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What is the first thing you should do if you win the lottery?

Check That Your Ticket is a Winner

The very first thing you should do if you think you may have won the lottery is to double check that your ticket is actually a winner. With the excitement and shock of thinking you may have just won millions, it can be easy to overlook something simple. Carefully check the winning numbers against your ticket to ensure that you have a match. Nothing would be more disappointing than prematurely celebrating a lottery win you didn’t actually have.

Sign the Winning Ticket

Once you have confirmed that you are holding a winning lottery ticket, immediately sign it. Writing your name on the back of the ticket marks it as yours and prevents anyone else from trying to claim your prize. Many lottery winners have made the mistake of losing unsigned tickets or having them stolen by people hoping to cash in on the prize. Don’t let that happen to you. Sign the ticket clearly and make sure any other people you are splitting the prize with also sign it. Get it confirmed that the winning ticket is yours before proceeding.

Protect the Ticket

Now that the ticket is signed, make sure to keep it somewhere very safe. Treat a winning lottery ticket like cash, because it is essentially a promise for money. Avoid carrying it around with you unnecessarily, and do not display the ticket publicly. The safest place to keep the ticket is in a safety deposit box at your bank. If you do not have a safety deposit box, keep the ticket somewhere secure in your home until you are able to claim the prize. Make sure a trusted family member or advisor also knows where the ticket is stored. Losing a winning ticket or having it stolen means losing out on your lottery winnings completely.

Get Professional Advice

Before claiming your lottery winnings, assemble a team of trusted financial professionals to advise you. Contact an attorney, accountant, and financial advisor to provide guidance. This team should be able to help you manage issues like the timing of claiming your prize, tax obligations, insulating your identity if desired, and safely investing the money you receive. You want to be very thoughtful about all financial decisions surrounding your lottery win, and professionals can guide you to making smart choices. Do not rush to claim the full amount until you have spoken to financial experts.

Decide on Cash or Annuity

Most lottery winners are given the choice between receiving their full winnings in one lump cash sum, or having the winnings paid out annually over many years through an annuity. There are benefits to each approach that your financial team can help analyze. A lump cash sum gives you immediate access to all the funds, allows more control over investments, and avoids long-term inflation eating away at annual payments. Annuities provide a steady stream of income for life and can protect you from overspending your entire win at once. Carefully weigh the options before deciding.

Plan to Pay Taxes

Remember that your lottery winnings will be subject to taxes like regular income. Immediately set aside at least 30-40% of the cash prize for federal and state taxes that will be due at the end of the tax year. Failing to plan for this tax obligation is one of the most common mistakes lottery winners make. Work with your tax advisor to calculate estimated taxes, file for extensions, and pay installments through the year if necessary. The last thing you want is to owe a massive tax bill you do not have funds set aside for.

Pay Off Debts

Before running out and making expensive purchases, take the opportunity to pay off any existing debts you have. Get completely out of debt except perhaps a manageable mortgage. Pay off credit cards, personal loans, student loans, car loans, and any other outstanding balances. Being debt-free will put you in a stronger financial position going forward and let you really maximize enjoying your new wealth. Paying debts also avoids having interest continue accruing on what you owe.

Set Up Accounts

If you accept the full lump cash amount, you will probably need to open some new banking and investment accounts. You may want to spread your funds across multiple banks to stay under FDIC insurance limits. Work with your financial advisor to find the right mix of savings, checking, money market, CD, and investment accounts to safely store your new wealth. Having the right structure and features for accounts from the start will make managing your money simpler.

Create a Budget

Hopefully your financial advisors stressed the importance of creating and sticking to a reasonable budget with your lottery winnings. Having a sudden influx of millions can lead some people to overspend dangerously. To maintain financial stability, create a detailed budget mapping out your income sources and expenses. Include savings and investments in the budget as well. You can adjust and evolve your budget over time. But sticking to your budget can help prevent burning through your lottery fortune too fast.

Pay One-Time Costs Upfront

Upon winning the lottery, you may choose to make some larger one-time purchases you have been dreaming about. This could include buying a house, car, jewelry, dream vacation, etc. Try to get these larger purchases out of the way early, while still following your budget. Paying for them upfront prevents interest from accruing over time on a mortgage, car loan, or credit card. Take care of any big-ticket expenses wisely at the start.

Invest For the Long-Term

Instead of overly splurging on luxury items, try to invest a substantial portion of your lottery winnings in ways that will provide income and growth over decades to come. Work with financial advisors to create a customized investment portfolio involving stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, etc. While you can enjoy some of the money now, invest a good amount with the future in mind too. Living off investment earnings can prevent you from blowing through your capital too fast.

Give Back As Desired

Many lottery winners choose to give some of their wealth back to causes important to them. You may want to give to charity, your community, your school, a hospital, your church, etc. Decide if philanthropic giving is part of your lottery plans, and how much to give back. Research non-profit organizations to find ones that align with your values. Giving back is important to some lottery winners and can be done wisely.

Limit Who You Tell

It may be tempting to shout your big lottery news from the rooftops. But for your own safety and privacy, carefully consider who you decide to tell about your windfall. Scam artists and long lost “relatives” can come asking for money. Jealous people may resent your good fortune. And publicity could compromise your privacy going forward. Keep the news very limited at first for security. You can always share more over time after putting protections in place.

Hire Security If Needed

Major lottery winners sometimes encounter risks like harassment, scams, theft, and lawsuits. If you feel very exposed after your lottery win, consider hiring trusted security personnel to keep you and your family safe. You want to be able to celebrate your financial freedom without fear. Security staff can provide protection, screen suspicious communications, watch over your home, safely transport you and your family, and respond to any threatening situations that arise. Peace of mind may be worth the price.

Avoid Overly Lavish Lifestyle Changes

It can be tempting to want to live like a celebrity upon winning the lottery, making huge expensive changes to your lifestyle. But being flashy with your wealth can attract the wrong kinds of attention, as well as lead you to burn through your money too fast. Maintain a reasonable lifestyle you can sustain for decades to come. Make some upgrades to your home, cars, vacations and such. But avoid radically changing your lifestyle in a way you may regret later.

Don’t Rush Major Decisions

A jackpot win may prompt you to want to make other big life changes right away, like quitting your job, moving somewhere new, or getting married and starting a family. But don’t rush into additional major decisions too quickly. Give yourself time to thoroughly think through any life changes with care, rather than acting impulsively. Consult your team of professionals for their advice. Take time to carefully weigh where winning the lottery fits in with your overall vision for the future.

Assemble Your Team Carefully

Since your financial professionals will be so key to guiding your decisions after winning the lottery, take care in assembling your team. Vet each advisor thoroughly for their credentials, experience, and track record with clients. Make sure you can establish strong trusting relationships with your attorney, accountant, financial planner, banker, and anyone else you engage. Do not just randomly select professionals you find but do your homework to identify the best team.

Remain Discreet

Sudden wealth can change how people think and act towards you, like long lost friends and relatives asking for money or favors. Try to keep your lottery win discreet when possible. Don’t feel obligated to discuss specifics with anyone beyond your trusted inner circle. Remain focused, humble, and wise with who you share your good fortune with. Letting everyone know you won millions can invite stress into your life you do not need.

Learn to Say No

When others find out about your lottery success, get comfortable firmly saying no when needed. Whether dealing with requests for money, investment pitches, business proposals, or charitable causes, you need to be selective. Do not feel pressured to give handouts or make investments you are unsure of just because you seem wealthy. Say no firmly and stand by your decisions. You worked hard for this success via the lottery.

Seek Out Financial Education

Take the opportunity to learn as much as possible about handling wealth wisely. Read books, take courses, attend seminars, or find a mentor who can advise you about investing, budgeting, taxes, protecting assets, and maximizing your long-term prosperity. The more you learn about financial management, the more your lottery winnings will work in your favor over your lifetime. Make financial education a priority.

Maintain a Normal Routine

As much as possible, try not to let your lottery wealth change your daily routine too drastically. Keep working, socializing and carrying on with activities you enjoy. Altering your lifestyle too much can lead to problems like boredom and isolation. Use the bulk of the winnings for financial security, while still enjoying a normal steady schedule focused on health, family and interests. Having structure and purpose beyond the money can guide your new life.

Do Not Go Overboard on New Homes/Cars

Use restraint when considering buying flashy new homes, cars, boats and other luxury items. Make modest upgrades in housing and vehicles to reward yourself reasonably. But avoid buying multiple expensive homes around the world and 10 luxury vehicles. Those kinds of excessive purchases can be a huge money drain and maintenance headache. Make major new purchases fit your actual needs and abilities first.

Do Not Neglect Your Health

With a financial windfall, it may be tempting to stop focusing on daily health habits. But do not let winning the lottery derail eating nutritiously, exercising, getting checkups, taking medications as prescribed, and caring for your mental health. In fact, use your good luck to double down on health-promoting habits and activities to prolong your life. Your health ultimately matters more than any amount of money.

Have Fun Within Reason

Be sure to genuinely enjoy your lottery success! Have fun using your winnings to make positive changes in your life within moderation. Upgrade your home, buy nice things, travel more, pursue hobbies, give to causes and live comfortably without going overboard. Having fun and creating happy memories is a major perk of winning the lottery. Just maintain balance and perspective.


Winning the lottery is a dream come true. But you want that dream to last and not turn into a nightmare. Be extremely careful in the early days after your win to make wise financial decisions and avoid safety risks. Get professional guidance, invest wisely, plan for taxes, keep a low profile, be discreet, upgrade moderately, and learn all you can. With smart moves after your lottery success, the money can positively impact you and your family for the rest of your lives. Just use good judgement during a potentially chaotic time, and your windfall can secure your future for decades to come.

Key Step Reason
Verify the ticket is truly a winner Avoid celebrating prematurely
Sign the winning ticket immediately Prevents theft by others
Keep ticket very secure Do not lose this valuable item
Get guidance from financial professionals Make wise choices about your windfall
Carefully decide cash or annuity Consider the pros and cons of each
Pay necessary taxes right away Avoid penalties and interest
Pay off all debts as soon as possible Be debt-free and avoid interest
Open appropriate new accounts Have the right structure to manage your money
Create and follow a budget Avoid overspending through discipline
Make desired large purchases early Avoid interest by paying one-time costs upfront
Invest a substantial portion for the long-term Ensure continual growth and income