Mega Millions: Should Winner Take Annuity or Lump Sum?


"Whoever wins, they should go thank God, and then the second person they should thank is Ben Bernanke because he just gave them an extra $90 million," Goolsbee said.

This calculation only changes when interest rates rise, and since the Fed chairman has indicated he's not raising rates until at least 2015, Goolsbee said the choice is clear.

Of course, there is the matter of self-restraint. Can you trust yourself not to spend all that money if you have access to it? Consider the cautionary tale of Jack Whitaker, who won $314.9 million in the Powerball lottery in 2002. At the time, Whitaker, a West Virginia businessman, was the largest single jackpot winner ever. He went for the cash option of $170 million, and after taxes, ended up with $114 million.

But after several high profile brushes with the law, including large cash robberies, Whitaker lost most of the money, and was the subject of several lawsuits. The Lottery Post dubbed him "the un-luckiest lottery winner ever."

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