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Single ticket wins $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot

NBC News logo NBC News 10/24/2018 Minyvonne Burke and Kurt Chirbas and Associated Press

Slideshow by photo services

Someone's life has just changed forever. 

A single winning ticket was sold in South Carolina for the record-breaking $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot prize, officials announced early Wednesday.

The winning numbers were 5, 28, 62, 65, and 70, with a Mega Ball of 5.

The extremely lucky single winner has the option to take a cash sum of $904 million or an annuity , walking away with an initial payment followed by annual installments over 29 years.

While the lump sum might seem the better option to most people, experts warn that winners should take a moment to talk to a financial adviser before making a decision.

They also suggest that winners seek advice from a lawyer, an accountant and a psychologist who can help them make good decisions now that they are a millionaire.

"You assume money makes you happy or takes care of all your problems. But money doesn't do that," financial planner Jim Shagawat said. "And it can cause friction with family and friends."

a close up of text on a white background: A woman holds Mega Millions lottery tickets she bought from a machine in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18. © Michael Reynolds A woman holds Mega Millions lottery tickets she bought from a machine in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18.

Tuesday's jackpot was the largest prize in U.S. lottery history , just above a $1.58 billion Powerball drawing in 2016 . Three people from Tennessee, Florida and California won.

The last time there was a Mega Millions winner was July 24, when an office pool of 11 people in California divided the $543 million prize .

The odds of winning the jackpot were very slim — 1 in 302.5 million to be exact.

But that didn't stop people from playing. About 280 million tickets were sold in last Friday's drawing, The Associated Press reported.

By Tuesday night, tickets in California were selling at the rate of 200 a second.

Any potential winners have from 180 days to a year to claim the prize, depending on which state the ticket was purchased in.

Jackpot winners can remain anonymous in eight states — Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas. 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.

In general, taxes eat up nearly half of winnings. 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.


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