Feeling Lucky? All You Need to Know About the Mega Millions Payout

Playing the lottery for the first time? If you're lucky, you can win big. This is your essential guide to the Mega Millions payout.

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Adam Moelis
Nov 4, 2021
10 min read

Are you playing the Mega Millions payout yet?

Even if you’ve won the lottery once before, you have the same odds of winning as everyone else. That’s because the odds of buying a winning lottery ticket are independent. This also means you don’t have to spend a ton of money buying tickets for every drawing.

You can learn more about playing the lottery here. Read on to discover more about winning money with a lottery ticket. The following is your essential guide to the Mega Millions payout.

What is Mega Millions?

Mega Millions was created in the year 2002 as a multi-state jackpot game for only a handful of states. Within a decade, over twenty states joined the program in a historic cross-over agreement. As of this year, all the American lotteries in 47 jurisdictions are participating.

The Mega Millions group members meet every Tuesday and Friday morning to determine the estimated winnings for the two upcoming drawings. At this meeting, state Lottery Directors and finance reps report sales forecasts to determine the jackpot and annuity. Based on the 30-year US Treasury, the rate changes daily and is often different than the last drawing date.

After each drawing, the winning numbers are posted online. The number of how many people won is posted in the morning on Wednesday and Saturday. This takes place after the lottery security team has verified the winning lottery ticket sales.

How and Where to Play

You can purchase a ticket from any lottery retailer in the 45 participating US states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands. Residents of Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, N. Carolina, N. Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, or the District of Columbia can register and purchase tickets online. New Yorkers can purchase their Mega Millions subscriptions online from state lottery websites.

You don’t have to be a resident to participate and win the lottery. Tourists visiting the US are allowed to purchase a lottery ticket from an American lottery retailer. However, you must be in the US to purchase or win.

You need to check with your state for the cut-off time for purchasing a lottery ticket. Every Tuesday and Friday at 11 pm Eastern Time, the Mega Millions drawings are held. This event takes place at the WSB-TV station in Atlanta, Georgia.

How to Claim Winning Lottery Ticket

Winners of the Mega Millions jackpot claim the prize in person at the winning state’s lottery headquarters. This is for those who play through a valid retailer. If you play online, you’ll receive notification and payment automatically.

The first thing you should do with your winning lottery ticket is write your name on the back of it. While you’re waiting to turn your ticket in, you should keep quiet and store it in a safe place. Although some states require lottery winners to be publicly identified, other jurisdictions do not.

Your state lottery regulates a certain time frame for when you must report your win. Depending on where your winning ticket was purchased, you have anywhere from 90 days to one year to turn your ticket in. If you lose your ticket, there’s nothing you can do to prove you had it.

Calculating Mega Millions Payout and Taxes

Winners will have hefty federal and state taxes deducted from the winning money. This varies depending on where you live and won. It’s also determined by if you choose a lump sum cash option versus going with the annuity payments.

A lump-sum cash option is a gross payout of 61% of the jackpot. Federal taxes are roughly 24-37% and state taxes are based on where you won. If you live in a different state than where you won, your residing state will want a cut as well.

Unlike the lump sum, the annuity payments are the full jackpot amount. The percentage for federal taxes and state taxes are the same as with the cash option. If the winner before receiving all annuity payments, the money will go to the designated beneficiary or estate.

Difference Between Annuity Payments and Cash Payment

The lotto winners have the choice between annuity payments or a lump sum cash payment. Significant factors are determining how much the winner gets based on the choice. All secondary prizes are a one-time cash payment.

The lump-sum cash option is a one-time payment that’s equal to Mega Millions cash prize jackpot pool. The prize is an estimated amount that depends on the ticket sales. Some states determine the amount to be half of the annuity payment prize.

The annuity payments are made on an annual basis, starting shortly after verifying the win. After the first one is paid, the rest go out in installments for 29 years. Each payment is 5% more than the previous one.

Pros and Cons of a Lump Sum Cash Payment

Winners who opt for a lump sum cash payment will enjoy several benefits. One being they won’t have to worry about paying long-term taxes. All the state and federal taxes are deducted at the time the prize is awarded.

Another benefit of the lump sum is the winners can access their lottery payout faster for investments and savings. This gives winners the ability to pay off student loans, start a business, or other smart investments to improve future finances. Assuming you don’t spend the winnings too fast, this option is the best deal.

However, if you’re not good at saving money and are more likely to spend impulsively, it’ll be smarter not to go with this option. There have been winners who blew through their winnings and ended up in a worse situation. Should you win, consider speaking with a financial advisor about the smarter choice for you.

Pros and Cons of Annuity Payments

Receiving annual payments can save you from spending all your winnings too quickly. The annual payments are spread out over thirty years. This can provide you and your finances with long-term security.

Another benefit is that if the jackpot winner dies before the payments are finished, the money doesn’t go to waste. Payments will go out as planned until the funds are exhausted. The designated beneficiary or estate will continue to receive these regularly scheduled payments, providing them with financial security as well.

If the estate chooses, the lottery can switch from annuity to a final lump sum payment. This money can be used to pay taxes, debts, and avoid any penalties. Whatever amount’s leftover will be distributed to the designated heirs.

When Are You Required to Share Your Payment Choice?

For most states, you have until you claim your prize to choose your payment method. The moment you arrive at the headquarters to turn in your winning lottery ticket, you need to have decided which payment option you’re going with. This is when and where you’ll meet with the lottery officials in your winning ticket’s state.

Some states require you to choose your payment method the moment you purchase your lottery ticket. If you fail to mark a box on the Mega Millions ticket, your payslip will be rejected. Whether you choose a lump sum or annuity payments, the selection cannot be changed at a later date.

You should research your state’s lottery rules before playing the lottery. This can save you from the pain of rejection or missing the deadline. Consider your financial habits and future before making a selection.

Jackpot History Winners

In 2021, there have been six jackpot winners. The winners were located in Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. The largest prize for the year was awarded on January 22, 2021, to a club in Michigan for $1.050 billion, or $776.6 million in cash.

In 2020, there were five jackpot winners. The winners were located in Arizona, California, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. The largest prize was awarded on June 9th, 2020, to an anonymous lottery player in Arizona for $414 million, or $319.9 million in cash.

In 2019, there were seven jackpot winners. The winning tickets came from California, Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. The largest prize was awarded on June 7th, 2019, to a player purchased in California for $522 million, or $340 million in cash.

The Most and Least Common Numbers Drawn

Lottery players have been known to try different strategies to win big. Although each game is a new drawing, there are some numbers are drawn more often than others. Trends revealed the few numbers that appear to be luckier than the rest.

You should know the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 302,575,350. The number 10, for instance, appeared in 37 drawings in the past four years. The only other number to appear to be as lucky is the number 31.

When it comes to unlucky numbers, you want to avoid numbers 49 through 52. All four of these numbers have appeared the least on winning lottery tickets. The worst number for Mega Millions is the number 21.

How Players Can Spot Potential Scams

Some scammers use the Mega Millions name to scam players and non-players. These criminals have been known for using numerous tricks to steal from unsuspecting adults. You should know right now that no representative will call, text, or email anyone about winning a prize.

Scammers will try to get your personal information and bank account numbers. They may send a poorly written email or call you about you winning a prize or offer a free play option. If you believe you’ve been contacted by a scammer, do not give them any information because they could share it with other scammers.

You can review the information provided by the Federal Trade Commission on how to spot scams. If you’ve been a victim of one of the scammers, you should contact the nearest sheriff’s office, local police, or state police. To file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, you can call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

How to Invest Winnings Smarter

You don’t have to be a professional at investing if you win the Mega Millions jackpot. Warren Buffett recommends investing in low-cost index funds, rather than buying single stocks. Another piece of advice from him is to start by purchasing in increments to avoid risks.

If you choose to invest in index funds, you should be investing moderately equal amounts over a twenty to thirty-year period. You should also stick with something familiar to you, so you understand it better. Mark Cuban has also recommended that should you choose to invest, pick low-cost index funds that are tracking familiar choices.

How to Save Winnings

Mark Cuban mentioned in the same article that he recommends people who aren’t familiar with investing should choose to save. After taxes have been paid, you will sleep better at night if you place the rest of your winnings in a savings account. The following are some smart ways to learn how to save better:

  • Resist dining out
  • Set aside vacation savings over twelve weeks
  • Automate savings
  • Challenge yourself to focus on saving for one year

There are savings challenges you can participate in by yourself or with a partner. You should consider starting before winning more money to improve your chances of improving your finances. If you have debts or loans affecting your score, consider speaking with creditors about a payment option that will benefit your credit score.

Improve Your Lotto Winnings Now

You’re one day closer to winning the jackpot. You can use what you learned here about popular numbers and strategies to improve your chances. This is your essential guide to the Mega Millions payout.

We feature the top payout programs that help you grow your finances by winning. You can use your Yotta account to earn tickets for weekly drawings with cash prizes. Sign up on our website to start saving, spending, and winning.

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