Three weeks after someone hit the biggest Mega Millions jackpot in history, the winner has still not stepped forward to claim their prize, according to South Carolina lottery officials – and there might be a strategy behind the move.
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“I’m actually not surprised at all that it’s taking them some time to claim the prize,” Michael A. Silver, a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley, said on Wednesday. “You know, I think it’s a little ironic. You think you win the lottery for $1.5 billion and you never have to worry about money again. But on the controversy your money worry just went up about 1000 times.”
The winning ticket, which was sold in a KC Mart in the South Carolina town of Simpsonville, is worth about $1.5 billion in annual installments over three decades, or an $877 million lump-sum cash package. Winners have 180 days to step forward, or until April 21, according to WLTX, which first reported the news.
If the ticket is not claimed in the allotted time frame, that money automatically returns to the participating states. Each state can use that money for different purposes.
But according to Silver, it’s likely that the victor is taking the necessary time to assemble a group of trusted financial and tax advisers, attorneys and publicity experts to help them navigate potentially turbulent waters.
“Someone who’s coming into a billionaire instantaneously, they’re moving into the realm of big money,” he said. “And that’s a daunting and massive unknown.”
If the winner accepts the lump sum cash payout, the total haul would be about $491.7 million, after federal and state taxes (a 7 percent income tax in South Carolina, plus the 37 percent federal rate). Away from taxes, Silver also said victors take the time to create a budget as their expenses also increase.
“Everyone assumes it’s 100 percent a blessing and it’s just wonderful and everything’s going to be great, but there’s a lot of thought and preparation and planning that has to go into handling increased wealth like that,” Silver, a senior portfolio manager, said.
Most experts stress that if the winner gets lucky and hits all six numbers -- a 1 in 302 million chance -- they should first and foremost keep the news to themselves before hiring a trusted financial adviser to help you avoid the sudden pitfalls of almost-instantaneous wealth.