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# how to win a billion dollars

Want to win \$1,000,000,000 (yes, that’s one billion dollars)?

All you have to do is create the PERFECT March Madness bracket. If you manage to do so, Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway will pay you \$1,000,000,000, as reported by ESPN! While the idea is certainly appealing, creating a perfect bracket is near impossible (the chances of winning are 1 in 4,294,967,296).

Don’t despair, there is a consolation prize from Quicken Loans: \$100,000 to the 20 most accurate brackets. So, not only will 20 people definitely walk away with \$100,000 in early April, but you can use computer science research to better your chances!

Computer Science Professor Sheldon Jacobson and his team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been working on BracketOdds since 2011. BracketOdds is: A website to evaluate seed distributions in the later rounds of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, commonly referred to as March Madness. This tool uses principles from probability theory and operations research to model the likelihood that a set of seeds will reach a particular round of the tournament.

When speaking with Jacobson on the new contest, he said, “It’s a great promotion – no one will win it. The odds are just too phenomenal against anyone putting it together.”

Jacobson and his team are constantly researching and updating their algorithms to help determine the probabilities of seeded teams propagating through the tournament. You can even go to the site now and see the projected seeds for this March, updated regularly. Two new models are currently being run as well, with the results to be disseminated in the future.

So, to shoot for the \$1,000,0000,000 (or just \$100,000) use what you learn on BracketOdds and be sure to enter the contest when it opens on March 3, 2014.

All you have to do is create the PERFECT March Madness bracket. If you manage to do so, Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway will pay you \$1,000,000,000, as reported by ESPN! While the idea is certainly appealing, creating a perfect bracket is near impossible (the chances of winning are 1 in 4,294,967,296).

## Say you win a billion dollars in the Mega Millions drawing. Then what?

An advertisement for Mega Millions, a 44-state lottery with a record jackpot of nearly one billion dollars, outside a grocery store in Washington, D.C., Oct. 18, 2018. (Photo: JIM LO SCALZO, EPA-EFE)

Despite the terrible odds – one in 302.5 million for those keeping score at home – someone will eventually match all six numbers and win the Mega Millions jackpot, which now stands at \$970 million. It could happen as soon as Friday night, when the next drawing is held.

That would leave most of us disappointed but some lucky winner beset by a host of questions. Here are some answers for someone holding that prized lottery ticket for what would be the second-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

### I’ve won. Now what?

Lottery officials recommend winners take a deep breath, put their winning ticket in a safe spot and consult with a reputable financial planner before popping over to the lottery headquarters. Their first decision is whether to take the cash option, which would now be \$548 million, or an annuity, with one initial payment and annual installments over 29 years. Nearly all winners opt for cash, but the annuity has advantages, as it reduces the tax bill a little and offers a stable flow of income that climbs by 5 percent annually.

### How long do I have to claim the jackpot?

States have different rules, so depending on where you purchased the ticket, you have from 180 days to a year.

### Do I get my money instantly?

No, you can’t just cash one of those oversized checks shown in all the winner photos. Payment speed also varies by state, but a week or two is common. Carole Gentry, a spokeswoman for the Maryland lottery, said the requirement is seven to 10 days in that state.

The Mega Millions jackpot is displayed as a customer leaves the Corner Market, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Lyndhurst, Ohio. (Photo: Tony Dejak, AP)

### Can I keep my name a secret?

Winners can remain anonymous in six states: Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina. In Arizona, people who win more than \$600 can keep their names secret for 90 days after claiming prizes, but after that names are public record. In Michigan, winners are anonymous unless they win Mega Millions or Powerball prizes.

### What about taxes?

For winners of \$5,000 or more, all states automatically deduct 24 percent in federal taxes but state taxes vary widely. Some big states, including California, don’t withhold taxes from lottery winnings, and some like Texas don’t have individual income taxes at all. For the others, the state takes a bite, especially in New York, where a winner would need to pay a state tax of 8.8 percent. Residents of New York City would pay an additional tax of 3.9 percent. In general, taxes eat up nearly half of winnings.

The Mega Millions game is shown on a win station at the Corner Market, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Lyndhurst, Ohio. (Photo: Tony Dejak, AP)

Melissa Labant, a tax policy expert at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said winners should realize that while taxes are initially withheld when prizes are awarded, more money will likely be due at tax time as people suddenly are in up to a 37 percent tax bracket.

“That catches people off guard,” she said. “You have to be prepared to write another check to the IRS in April.”

### What are my taxes if I don’t live in the state where I bought the ticket?

This can get complicated, but for the most part winners pay taxes where they bought the ticket and then can get a credit on their taxes in their home state. The final tax bill can depend on if the state where you live taxes at a higher or lower rate than where you purchased the ticket. Rules vary by state, so this is a good topic for that financial planner.

Here are some answers for someone holding that prized lottery ticket for what would be the second-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. ]]>