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Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


Who needs a job if you win the lottery?

Ann-Marie Francis had to check five times to see if it was really happening – her Lotto-Quebec picks were in fact the winning numbers last weekend, and just like that, she became $55 million richer.

Chances are she has already done a few things right prior to claiming her winnings.

The lucky winner of the US Powerball bought their ticket from a liquor store in California, and when they come forward to pick up their winnings, the amount was estimated to be approximately $447.8M.

Here are a few considerations if you win the lottery (and it doesn't just apply to big jackpots):

First, sign the winning ticket. You need to protect yourself from having someone else claim it as their property. Once the ticket is signed, make a copy of it and put it in a secure spot like a home safe, safety deposit box or, at the very least, a fire proof box of some sort.

Then breathe.

I wouldn't tell a soul. Once it becomes public knowledge, life as you know it may start to change. Depending on the size of the jackpot, you may quickly learn you have more relatives than you thought or ever knew.

Charities will come knocking on your door. One of the wonderful things about wealth is the ability to help others. However, you cannot respond to every request. So taking the time to understand your values will help you establish your philanthropic goals that will help you determine who and which organizations will benefit from your windfall.

The next step is to hire a team of professionals that you know and trust, and who you can look to for guidance. You may have the luxury of taking a lump sum or you may be paid an annuity for a period of time – maybe even life. This is where a good tax planner, accountant and investment advisor or certified financial planner comes into play. And don't do anything with any of your winnings until you have talked to all three and developed a plan that is aligned to you, the winner. My preference would be the annuity payment as it would take a lot of the guess work and volatility out of the equation. By spending time with the professionals, you can then make an informed decision that's right for you.

For the first time in your life, you might also have to think about security for yourself and your family when you go out in public.

And then there's the big question to be asked: will you continue to work or not? It is personal and often can depend on how much you love what you are doing. Do you like the people you work with, and how is it you want to spend your days? Of course the size of the jackpot comes into play as well. When Ann-Marie told her husband Ian, he made a reference to the fact he could retire and enjoy his children and life.

Finally, we have all heard the stories of lottery winners winning big only to find themselves facing financial hardship down the road. A few tips to spare yourself from that misfortune:

1. Assume no is going to care more about this money more than you. Trust no one and get a second opinion.

2. Rather than seeking out professional help, some have relied on family and friends. Don't do that.

3. You need to learn the ability to say "no" when requests come your way.

Winning the lottery is a great thing, but the fundamentals of financial planning still come into play: you need to live within your means even if your means are now a little richer than they were, develop a plan, stick to the plan, and recognize those who fail to do so could wind up paying the consequences and going broke. It wouldn't be the first time.

In the meantime, for Ann-Marie and Ian, the financial freedom might sound nice, but for now, they are taking it one day at time and they have always had their priorities straight – what they really value is their health. The money is a nice bonus.