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A lotto winner's handbook - Eureka Report article
A lotto winner's handbook
By Scott Francis
July 1, 2009

PORTFOLIO POINT: The first thing you should do when you receive a windfall is resolve not to make any hasty decisions.

An ounce of good luck is better than a ton of brains. - Proverb

It was the lotto draw that stopped a nation. On Tuesday night millions of people watched the Oz Lotto draw as Australians spent an extraordinary $209 million to try and share in a prize pool of $177 million. From a pure investment perspective, spending $209 million to win $177 million represents an average return of -15%.

This does not include the previous week, where $87 million was "invested" but failed to win the then-jackpot of $59 million.

This week, with about 200 million entries and a 1 in 45 million chance of winning, there was bound to be a winner or two. Oz Lotto has confirmed that winners in Queensland and South Australia would share the prize.

One of the news reports said that "neither of the winners knew what to do next", with one commenting that "a financial adviser will definitely be my first stop".

I don't like to break bad news, but there is little chance that any of us will ever have the challenge of investing $50 million in one hit. That said, we are likely to receive lump sums across our lifetime (such as from estates, divorce settlements, redundancies, a business sale), and have to make decisions around these.

The following plan suggests how a $50 million lotto winner might proceed with their winnings - and it might also apply to others who happen on an unexpected lump-sum payment.

Remember, there is no hurry. Most of the time there is no screaming rush. Anyone who rushes you into a decision is probably more worried about their interests than yours.

Start by putting the funds into a number of high-quality term deposit accounts with different banks that are government guaranteed; at the moment term deposits paying 4.5% over three to nine months make sense. My bias would be to favour those banks with higher credit ratings (not withstanding the role of credit ratings in the current financial crisis). This means that you will earn a reasonable rate of interest (about $187,000 a month) while you think about where to go next. It's enough to ensure there is no hurry to make decisions!

Negotiate from the start. With $50 million to invest in term deposits you are hardly a standard retail investor. You should try to negotiate another 0.2% of interest.

Get some professional help to set a vision for this money, and deal with some of the pressures. Money itself is only a means to an end - it allows goods and services to be purchased and put to use, and $50 million represents an extraordinary opportunity (and responsibility). Whether the vision for the money is to increase their immediate quality of life, contribute to charity, try to establish a financial base for their family for generations to come putting some purpose and structure around those goals makes sense.

Further, a large lump sum will no doubt entice "friends" from long ago, and many charities, to look at you for support. Professional help (a counsellor, mentor, business adviser) will help you manage these requests in an appropriate fashion.

Don't be put off by having to pay fees for professional advice: this is much preferable to not paying and making decisions that you regret.

Set your goals - building on from the building of a vision for the money, some key goals should emerge. Let's assume they are:

  • Buy a new house and car ($1.5 million).
  • Live off $250,000 a year, increasing with inflation.
  • Contribute to charity.
  • Set up a family trust to benefit current and future generations.

Structure your situation using high-quality advisers. Now that you have some idea of your thoughts, it is time to get some professionals involved. By bringing together a solicitor, lawyer and fee-for-service financial planner, it is time to get some ideas of how your situation can be structured to meet your goals.

In this case the seven specific ideas for successfully spending lotto winnings might include:

1: Setting aside $2 million in cash for the new home/car and any other initial costs (living costs for a while, travel costs and so on) while you structure your overall position.
2: Investing $10 million a year in the winner's own name as a portfolio of cash, fixed interest investments, shares and property assets to provide the winner with an income of well over $200,000 a year, increasing with inflation.
3: Set aside $2 million to provide for investments into superannuation over the next 10-15 years as a future source of wealth.
4: Contribute $10 million to a charitable trust, and keep $2 million in a charitable portfolio outside the trust. Each year the income from the charitable trust (likely to be $400,000 or so) has to be donated to registered charities. The other portfolio ($2 million) is likely to generate income of $60,000 a year after tax, and can be used for giving to non-charitable causes (such as a family member).
5: Contribute the remainder to a family trust (a cool $26 million). The income from this trust can be distributed each year for any of the strategies listed above.
6: Get yourself a very good lawyer.
7: Spend some time doing your will, and cancel your life insurance. With $50 million you don't need to be paying money every month for a $1 million life insurance policy. If you die your family will be fine financially. A will that reflects your wishes is crucial. This should be continually updated as your circumstances change.

And remember, while most of us would probably agree that the burden of investing $50 million is one that we would be happy to bear, there are significant decisions to be made whenever a lump sum is received. Taking your time, learning about options, getting your goals and financial structure correct - all supported by high quality advice - are all worth the effort.

Finally, keep in mind that the person most concerned with your own interests is you, so don't act until you are comfortable.