By Brad Tuttle
March 5, 2019

The Mega Millions drawing on October 23, 2018 featured the highest lottery jackpot of all time: roughly $1.5 billion.

After the historic lottery drawing, it was revealed that a winning Mega Millions ticket had been sold in South Carolina. But no one came forward to claim the record-high jackpot — until now.

Late on Monday, the South Carolina Education Lottery Commission announced that the $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot winner has finally claimed the prize. In an amazing twist of fate, the winner reportedly let someone else cut in front of the line at the store to purchase a Mega Millions ticket. The winner wouldn’t have hit the jackpot if it weren’t for this little act of kindness.

While we don’t know much else about the winner or why he or she waited so long to claim the jackpot, it seems like the big Mega Millions winner is approaching the life-changing situation wisely.

Here are the smart strategies being employed by the $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot winner.

Take the Lump Sum or Annuity?

Lottery winners have the option of receiving the jackpot as one lump sum payment or an annuity paid out over the course of 30 years. MONEY generally advises winners to take the lump sum rather than the annuity, and that’s exactly what the Mega Millions winner from South Carolina has done.

Instead of receiving $1.5 billion paid out over three decades, the big jackpot winner decided to take a one-time cash payment of $877,784,124 (before state and federal taxes are deducted). It’s the highest lottery prize ever paid to a single winner. South Carolina says that the state will receive $61 million in income taxes from the $1.5 billion jackpot winner.

Why is it better to pick the lump sum versus the annuity? For one thing, it’s nice to have all your winnings in hand, rather than have to wait for payments year after year. Perhaps more importantly, while lottery winners receive less money overall with the lump sum, investing a large portion of the lump sum could give the winners more money in the end.

As long as the Mega Millions winner actually invests a lot of the cash and doesn’t blow all of the prize money in a hurry, the lump sum is the smarter way to collect the jackpot. Considering how enormous this lottery jackpot is, the winner should have no trouble splurging on many purchases — a new house, cars, vacations, etc. — while still investing the lion’s share of the jackpot, ensuring that the fortune lasts for decades.

Who Won the Mega Millions Jackpot?

While we know the record-breaking $1.5 billion jackpot was claimed, we don’t know the name of the winner. That’s because the winner has made the smart decision to remain anonymous.

If the name of a big lottery jackpot winner gets released, that individual is often subject to endless requests for handouts and assistance from family, friends, and total strangers. Scammers, thieves, and even kidnappers could target lottery winners and their families as well. That’s why it’s wise to remain anonymous if you’re fortunate enough to win the lottery.

“It’s natural there’s going to be a strain” on many personal relationships, Jason M. Kurland, a New York attorney who is known as the “Lottery Lawyer” and who is representing the $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot winner from South Carolina, told the New York Times. “It depends on how strong your relationships are before the lottery. If you’re really close with someone and they feel they deserve a gift, it’s really difficult. It’s one of the things winners are freaked out about when they come to me.”

The big Mega Millions jackpot winner is lucky that he or she lives in South Carolina, where lottery winners are allowed to remain anonymous. Lottery winners in many other states do not have that option — their names must be published in order to claim the prize, apparently for the sake of transparency and help with lottery marketing.

Earlier this year, a $560 million Powerball winner in New Hampshire sued for the right to remain anonymous because going public “would constitute a significant invasion of her privacy,” her lawsuit stated. She won her suit, but in many other states and situations, lottery winners are not allowed to remain anonymous.

South Carolina is one of only a handful of states that don’t force lottery winners to reveal their names to the public. “We respect the winner’s decision to remain anonymous, and we will honor the winner’s wishes,” said Hogan Brown, the South Carolina lottery’s executive director.

When Is the Next Mega Millions Drawing?

If you’re hoping to become the next big lottery winner — anonymous or not — the next Mega Millions drawing is tonight: Tuesday, March 5, at 11 p.m. ET.

Tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot is nowhere near the record high: It’s estimated at $40 million right now, with a cash lump sum option of $23.8 million.

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