Powerball: Tips from previous lottery winners

Posted at 8:23 PM, Jan 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-07 22:23:54-05

If you were disappointed that you had to go back to work today rather than being able to quit and start living a lavish lifestyle after winning the Powerball jackpot, never fear. There is another drawing on Saturday.

Not only do Saturday's drawings bring more chances for life-changing decisions -- it also brings the jackpot to a record-breaking new high.

Even though there was no grand prize winner on Wednesday night, there were quite a few people who still got a piece of the winnings. According to the Powerball website, some winners will take home $1 million or $2 million (before tax) because they had five of the six winning numbers (the $2 million winners paid a little more for the "power play" option). Non-jackpot prizes totaled $65,947,617.

But there is plenty more where that came from: the jackpot has now reached $700 million, far surpassing the previous record set by the 2012 Mega Millions jackpot of $656 million.

The jackpot is expected to grow even larger as more people buy tickets between now and Saturday night. Want to win? If history is any indicator, here are some ideas.

Leave the Number Picking to the Computer

Rather than picking numbers based on birthdays, anniversaries or other meaningful dates, lottery organizers note that the majority of past winners have left the big decisions up to the computer.

About 70 percent of past winners used Quick Picks, the computer system that spits out numbers, according to the official Powerball website.

"Does this mean that you are more likely to win with a computer pick ticket? Maybe," the site states.

When Does Picking Your Own Numbers Make a Difference?

If you play the lottery regularly, lottery expert Richard Lustig recommends that you pick your own numbers and stick to that same combination every time you play. For players who are only drawn in with extreme jackpots, Lustig has one tip.

"The only advice I can really give people is buy as many tickets as you can afford," Lustig said.

Are Certain Numbers Luckier Than Others?

If you opt to pick your own numbers, you might want to include 8, 54, 14, 39 and 13. Based on an ABC News analysis of past Powerball winners, these numbers are the most frequently drawn numbers.

Sign the Back of the Ticket

Imagine beating the nearly impossible odds and having the winning ticket but someone else claiming the money as their own. That's what could happen if a stranger gets hold of an unsigned ticket and turns it in.

Tracey Cohen, interim executive director of the D.C. Lottery, told ABC News that a signed ticket with two forms of matching identification is what is required to get the payout in D.C.

Stay Anonymous, If You Can

States have different rules when it comes to publicly announcing the winner's identity.

If anonymity is possible, Alexa von Tobel, the founder and CEO of financial planning site, recommends taking that option.

"It creates a ton of problems for lottery winners. We've seen everything from robberies to even murders of people who have won lotteries," von Tobel told ABC News.

"A lot of your social dynamics around you change if people are aware of your status," she noted.

Even in states where you are not allowed to remain anonymous, there are ways to try to keep your winnings private.

Cohen told ABC News that people can create LLCs or non-profit entities that can protect their identities. The organization then claims the jackpot without revealing the name of the actual winner.

Assemble a Money Management Team

State-run lottery organizations do not give tax or financial advice to winners and they urge people to seek outside counsel.

Von Tobel notes that in addition to just calling up the first financial planner from an Internet search, be sure to do thorough background checks on the individuals that you hire to help you navigate the win.

She suggested hiring an estate planner, a certified financial planner and an accountant before claiming the ticket. In addition to completing background checks, von Tobel also noted the importance of confirming their respective fees before signing on any dotted lines.

Once You Win, Don't Spend

Many experts, including von Tobel, suggest that any winners wait at least six months -- if not a year -- before making any purchases.

"We often find that a lot of people end up blowing through millions," von Tobel told ABC.

According to a 2015 study by the Camelot Group, 44 percent of winners spend their entire winnings within five years.

What Are the Odds of Actually Winning

Sadly, the odds of winning the Powerball are not good. Ticket holders have a 1 in 292,201,338 shot of winning the grand prize, according to the Powerball website. Your chances of winning a seven-figure payout are a little bit better: 1 in 11,688,053.