It's great to be rich, but fame is a bitch. So your primary mission is to claim the money without divulging your identity or having a mental breakdown. Here's how to do it:
- Don't tell anyone. The single most important rule for maintaining sanity after winning the lottery is: Do everything you can to keep your precious anonymity intact. Of course that means keeping your goddamned mouth shut. Don't share the news with your friends, neighbors, coworkers, or family. Resist even the urge to tell your spouse or significant other, at least for the time being. Otherwise you will have forever blown your one chance at being anonymous. You can always spill the beans later, after all the excitement has died down.
- Don't sign the ticket. After you write your name on that ticket, you might as well call up and announce the news to your local TV stations and newspapers. Remember that the state lottery commission will publicize the identity of every claimant. Toss the ticket into a clean Ziploc bag (to avoid spills, etc.) and temporarily stash it someplace away from excessive heat, sunlight, pets, children, roommates, coworkers, etc. Make sure it's someplace safe that you won't forget.
- Act casual. Maintain your normal routine. Continue to attend work, school, church, social functions, etc. Whatever's typical for you. When people ask you what's up, refer to rule number one.
- Make a few photocopies. At your earliest opportunity, take a trip to a 24-hour Kinko's around 2am when nobody's around and make six copies of the ticket, both front and back. Use one of the self-serve machines and take any and all bad copies with you (i.e. leave none in the trash). And before you leave, doublecheck to make sure you didn't leave the original in the machine.
- Rent a safe-deposit box. Contact your bank and see if they have any vacant safe deposit boxes, tell them you're going on a trip and need to store some documents for a few months. Make a point of asking them how much it costs, even though you couldn't care less. You're trying to keep up appearances. When you go down to the bank in person to open your box, you will probably need some ID and your bank card. Bring the ticket, along with some other (fake) papers. Don't show them the ticket, obviously. Loose lips sink ships. Stash the ticket in the box and put the box key on your keyring. Don't lose the key.
- Open a blind trust. Hire a tax attorney. Once you're a client, the lawyer is legally bound to maintain your confidentiality. Tell them you want to open a blind trust in order to claim the lottery prize as an anonymous trustee. Provide three photocopies of your ticket. All contact with the lottery commission will be made through your lawyer.
- Contact a financial planner. Rich people don't tend to stay that way without a little planning. If you have the choice between annual payments and a single large payout, you should consider the big jackpot. It's less money total, but it's probably about the same as the annuity if you take the lump sum and invest it in interest-bearing savings bonds. However, the single large payout may incur a higher tax rate. Ask your tax experts.
- Tie up any financial loose ends. No reason to procrastinate now. Pay all those traffic fines and parking tickets. Catch up on alimony or child support payments. Settle any debts. Instruct your financial planner to scrub those black marks off your credit score, but don't cancel your credit cards -- that'll screw up your rating. And don't think it won't matter anymore. It matters.
- Draft or update your last will and testament. If there were ever a time for estate planning, it's now. Be sure to remember us by including The Rotten Codicil in your will.
- Move away. And not just out of town. We're talking out of state, possibly out of the country. You can't expect to keep a lid on your secret forever; information wants to be free. Maybe buy a modest house with a good alarm system in a gated community with a private security force. That ought to minimize the solicitors at your door. Also be sure to get an unlisted phone number.
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