What to do if you win the lottery

When you win the lottery, everyone will lie to you. Except me. Here’s what to do.

Ramit Sethi

Last week, Mavis Wanczyk, a 53-year-old woman in Massachusetts, won the largest Powerball lottery in history: $758.7 million. She chose the lump-sum option of $480.5 million, or $336 million after taxes.


Now I am going to teach you what to do if you ever win the lottery, a massive inheritance, or any other huge infusion of cash.

1/3 of lottery winners go bankrupt and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let that happen to you. So just listen and do what I say, please.

RULE #1: Shut The Hell Up 

I love you, but please shut your mouth right now. Do not tell anyone. Do not tell your boss, your loud-mouthed cousin with the mustache, or even your kids. You can tell 1 person: your spouse. And then tell them this: Shut The Hell Up. This is your new motto for the next 6 months.

Our friend Mavis decided to tell her boss (“She’s already called her boss and said, ‘I will not be coming back.’”), the press, and therefore the whole world. This means that random people are already coming out of the woodwork and the police have been watching her house.

Here are the scariest people who will try to find you, in descending order:

  • Scammy “wealth managers” who will bleed you dry
  • Uncle Joe, who wants you to invest in his stupid fucking idea for a themed bar
  • Kidnappers who will hold you for ransom

DON’T DO IT. You can always choose to reveal your new wealth later once you have the proper precautions set up. But once the genie is out of the bottle, you can never put it back in. Be quiet and tell no one for now.

RULE #2: You have 2 new best friends: your lawyer and your financial advisor

I get it, you don’t have a lawyer. Now you do. You call up the biggest, most white-collar law firm in the country (just google “highest paid law firm”) and tell them you want a lawyer to help with taxes and trusts. When they ask why, tell them “I’ve recently come into some money and I’d like someone to coordinate my affairs.” They will charge you $500 or $600/hour. Pay it, happily.

This lawyer is now your conduit with the outside world. Who contacts the lottery to tell them about the winning ticket? Not you (see Rule #1). Your lawyer will handle that. Who do they make the check out to? Is it to you? Oh hell no. Your lawyer will set up an anonymous trust for you.

Your other new best friend is your financial advisor. Considering I hate most financial advisors and most of you don’t need one (see page 153 of my book for why), this might seem unusual. However, you just received millions of dollars out of the blue. It’s worth a few thousand bucks to get set up. Go to to find a fee-only financial advisor who can guide you through the next few months of setting up your new financial systems.

I have a list of questions to ask financial advisors in my book and signs to watch out for. The one thing you want to look out for — the one sign you’ve chosen a salesperson, not a real advisor — is if they take a percentage of your assets. DO NOT sign up with some nutty wealth advisor who sweet talks you with a beautiful British accent. Just follow my directions from the book and your advisor can help you with the rest.

RULE #3: Do not change anything (with 3 exceptions)

You know all those movies about how a group of criminals gets away with a heist, but one idiot gets the entire crew caught because he goes out the next day and buys a fur coat and a $200,000 car? Do not do that.

For 6 months, don’t change anything. No new car, no extravagant trips, don’t quit your job. Your lawyer and financial advisor will help you get set up. This falls under Advice Everyone Says But Nobody Takes: When someone dies or you get a huge amount of sudden money, do not change anything for 6 months.

If you really need to quit your job, when people ask what you’re doing now, your line is, “I’m doing some consulting.” However, if you were a cashier at 7-11, I’m not sure if people are going to believe you’re a consultant. Anyway, your call.

I know most of you won’t follow this advice, so I came up with a list of acceptable things to spend money on:

  1. Extra guac at Chipotle
  2. Taco Bell Mexican Pizza
  3. I also hereby authorize you to buy every product from

RULE #4: Sign up for the IWT newsletter

Most importantly, sign up for my newsletter at I Will Teach You To Be Rich to learn how to live a Rich Life. Tell your financial advisor it’s free.

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  1. Dan

    You have this wrong "RULE #2: You have 2 new best friends: your lawyer and your financial advisor"
    They are not your friend and think about hiring another lawyer and financial advisor to check the first ones work.

  2. stacey

    What about paying off pre-existing debt? Should this also wait for at least 6 months or should this be a priority?

    • Jeremy

      I thought about that for a moment too, but two things regarding that:

      1) Paying off your debt doesn't change anything about your lifestyle, and would therefore not be noticed (except MAYBE paying off a mortgage). No one knows how much or little debt you have (or at least, they shouldn't). As soon as you've got the cash, if you want to pay off debt then do it.

      2) It doesn't matter. You're now absurdly wealthy. Your few thousand, or even few hundred thousand in debt is an afterthought. It doesn't sound like it now because you didn't win and it's not an afterthought, but if you had over $300 million anything about your old financial burden is completely irrelevant.

  3. Sam

    I'm pretty sure I read the same article (post) on reddit a couple of months back.

    Thought I would share i.e give credit where its due!

  4. Jimmy

    I would give ramit my winnings. Why? Because he's funny and isn't afraid of the Guac.

  5. Doug

    So would you pay off the thing were setup, pay the mortgage, or put the cash into an investment to get return hopefully more later?
    Assuming you did not win enough to live on a yacht.

  6. Vikki

    So what if you win the big one from Publisher's Clearing House? They give you the real check right then and there, and you're being filmed, and you're going to be on the local news, and that clip will be on YouTube. So, how would you handle the money then? Put the unsigned check in a Safe Deposit Box while you do the other steps?

  7. Anon on purpose

    Funny… I didn't win a lottery but I did get a big-for-me windfall… don't tell anyone except hubs, put a chunk into vanguard target funds, paid off the student loans, and bought one of your courses 🙂 told everyone I'm consulting and ghost writing, too. And quietly set up an llc to buy investment property. A friend found out I was buying a 2f house – wondered how – and I told her I had an outside investor 🙂

    • Samad

      Nicely done

  8. Nishtha

    I intuitively knew that you should not tell anyone when you suddenly make a huge sum of money, and also do not change anything immediately.
    Never reducing the importance of what you said, just being happy that now I can actually follow that!!

  9. asrai

    unfortunately they are forced to tell the press. At least in Canada, part of the deal of accepting the money is announcing it to the press. For smaller jackpots they just put your picture in the paper and your picture on local lotto ticking selling places. For bigger ones they hand over the giant check on TV and announce your name. repeatedly.

    My SIL won a million dollars. Tax free in Canada. They blew it within a year.