If You Win Mega Millions or Powerball, Should You Take the Cash Payout?

iStock.com/mphillips007
iStock.com/mphillips007

Mega Millions has reached a record-breaking jackpot of $1.6 billion, which means your individual chances of taking home the winnings are less than one in 300,000,000. (And, amazingly, Powerball is currently at a not-too-shabby $620 million.) But it doesn't hurt to be prepared: If your ticket matches the winning numbers, here's the first decision you need to make before your life changes.

While $1.6 billion is the number that's being advertised, Mega Millions won't be handing over a check for that amount to the winner. Whoever holds the winning lottery ticket will be given two options: They can collect their winnings as a one-time lump sum that's less than the value of the total jackpot (in this case, it would be $904,900,000), or they can receive the full amount in annual installments stretched out over 29 years. Winners who choose the installment or annuity plan will be given one large payment upfront followed by checks that grow by five percent each year.

Collecting the money and running is tempting, and it's the option that most lottery winners end up choosing. But according to money experts, that's the wrong move—not only because you're getting less money in the long run, but because it leaves you vulnerable to bad luck and poor financial planning. "If you get a huge lump sum, it's easier to make a mistake, whereas if you choose the annuity, then at least if you mess up and blow the first year's worth, you have another chance," financial planner Nick Coleman told CNBC last year.

Even Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban agrees that annuity is the safer bet. In 2016, he told the Dallas Morning News that it helps winners avoid blowing all their winnings at once.

No matter which option winners choose, they can't avoid losing a sizable chunk of their prize to taxes. After state and federal taxes, the lump sum of the latest Mega Millions jackpot will come out to between $607,000,000 and $687,724,000—and that's not including what the winner will have to pay come tax season. But if they opt for the annuity plan they'll end up with $1 to $1.2 billion after 29 years.

Scam Alert: Calls, Emails, or Texts About Government Stimulus Checks Are Bogus

Stimulus check scams are circulating.
Stimulus check scams are circulating.
anyaberkut/iStock via Getty Images

The federal government is currently in the process of distributing stimulus checks to taxpayers as part of a $2 trillion effort to bolster the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. While no action or effort is needed on the part of citizens, some people might receive calls, emails, or texts prompting them to offer additional information.

Naturally, it’s a scam. According to Business Insider, the Treasury Department is cautioning taxpayers that any entity purporting to be affiliated with the government and asking for their personal data for the purposes of issuing the stimulus check is fraudulent.

On their website, the department states that any solicitation for information or offer to hasten delivery of the check in exchange for a fee is not coming from the government, which usually communicates via the United States Postal Service. Instead, it would be an attempt to steal your private banking, credit card, or other information.

It’s also possible some scammers are mailing out bogus stimulus checks in an effort to prompt recipients to call and offer private information. Since the checks will take weeks to arrive, you should eye such correspondence with suspicion.

Many stimulus checks will be remitted via direct deposit if the IRS has that information on file from a resident’s 2018 or 2019 tax returns. If not, the Treasury will soon have a method to enter that information online. More details are expected in the coming days.

For the moment, the one beneficial online resource regarding stimulus checks is an online calculator that can help determine the amount you can expect to receive. No private information is required.

[h/t Business Insider]

Coronavirus Stimulus Checks Are Coming: Here's How to See If You Qualify

Most Americans will soon be receiving a stimulus check.
Most Americans will soon be receiving a stimulus check.
cabania/iStock via Getty Images

After days of deliberation and debate, the federal government appears to be ready to enact a stimulus package that offers financial assistance to Americans affected by the current coronavirus public health crisis. How much you’ll get—or if you’re eligible to get anything at all—requires sharing a little bit of information.

Fortunately, the Washington Post is helping make that easy. The site has posted a calculator that can determine your eligibility for the stimulus check based on your marital status, adjusted gross income, and number of children.

The basics? Those making $75,000 or less per year will receive a check for $1200. If you make up to $99,000, you’re still eligible, but $5 is shaved off for every $100 made above $75,000.

A married couple will receive $2400 provided their adjusted gross income is below $150,000. Adjusted checks will go out to couples making up to $198,000. Married couples will receive $500 for each child in the household. Single parents can make up to $112,500 a year and still receive the $1200 check, plus $500 for each child.

In this age of social distancing, some are wondering whether it would be better to get direct deposit for these funds rather than have to visit a bank. The government will use direct deposit, but that information has to be available on your 2019 tax return. If you haven’t filed yet, your 2018 return will be used for your banking information, as well as to determine your income and household status.

It could take several weeks for all the checks to be distributed. While some may receive them in early April, others might not get theirs for several weeks. And while it's possible more checks may be coming, nothing has been made official.

[h/t Washington Post]

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