Billion dollar lottery fever has taken over. 1.5 billion dollar fever to be more exact.
No matter where you go in Statesboro, everyone is daydreaming about what it would be like to become wealthy beyond most dreams. Soon we will learn who the lucky new billionaire, or millionaires, might be.
Lines are expected at stores around Bulloch County and the nation in the hours prior to Wednesday night’s Powerball drawing, which is set for 11 p.m. The estimated jackpot is $1.5 billion and climbing.
The odds to win are one in 292.2 million. Seventy-five percent of all the possible combinations were purchased before this past Saturday's drawing, enough tickets will be sold to cover about 80 percent by tonight.
Meanwhile, along with the daydreaming, a few have given real consideration to what you should do to prepare for such a windfall.
Russ Lanier, CPA and partner in the Statesboro accounting firm Thigpen, Lanier, Westerfield, Deal & Proctor, CPAs, offered his advice in case one of you become the lucky winner.
“Absolutely, the most important thing you must do once you learn that you are the winner, will also be most definitely the most difficult, and that is to not tell anyone!” Lanier said. “You have 180 days to claim your prize and to chart the course of how you prepare to receive this windfall. The decisions you make in that six-month period will be imperative in determining your quality of life from that point forward.”
Lanier, however, admits he can’t imagine how anyone could keep such an amazing event a secret for long. He told me that upon learning that he and his wife Joy were expecting their only child Ashlyn, they said they wouldn’t tell anyone.
“Joy and I had promised each other that we would keep the news of us expecting Ashlyn a complete secret,” he said. “By the end of the day, I had told everyone I knew and caught myself even sharing this incredible news with complete strangers.”
But back to the reality of dealing with such a massive windfall, Lanier said it would require an exceptional team of financial and legal advisers to determine how to handle that much money.
“Simply finding a financial institution that would accept a deposit that large is going to be a challenge,” he said. “Most people when asked will tell you they want to give most of the money away. Even doing that becomes difficult without having to give the government an additional 45 percent tax on the gifts.
“Even for a financial professional like myself, thinking about this is mindboggling. Understanding something as simple as dividing the prize initially with your family members or friends and claiming it together could save you millions in taxes with a prize this large.”
There is a good bit of legal debate in Georgia about ways to keep your name anonymous if you win. One of the more popular ideas floated is to create a corporation and accept the lottery winnings through that entity. However, under Georgia Law, lottery winner’s names are broadcast and published for transparency reasons.
Senator Josh McKoon has filed a bill that if passed during this session of the Georgia General Assembly would allow lottery winners to remain anonymous for a fee – a very large fee. Lottery winners could stay anonymous for a fee of 25 percent of the total winnings. At the Powerball prize amount of $1.5 billion, that fee would be $375 million.
But, I put all of this real world accounting and legal concerns aside and returned to the daydreaming of what folks would do with $1.5 billion.
I caught up with a few Statesboro residents to report their plans if they hit the jackpot;
Chris Wiggins, a city carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, said:
“I would reverse tithe it. I would keep 10 percent and give 90 percent away focusing on some of my favorite charities and family, of course. With my 10 percent, I would pay off my debt and build my wife a beautiful new home. I love my job and would like to keep working, but the reality of winning that kind of money would make it very difficult to continue working in the public like I do.”
“I would seek financial advice, finish school and pay off any debt that I or my family owes,” said Jennifer Thompson, a nursing student at OTC and part-time employee at JCPenney. “I think I would then look into opening up a free health clinic that is combined with a program targeting children who need more educational time than they get in school.”
Marie Glisson, a server at R.J.s Grill, said: “I would take care of everyone else before myself. I would make sure that all the ladies at R.J.s who work so hard serving our customers would never have to work again. My son and family all my God children would have a nice home and all of us would go on a nice vacation.”
Jimmy Raymond of W & J Shoe Repair, said: “I would buy Statesboro! I would spread love everywhere. You can spread a lot of love with that much money. Take care of my family and charity, I would make sure and invest a nice amount and build me a nice place to stay.
“I also would set up a class and teach shoe repair. It would be free so I could help teach folks the trade and pass on this tradition. What I do is becoming a lost art and this would allow me to do my part in saving this profession!”
I wondered if Raymond would change the name of Statesboro after he purchased it.
Regardless, every one of the people I spoke with agreed with Raymond in spreading the love to family, friends and our community.
Regardless of who wins, it is refreshing to see so many folks dreaming of ways to invest in our community to make it even a better place to call home.