You’ve compared the numbers on your multistate lottery ticket to the ones on your TV screen and they all match. You’ve also thoroughly checked your immediate environment for concealed phones, GoPro cameras, or other evidence that a friend or coworker was OK with the idea of trading away your dignity for 8,900 YouTube views.
It’s real; you’ve won 1.5 billion dollars. Now what do you do?
Your first question is “Should I pee myself, or crap my pants?” Do both, just to be safe. Once word gets out that you have $1.5 billion, you’re going to be set upon by mooching friends and distant relatives. Some of these might be put off by one form of effluvia, but not the other, and there’s no way to tell ahead of time.
Next, you’re going to want to think about receiving the lump sum payment versus the annuity. There’s no one clear answer. The annuity offers a greater payout and a lesser total tax burden, while the lump sum has advantages if you’re capable of putting together and maintaining a longterm investment plan on your own.
If you’re undecided, consider the advantages of each option that are specific to your lifestyle.
Lump Sum: You’ll have enough on hand to stage a mid-air collision between seven or eight brand-new robot-piloted Boeing 777s, not just two. When you fill your new pond with money, you don’t have to worry about the embarrassment and inevitable ribbing that ensues when your college chums’ Jetskis churn up some twenties and fifties among the bundles of hundreds at the surface. People with a net worth in the mere eight figures can walk around pantsless without risk of arrest, but actual billionaires can ditch the underwear as well. “Hamilton” tickets are a realistic get.
Annuity: your friends and relatives will accept that there’s no point in having you killed until thirty years after you’ve won. The annuity is also a good idea if you’re an immortal and keep having to “die” and come back as your own “son” or “daughter.” Any unused money at the end of the year can be burned for heat, as well as to spite the street urchins freezing just outside your window. The envy and irrational hatred dished out against you by everyone in your community is likely to arrive in smaller, more manageable installments over time. It’s also likely that your winnings will still out there waiting for you after you serve your nine-year prison sentence for that thing you did when you falsely believed that having a mere tens of millions of dollars meant you could buy your way out of anything.
Either way, it’s wise to take the $930,000,000 lump-sum or $50,000,000 first installment in the form of loose change. Potential thieves will be intimidated by the thought of rolling all of those coins for a bank deposit or hauling them to a Coinstar machine and feeding them in a handful at a time.
Don’t be stupid and try to double your winnings shooting craps at a casino. The house advantage is much lower at the blackjack tables.
All of these financial considerations will work themselves out over time. You’ll be intimidated at first, but you’ll eventually understand the subtleties of large-scale transactions and dealmaking. For instance, when NASA rejects your astronaut application because you never even made it to 11th grade and you scrawled “I can never pee if I know that Canadians are nearby” on the form, that’s just negotiation code for “honey, it’s going to cost you.”
Do share your windfall with friends and family. But don’t make commitments until you’ve carefully considered the nature of your relationships and how these people would react to a windfall. If you leave a relative a million dollars in your will, that means you won’t be around to gloat when they’ve blown it all inside of twenty months and all they’re left with is an upper body filled with impulsive, regrettable tattoos and three giraffes with no means of support. However, you will get to dangle that carrot just out of their grasp and keep jerking them around for anywhere from five to fifty years.
By the same token, don’t assume that your new circle of super-rich friends are any different from your old ones. Be on guard with Oprah. It’ll be light and cheerful conversation around her bumper pool table all evening and then she’s definitely going to try to sell you a Weight Watchers membership. Also, don’t trust the odometer reading on any old car that Jay Leno tries to sell you.
Above all: don’t let the money change who you are. Promise yourself that the only difference between Middle Class You and Obscenely Wealthy You is going to be that you’ll be chasing down and running over neighborhood squirrels in a much fancier car.
Yes, you can be a billionaire and still be a selfish, arrogant bastard with no regard for the feelings or needs of others. Network with people at political fundraisers for guidance.