Suppose You Won the $355M Mega Millions Lottery Jackpot: What Next?

Mega Millions
WATCH A Dollar and a Dream

It had to take a whole lot of luck to win Tuesday night's big $355 million Mega Millions jackpot drawing against astronomical odds.

But guess what? If you picked numbers 15, 47, 4, 25, 8 and mega number 42, out of all the people who lined up in 41 states and the District of Columbia, you did it.

So congratulations. Now, what do you do next?

First of all, you won't ever see the full $355 million. Off the top, the lottery withholds 25 percent for federal taxes, and then another 6 or 7 percent for those who have state taxes, which vary by location. And you still could owe many millions more.

Lee McDaniels won $5 million in September. On Tuesday, he was relaxing on a golf course outside Atlanta.

"After taxes and everything," he said, "I got about $2.8 million."

His advice for the big $355 million winner? Take some time to get your affairs together, study up and get a financial advisor.

"I would just take about a month before I would do anything," he said.

Margaret DeFrancisco of the Georgia Lottery Corp. had more advice.

"Change your phone number and learn how to say no," she said.

Then, there's always the question of whether you should take the annuity or the much lower one-time payment?

Financial analyst Ray Lucia said that, for purposes of this daydream and this huge jackpot, "I'm going to take the annuity payment of about $9 million a year, net of tax."

For the $355 million jackpot, the annuity would pay $13.6 million each year for the next 26 years, so you won't be able to spend all of your winnings at once.

Jackpot Grows to $355 Million

The jackpot grew to such a huge sum because Friday night's drawing failed to produce a winner for the multi-state lottery's top prize, which was estimated to be $290 million.

By Tuesday, the jackpot had reached $355 million after 15 consecutive drawings that started Nov. 12.

Mega Millions jackpots begin with $12 million and roll over to the next drawing until there is a winner.

A winner of the jackpot may receive the prize in a cash option of about $208.3 million.

Other smaller monetary prizes can range from $2 to $250,000, depending on how many numbers are matched.

The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever won was $390 million in March 2007, according to the Mega Millions website.

Big Lottery Dreams

Although the odds of winning Mega Millions' top prize are about 1 in 176 million, that hasn't stopped people from dreaming big.

"I'm going to retire ... you can believe me," Mega Millions player Johnny Bethea said.

"When you see me I'm gonna be in Argentina somewhere," he added.

Across 41 states, the nation's capital, and even the U.S. Virgin Islands, players have lined up for a chance at the big money.

"It's exciting. You think, 'What am I going to do in my plane, where am I going to go, how big a house will I live in.' It's a level of fantasy we all engage in, somebody will win that, it could be you," said Emily Oster, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Winning Strategies?

Some Mega Millions players told ABC News they were picking numbers from birthdays to home addresses.

"I won the lottery before with four numbers," lottery player Tracy Wingfield said.

Mathematicians and lottery officials said that the odds of winning are always the same regardless of how many people play because they always draw from the same set of numbers.

Five numbers are picked from a set of balls numbered 1 to 56 and one mega number is drawn from a set of balls numbered 1 to 46.

Letting the computer choose your numbers or quick picks does not necessarily increase your chances of winning.

Statistically, it doesn't matter and playing the same number time after time doesn't help you win any faster.

Experts also said it's a misconception that your chances are better if you live outside a big city.

New York state leads the way with 23 Mega Millions winners and more than half of those winners came from New York City.

"I have had people say they don't buy tickets in Atlanta, that they actually drive out of town. It's all one giant computer system, so it doesn't matter," said DeFrancisco of the Georgia Lottery.

But some players such as seven-time lottery winner Richard Lustig have come up with their own winning method.

"Most people buy a $1 ticket and win $10, and they put the $10 in their pocket," Lustig said in an October interview with "Those people are playing the game wrong. Instead, he said, if you win $10, you should buy $11 worth of tickets because "if you lose, you only lost a $1."

Using this method, Lustig won $98,000 in a Fantasy 5 game and $842,000 in 2002.

Whatever the strategy used to win, the possibilities seem infinite for would-be winners.

"Go buy an island ... in the Caribbean, that's the plan," player Camden Ahlberg said.

ABC News' Michael S. James contributed to this report.