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Posted: 3:58 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015

Why Hitting the Lottery Could Bankrupt You

By Clark Howard

What would you do if you won last night's $500 million Powerball jackpot?

People went crazy for last night's Powerball drawing, which was the 5th largest in U.S. lottery history. But let's take a step back and look at another recent winning for a sobering lesson in economics.

Be careful how you spend all that money!

Remember the so called "Ocean's 16" from Ocean County, N.J., who each won $3.8 million (after taxes) in an August 2013 PowerBall jackpot that grabbed everybody's attention?

Well, that's a huge amount of money. If it's well managed, it can provide comfort to you for the rest of your life. But therein lies the rub.

For most people who come into big money -- like athletes or lottery winners -- all of sudden their wants instantly skyrocket. If those lottery winners give into those wants, an analysis I read in The Detroit News predicts they will blow through $3.8 million in 6 years!

If you ever come into a large inheritance or sell a business and get a pile of money, restraint is key. I've long told people in this situation to blow 10% of it however you want. But the other 90% you treat as a nest egg to nurture.

It's easy to say, but so hard for people to do. As for me, if I won that kind of money, I would change nothing. I would still get up and come to work every day. I would just think about what charity I could give it to! But that's just me.

A final word of advice for future lottery winners: Never take the lump sum payout. You're better off taking the payout over years as a method of forced budgeting. If you worry your heirs won't get all the money you have coming to you, buy a term life insurance policy that would pay them for what you would not receive if you die prematurely.

Remember, most of us do better with basic allowances than a huge sum of money right then and there!

Meanwhile, you don't have to win the lottery or get an inheritance to come into extra cash. See some free and easy ways to search for missing money in your name.

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