Powerball and Mega Millions have a combined jackpot over $1 billion — here are the first 2 things the winners should do

Be prepared if you have the winning Powerball numbers.

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Be prepared if you have the winning Powerball numbers.
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Joshua Lott/Getty

  • The Powerball and Mega Millions lottery jackpots are worth over $1 billion combined.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have the winning numbers, fight the urge to immediately tell everyone you know.
  • It’s wise to consult a trusted financial planner and lawyer before claiming the prize.

Over $1 billion is up for grabs.

The Mega Millions jackpot climbed to $450 million, and the Powerball lottery has an unclaimed pool of $570 million as of Friday afternoon. Both lotteries are available for residents of 44 states and Washington D.C.

A Powerball winner – or winners – may be selected Saturday night, and the next drawing for Mega Millions will take place Friday night.

The math suggests you shouldn’t play the lottery, as Business Insider’s Andy Kiersz has shown, but millions of people do anyway – especially when the potential winnings swell.

If you decide to try your luck, make sure you know what to do in case you land the big prize.

Keep the win a secret

You just won millions of dollars – and you want to scream it from the mountain tops.

Don’t.

“Once you’re announced as the winner, the sharks will start circling,” Kristen Euretig, financial planner and founder of Brooklyn Plans, told Business Insider.

Only six states allow the winners of the lottery to keep their identity private, but there are ways to make sure your ownership of the jackpot isn’t public.

Your jackpot win is on a need-to-know basis, and your second cousins and coworker’s roommate don’t need to know. As soon as they find out, everyone you know could be asking for a slice of the pie.

Announcing your big win on social media can have serious consequences as soon as every person you went to high school with suddenly wants to chat. Even if you are a person who loves helping others, it is foolish to hand money to any person who asks.

If you end up sharing your winnings with every acquaintance and old classmate, your earnings can really start to suffer and the victory could become less glamorous.

Find professional help

Next, hire professional help. Far too often, big time lottery winners don’t know how to handle their newfound wealth and squander it away.

Euretig said winners shouldn’t “get too many designs about your next moves until you can work with a financial planner who will assemble your team of experts to best advise you on your options.”

A financial planner can help you decide whether to take the lump sum or annuity payments. They can also help you plan your spending and make plausible decisions, like investing and saving for retirement.

“It may seem like you have an infinite amount of money to work with, but before you understand the tax implications and options, it’s best to hold tight,” Euretig said.

In addition to a financial planner, a lawyer would be a good person to have on your team to help with legal problems that may arise from winning the lottery.

Right now, hiring a lawyer and financial planner may sound expensive, but after winning a fortune of almost half a billion dollars, consulting fees are a small price to pay for security and peace of mind.