Powerball Is at $1 Billion. But How Much Would You Really Get if You Won?

People hand out purchased lottery tickets at a liquor store.
The Powerball jackpot amount is shown on displays at Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

So, who wants to be a billionaire?

There have been 38 Powerball drawings in a row with no grand prize winner, so Wednesday night’s jackpot has ballooned to $1 billion. It’s the third-largest Powerball jackpot in history.

Now, as professional Penny Hoarders, we generally advise against spending your hard-earned money on lottery tickets. (Invest it instead!) Your chances of winning Powerball are 1 in 292 million, which is lower than your chances of being struck by lightning — twice.

But it’s still fun to think about, isn’t it? We all deserve to dream a little, and a tidy $1 billion would go a long way toward clearing up any pesky little financial problems you might have.

How much of those winnings would you actually get, though?

How Much of That $1 Billion Would You Take Home?

Let’s say you win. (It is fun to think about, after all.)

First you’d have to choose whether to collect your winnings in 30 annual payments over three decades, or take a smaller lump-sum payment, which in this case would be $516.8 million, according to Powerball administrators.

Then there are taxes. (There are always taxes.)

If you took the lump sum, you’d immediately get hit with federal taxes of 24% that’s collected on any prize exceeding $5,000 — so that’s $124 million right off the top. You’d also owe more when you file your income taxes next year since you’d be in the top tax bracket — so 37%, or about $67 million, according to popular lottery news websites like USA Mega and others.

That brings your theoretical winnings to about $326 million. You’d also pay state taxes. How much obviously depends on which state you’re in. That could drop your winnings down to as low as $269 million.

If you chose the annual payments option, your $1 billion jackpot would get split into 30 payments that averaged out to $33.3 million each. Those would be subject to an immediate 24% federal tax, plus the 37% income tax each year, so you’d be getting a little over $21 million per year. After 30 years, you’d have collected between $522 million and $631 million, depending on what you’re paying in state taxes.

Which to choose? Financial advisers always say it depends on your age, your goals and various tax reasons, and blah blah blah.

But realistically, nearly everyone takes the one-time cash payment. Seriously, almost everyone. Simply put, you can earn more over time by investing the lump sum, and nobody wants to wait 30 years to collect all their money.

You’ve Won Powerball. What Now?

No matter how you count it, a $1 billion grand prize is certainly a lot. The biggest Powerball jackpot ever was the $2.04 billion prize won last year.

Even if you took the lump sum and paid taxes on it, the $325 million you’d have left is still no chump change.

If you won, financial advisers would strongly recommend that you get a tax attorney and a tax accountant and make a plan before you collect your winnings. You’d have 90 days to a year to claim your jackpot, depending on where you bought the winning ticket.

They also recommend that you employ someone whose job it is to say “NO” to everyone and their brother who’ll suddenly want you to invest in their once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity, their newly invented revolutionary gizmo, their super-sweet NFTs or their miscellaneous harebrained scheme.

Powerball is played in 45 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

If a lucky winner claims the $1 billion grand prize in Wednesday night’s drawing, the next Powerball jackpot automatically drops back down to a mere $20 million — practically pennies in comparison, right?

So think about it. Powerball tickets cost $2. Maybe spend a little money on that dream.

Or you could, you know, invest it.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.