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How to Win the Jackpot Lottery

When the jackpot lottery reaches an incredible amount like $1 billion, it attracts people who might not normally play. That creates a virtuous circle: ticket sales increase and the odds of someone winning the jackpot rise accordingly. But there’s more to winning than just luck, math professor Tim Chartier tells me: “A careful blend of strategy and analysis—and a little audacity,” can help you boost your chances of landing the prize money.

Purchasing multiple tickets with different combinations of numbers can improve your chances, but there is no way to guarantee a win. That’s because the probability that a single number will appear is mind-boggling: You’re actually 300 times more likely to get struck by lightning than to win the Mega Millions jackpot, Clotfelter says.

Another factor that influences the odds is how many tickets are sold. If a lot of players buy tickets, the odds decrease because each ticket has the same chance of being drawn. That’s why experts recommend playing a lesser-known game, which tends to have fewer participants and higher odds of winning.

A third factor is the state’s law on public disclosure of winners. Most states require the winner’s name to be made public, but some allow winners to remain anonymous. Those who choose to go public may want to consider setting up blind trusts or other structures to keep their names and locations private, Kovach advises. She adds that a newfound wealth can bring scammers and long-lost friends looking for a piece of the pie, so it’s important to limit contact as much as possible.

When you win the jackpot lottery, you can choose to receive your winnings in either a lump sum or an annuity payment. The annuity option distributes the total jackpot into 29 yearly payments, which are each calculated at a discount to the headline prize amount (based on interest rates). You’ll pay significant income taxes on the lump sum, while you’ll owe nothing if you take the annuity.

Whichever option you choose, you’ll need to consult a financial planner and attorney. They can help you weigh the pros and cons of each payout choice and come up with strategies to reduce your tax burden. For example, if you’re considering the annuity option, you can fund a donor-advised fund or private foundation to claim a current income tax deduction and make charitable contributions over time. NerdWallet’s lottery tax calculator can also help you calculate your expected returns. And if you’re planning to take the lump sum, be sure to speak with an accountant to determine the optimal timing for claiming your winnings.

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