If I Won the Lottery

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If you have a pulse, odds are good that the "If I won the lottery" daydream has crossed your mind. It probably includes thoughts of sun-filled days and carefree living. But the reality of winning the lottery is actually quite different than the fantasy.

Pedro Quezada is a name you likely didn't recognize until very recently. Just last week, this Dominican Republic-born man essentially struck gold by winning a $338 million Powerball jackpot. When asked how his life would change, the New Jersey resident replied, "It has to change. Imagine... so much money. But it will not change my heart." At the time of claiming his prize, this humble man's only plans for the money were to buy a car. After all, he said, he'd like to replace his current means of transportation -- his feet.

We often think of the good that could come from huge lottery winnings, but an overnight multimillion-dollar fortune can also yield the bad, and oftentimes the very ugly. In less time than it takes to say "jackpot," word of Quezada's winnings spread like wildfire. We learned that he owed $30,000 in back child support, which he quickly paid after securing his megamillionaire status. Anonymity is powerful, until we lack it. Pedro's life will never be the same.

Of course, the odds of a Vanna White lookalike calling out each of your Powerball picks is a long shot. But many individuals face similar situations. Anyone who inherits a large sum of money or sells a successful business can draw parallels to Quezada's story. Perhaps you've already faced a similar scenario or will encounter one in the future.

So, in the spirit of this recent lottery winner, we've come up with timeless nuggets of advice. Think of it as a handy step-by-step guide that can be applied to these types of scenarios. We'll review how to stay grounded, what to do before you collect the money, decisions you'll face when claiming your winnings, and what life will look like after payday.

Who knows? You may want to print this guide out, and save it for your lucky day.

Regardless of whether or not you strike it rich, the best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. The Motley Fool's free report "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich" names stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.

Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (42)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2013, at 5:41 PM, TMFDarwood11 wrote:

    When I read this article, I thought "Darn, I have won the lottery!"

    Working, saving for retirement and then realizing at the time of that actual retirement that those financial goals were achieved is, to me, like winning the lottery!

    That's the way it appeared when I moved beyond so called "retirement age" and realized that I had made it to the peak of that lifetime planning mountain which I have been climbing since 1963 with my first real job.

    Now, what's next? What am I going to do with my lifetime of winnings?

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2013, at 6:46 PM, strinker wrote:

    Whatever you feel like doing, gosh!

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2013, at 12:32 AM, sliderw wrote:

    How this article deserves top billing on the home page is beyond me.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2013, at 8:08 AM, NickD wrote:

    I would buy a Bugatti.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2013, at 12:41 PM, Realexpectations wrote:

    I find out about more articles on freakin facebook

    than I do on their actual website

    one of the dumbest things iv ever heard of

    i agree strinker

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2013, at 2:31 PM, TMFDarwood11 wrote:

    "Just go do it" got a lot of people into the poor house. That was the rallying cry during the housing bubble, wasn't it?

    It's amazing how many "celebrities" wind up bankrupt. These are people who made more in a year than the average American does in a lifetime.

    The lottery question has reached the point where there are now TV shows with Donald Trump coaching lottery winners, and we read about "winners" who flushed it all. "I made investments" said one, who spent a lot of it on homes and toys. Since when are these "investments?"

    The real question is "How much is enough?" Until we each come to grips with that, there will never be enough and we're likely to flush our wealth, be it achieved via the lottery or that social security check. After all, we now see seniors going into retirement carrying student loan debt and a mortgage with them.

    I think its easier to flush wealth than it is to create it. That's why so many of us have financial difficulties. I am also of the opinion that we can learn from those who had it and lost it.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2013, at 10:47 PM, BMFPitt wrote:

    I would take a million and go crazy for a year, and a few million more to start some kind of project. The rest gets invested and I live off the dividends.

    Also...two chicks at the same time, man.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2013, at 1:09 AM, SyDVooh wrote:

    Come on! Admit it! It's better to be rich and unhappy, than it is being poor and unhappy.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2013, at 1:59 AM, DUCVUONG60071 wrote:


  • Report this Comment On April 09, 2013, at 6:56 AM, dbtheonly wrote:

    Mart Twain said he'd spend 10% on fast women & good liquor. The rest he'd waste.

  • Report this Comment On April 09, 2013, at 9:20 AM, 48ozhalfgallons wrote:

    dbtheonly: Then after that he said, "A fool and his money are soon parted."

  • Report this Comment On April 09, 2013, at 9:10 PM, lwbaum wrote:

    My wife used to talk about what she'd do if she won the lottery where we live. Eventually, I looked up the average lottery jackpot and was surprised to discover that our net assets had reached twice that much. When I told her we'd earned the lottery, she didn't change anything. We continue working just as hard and saving at the same rate. It's interesting.

  • Report this Comment On April 12, 2013, at 4:08 PM, Morfax wrote:

    If I won, I would take more vacations and see more of America, maybe buy an RV and tour the country and visit all my old friends. I would probably retire earlier than 65. I would get a good tax accountant and investment advisor. I would go to Manhattan/Broadway for a week every year. The MF has helped me understand finances and investing more than any other single source. I would not blow all my winnings.

  • Report this Comment On April 12, 2013, at 5:16 PM, dbtheonly wrote:


    Was that Twain or P.T. Barnum?

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2013, at 5:40 AM, gene619 wrote:

    This article is like an info-mercial,something to stimulate your mind at 4 in the morning...well here goes,,,It's a pretty nice dream,even though you get a fraction of the pot.That first check wouldn't last too long,I'd head to 'vegas asap and have the time of my life,play the high roller tables and machines....that would be nice.You know 'live it up'.

    Illinois is one of the states that doesn't allow you to remain unanimous,that means everybody and their mother would be at your door.My perfect scenario would be to win one of those 'get paid for life' jackpots, a check a month,or one big pot with 10 or 20 winners,,..yeah,that would be nice...

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:49 PM, GaryR40 wrote:

    gene619, I live in Maryland which allows anonymity. That said, depending on the amount I win, I'd give my adult kids enough to make them shut up, use a portion to buy a modest house, i.e., not a mansion, in Hawaii for a second home, and put the rest in a foundation from which I will donate to deserving causes.

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