottery: Yesterday, someone in Arizona paid for a $2 Mega Millions ticket and walked away with the whole $410 million jackpot.

But the advertised amount isn’t what the winner will actually end up with. Here’s why:

Before the winner can collect their winnings, they must make an important decision: Do they want to collect their winnings all at once (a lump sum) or receive smaller payments each year over a long period of time (an annuity)? Most winners choose the lump sum.

For this Mega Millions jackpot, the lump sum option reduces the prize money to $316.8 million. Then, the required 24% federal tax withholding would reduce that amount by another $76 million. Then there are state taxes. In Arizona, the withholding rate is 4.8%, which would mean another $15.2 million getting shaved off the top.

In other words, that $316.8 million lump sum would be reduced by a total of $91.2 million, leaving the winner with $225.6 million headed for their bank account. And even more, taxes would be owed come tax season. Of course, $225.6 million is no small amount (unless you’re Jeff Bezos). But the odds of actually winning the jackpot are slim, to say the least.

The chance of hitting the Mega Millions jackpot with a single ticket is miniscule: 1 in 302 million. For Powerball, the odds of winning the top prize are slightly better (but still very bad): 1 in 292 million.

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