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How does an annuity pay out for lottery?

Winning the lottery can be an incredibly exciting and life-changing event. However, it also comes with some important financial decisions to make. One of the biggest choices for major lottery winners is whether to take the winnings in a lump sum payment or as an annuity paid out over many years.

What is an annuity payment for lottery winnings?

An annuity is a financial product that provides fixed payments to an individual at regular intervals, typically monthly or yearly. For lottery winnings, an annuity arrangement means the lottery organizers will make payments to the winner periodically over a guaranteed number of years.

For example, the winner may receive annual payments over 20 or 30 years. The annuity payments are calculated based on the total jackpot amount and then invested by the lottery organizers to fund those future payments.

When you choose an annuity, you do not receive the full jackpot amount upfront in one lump sum. Instead, you get a portion of the total amount annually over the annuity term. The lottery organizers make the annuity payments on a set schedule, so you have a reliable stream of income for many years.

Benefits of annuity payments

There are several potential benefits to receiving lottery winnings as an annuity:

  • Regular income – Annuities provide a predictable, fixed income you can count on during the payout period. This makes financial planning and budgeting easier.
  • Hedge against overspending – Studies show lump sum lottery winners are more likely to spend recklessly or make poor investment decisions. Annuities protect against overspending by spreading payments over time.
  • Potentially larger payout – Money paid out annually has more time to earn interest. So the total amount received over an annuity term may exceed the lump sum.
  • Tax advantages – Annuity payments are typically taxed annually as regular income. This may result in lower overall taxes compared to a single lump sum payment.

For these reasons, financial experts often recommend annuities as the smarter choice for lottery winners. However, annuities do have some drawbacks to consider.

Downsides of annuity payments

Here are some of the key disadvantages of an annuity payout for lottery winnings:

  • No flexibility or control – You must adhere to the lottery’s set payment schedule. This offers little flexibility compared to a lump sum if your needs change.
  • Unable to access full amount immediately – Choosing an annuity means you cannot access or invest the full jackpot right away. This may not meet financial goals like paying off debts or making major purchases.
  • Lower return potential – While annuities offer predictable income, they may earn lower investment returns than adequately invested lump sums.
  • Inflation risk – Fixed annuity payments don’t adjust for inflation. So their real purchasing power declines as prices rise over the years.
  • Counterparty risk – Lottery annuities depend on the organizers’ long-term ability to make payments. Though unlikely, interruptions could occur due to financial troubles.

Overall, the choice depends heavily on your financial situation. Annuities tend to work better for discipline and security. Lump sums offer more flexibility and growth potential.

How are annuity payments calculated?

If you win a major lottery jackpot and opt for annuity payments, the organizers will calculate your annual payment amounts based on several factors:

  • Jackpot amount – The advertised jackpot is the starting point. For example, a $1 billion dollar jackpot.
  • Payout duration – Lotteries allow you to select a payout schedule, usually over 20 or 30 annual payments. Longer durations result in smaller annual amounts.
  • Interest rates – Annuities earn interest, allowing payments to be made over time. Higher rates increase payment sizes.
  • Payments per year – Most annuities make payments annually. But some lotteries offer semi-annual or monthly installments.

The lottery will invest the lump sum jackpot and make annual principal and interest payments based on this chosen schedule. So your annual pre-tax payment equals:

Annual payment = [Total jackpot amount x Interest rate] / Number of payments

For example, a $10 million jackpot invested at a 2% interest rate with 20 annual payments would provide roughly $560,000 per year before taxes.

Factors that determine payment amounts

The main factors that influence annuity payment sizes include:

Jackpot size

Obviously, the bigger the jackpot, the larger each annuity check will be. Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots often climb over $500 million, enabling huge annual payouts.

Payout duration

Longer payout periods result in smaller annual amounts, while shorter terms increase them. For a $100 million jackpot, a 10 year annuity may pay $12 million annually, compared to $5 million over 20 years.

Interest rates

Higher interest rates earned by the lottery organizers means larger annuity payments. Current rates are relatively low, limiting this growth factor.

Payment frequency

More frequent installments reduce individual payment sizes, while less frequent payments increase them. Semi-annual or monthly schedules have smaller amounts than annual payouts.

Taxes will also significantly reduce annuity payments. State and federal taxes typically take 25-40% off the annual pre-tax amounts. This must be factored in when estimating spendable income.

Standard annuity options

Lotteries provide winners with a choice of annuity terms. The two most common options are:

20-year annuity

This schedule is offered by nearly all lotteries. It provides annual payments over two decades. Each payment is roughly 5% of the total jackpot (before taxes and interest). This option offers larger annual amounts compared to longer terms.

30-year annuity

Some lotteries, like Powerball and MegaMillions, offer annual payments over 30 years. This reduces each payment to about 3.5% of the jackpot initially. But the overall earnings may be higher over the full term.

Both options let you leave a financial legacy with continued payments after your death. Your heirs will receive any remaining payments owed.

Special annuity choices

A few state lotteries provide unique annuity terms that winners can choose:

Lifetime annuity

Offered in a handful of states, this bases payments on your life expectancy. So you receive annual installments until death, no matter how long you live. This ensures earnings if you outlive a set term.

Lump sum + annuity

Some lotteries let you take a portion in a lump sum upfront and the remainder as an annuity. This provides immediate cash while locking in future payments.

Deferred annuity

Available in a few states, this allows you to receive a lump sum initially and opt for annuity payments later. You may need to elect the annuity within 12-18 months.

These alternatives allow more flexibility. Check if your state lottery offers advanced annuity choices when claiming a major jackpot.

Estimating annual payment sizes

Wondering just how much you can expect from a lottery annuity? Here are some examples to illustrate potential annual payment amounts:

$500 million jackpot

  • 20-year annuity – $25 million per year
  • 30-year annuity – $16.5 million per year

$1 billion jackpot

  • 20-year annuity – $50 million per year
  • 30-year annuity – $33 million per year

Remember, taxes will cut these pre-tax amounts by 25-40% or more. Financial advisors recommend conservatively estimating after-tax income to avoid overspending.

Should you choose the annuity?

The choice between an annuity and lump sum boils down to your goals and personality. Consider these key factors:

  • Desire for stability – Annuities provide steady, reliable income for life. This makes sense if you want financial security.
  • Concern over reckless spending – Annuities protect against squandering a lump sum and running out of money.
  • Comfort with investments – Lump sums require actively managing and investing your windfall.
  • Need for flexibility – Lump sums allow you to use your winnings as needed, while annuities have set payment schedules.
  • Tax implications – Annuities spread taxation over years. Lump sums could push you into higher tax brackets.
  • Estate planning – Remaining annuity payments pass to heirs after your death.

Consulting a financial planner can help analyze your situation. But ultimately, you need to decide which option best suits your priorities and brings peace of mind.

Using annuity payments responsibly

If you opt for the annuity, it’s crucial to use this income wisely. Here are some tips:

  • Live below your means – Limit spending to a fraction of each payment. This prevents burning through your earnings.
  • Pay off debts – Eliminate credit card, mortgage and other debts to secure your finances.
  • Invest conservatively – Put a portion of each payment into conservative investments to hedge inflation.
  • Setup a trust – Protect your income by establishing a trust to manage payments discreetly.
  • Involve professionals – Hire financial advisors, tax experts and lawyers to protect your money.
  • Help judiciously – Be cautious about helping family and friends to avoid freeloaders or large requests. Set limits.
  • Keep perspective – Don’t let the payments change you or your relationships. Maintain normal habits and pursuits.

While hitting the jackpot may seem like unlimited wealth, discipline and restraint are still essential with an annuity. Making consistent, smart choices enables your winnings to provide lasting security and happiness.

Can you sell or forfeit lottery annuity payments?

What if you change your mind down the road or need a large lump sum right away? There are a few options if you want to take your remaining lottery payments in cash:

Lottery lump sum buyout

Most lotteries let winners forfeit remaining annuity payments for a one-time lump sum. This is quickest but provides the lowest payout. You typically receive just the principal cash value left, forfeiting all future interest.

Court settlement buyout

You can negotiate a buyout and petition a court for approval. This involves finding an investor willing to provide a lump sum in exchange for taking over your annuity. The payout may be 15-25% higher than the lottery’s offer.

Secondary market sale

This involves selling your rights to remaining payments to an investor. Companies like J.G. Wentworth and Seneca One specialize in purchasing lottery annuities. Payouts are often 105-115% of the cash value.

These options let you cash in future payments for a present lump sum. But you will sacrifice a significant portion of your total winnings to do so.

Are lottery annuities guaranteed for life?

State-run lotteries stand behind the annuity payments and guarantee them for life. Even if the lottery organization goes bankrupt, states set aside money to cover prize obligations. So you need not worry about interruptions or missed payments.

Private third-party lotteries, like Publishers Clearing House, may purchase annuity contracts from insurance companies to fund prizes. In this case, annuity guarantees depend on the financial strength of the insurer. Strong companies like A.M. Best A-rated insurers pose little risk of default.

In short, lottery annuity payments are as rock-solid as the U.S. or state governments’ creditworthiness. There’s minimal risk of payments stopping due to default.


Receiving a major lottery jackpot is a unique opportunity to secure your finances for life. Opting for annuity payments provides a steady, reliable income stream over many years. This allows you to live comfortably, help family, give back charitably, and leave an estate. While lump sums provide more flexibility and control, they require great responsibility. For most winners, the annuity presents a smarter path for managing a life-changing windfall and ensuring lasting legacy.