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What can you buy for $270 million?

Mega Millions lottery winner may get a chance to find out

POSTED: March 5, 2008 5:01 a.m.

You could buy Lake Lanier Islands for about $270 million if you struck it rich in the Mega Millions jackpot Friday night.

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Daniel Brooks of Montgomery, Ala., said he doesn't really plan on winning $270 million in the Mega Millions lottery game, and has not considered what he would do with it.

But he bought 15 tickets Friday afternoon, just in case.

"It's just the idea of taking the chance, and wishing for the best," Brooks said while at the Texaco at Lakeshore, 272 Dawsonville Highway.

Others, however, know exactly what they would do if their $1 ticket turns out to be the one that wins.
Without hesitation, Hieu Phan, who calls himself a regular lottery player at the Dawsonville Highway Texaco store, said he would take his winnings all the way to Vietnam. Phan said once he got there, he would give the money to all the Vietnamese people who were affected by a recent tornado that hit the center of the country.

As Paul Ownby pumped gas in the wet, cold afternoon weather, he said he would take his $270 million somewhere warmer.

"I would buy a desert island, and get away from this freezing cold, rainy weather," said Ownby, a Gainesville resident.

Some said they would indulge themselves with toys only grown-ups can enjoy. A fast new motorcycle. A luxurious yacht. A shiny new truck.

But most people, like Henry Buffington of Gainesville, said they would use their winnings to pay bills, get out of debt and get rid of their mortgages. "I'd pay all my bills, then I'd hold back on it," Buffington said. "Have some back there for hard times."

As a lottery-made millionaire, Buffington might not ever see financial "hard times" again, but that does not mean he will be ready to spend his money or give it all to charity. "I might give a little bit away," he said. "But just a little bit."

Maya Patel, owner of Texaco at Lakeshore, said he saw people spend hundreds of dollars for just the chance at becoming a mega-millionaire. "People are going crazy," Patel said. "If this rolls over, Tuesday's going to be crazy."

But if Friday night's drawing yielded a winner, that person should take a deep breath and a few steps to protect themselves and their money before spending a penny of their newfound millions, said a local financial advisor.

"The most important thing ... after you get over the initial shock is to start thinking and start planning," said Johnny Johnson, a financial adviser at Raymond James Financial Services.

Johnson says anyone who wins that much money should consult an attorney and an accountant before cashing in on the jackpot. "The one thing you don't want to do is rush out and claim your winnings," Johnson said.

Johnson said a lot of people who win lottery drawings have placed their money into a trust, rather than owning it outright. Putting the money in a trust keeps the new millionaire from being sued for everything he or she is now worth, Johnson said.

Accountants and lawyers can also show the winner how to give money to family members without having to pay a gift tax.

"There are a number of strategies that you can employ ... to minimize as much as possible both the income tax consequences, the state tax consequences and some of the legal liabilities that might come your way being associated instantly with a large amount of money," Johnson said.

After consulting the professionals, the first thing the new millionaire should get is a new phone number.
"Because every Tom, Dick and Harry that you've ever known -- or even didn't know -- is going to call you up and ask for money," Johnson said. "Not to mention the unwanted solicitations that you're going to get."

From there, the millionaire should plan to make sure he or she stays a millionaire, Johnson said.
"The key is not to fall prey to investment scams, not to invest in a bunch of businesses or business propositions that you know absolutely nothing about," Johnson said. "And surrounding yourself with people who give you good, common sense, solid advice."

Yet successful investing takes a lot of thinking and planning, Johnson said. But he has some simple advice for any investor: don't put all your eggs in one basket. "Diversify, diversify, diversify," Johnson said. "Those are the three keys to successful investing."


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