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What would you do if you won the lottery? If you’re anything like the typical American, you would be boringly practical with your newfound wealth. 

Nearly two-thirds of Americans said they’d use lottery winnings to put themselves in a better financial position, such as paying down debt or saving for the future, according to a 鶹ý Blueprint survey. Only 15% said their top priority would be to splurge on a lavish vacation or a fancy car.

“With increased inflation and prices, people are understanding the importance of building their assets and planning for their financial futures,” said Jeff Wood, financial planner at Utah-based Elysium Financial. “I hope that it suggests a higher level of financial literacy for Americans.”

Key points

  • Americans’ top priorities would be to pay off existing debt (15%) and invest (14%) if they won the lottery.
  • 21% of Americans believe a $1 million lottery win is the minimum windfall needed for the winnings to be “life changing.” 
  • Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents would keep their winnings a secret from everyone, although 60% would tell their social media followers.

What Americans would do if they won the lottery

Nearly 3-in-10 would pay off debt or invest

Americans say they would use their lottery winnings wisely — in our survey results, paying off debt and investing the money came out on top.

This answer may come as no surprise when you consider the current economic landscape. Credit card debt is at a record high, inflation continues to erode purchasing power and a combination of high interest rates and historically high home prices are putting homeownership goals out of reach.

Quick tip. Putting savings into one of the best CDs on the market will help you build your savings

“The priorities here reflect the financial pressures most Americans are facing today,” Wood said. “Paying off debt is a sure way of having something to show for a financial windfall. Investing is a way to secure future financial stability as well, especially given uncertainties around retirement funding.”

In the survey, pretty much anything fun — such as throwing a party, splurging on a luxury item or taking a lavish vacation — were not popular answers. But if you’re lucky enough to receive a windfall, you are allowed to have a good time. 

“A diet with no leeway for enjoyment is likely to fail,” Wood said. “The same is true of a financial plan. While it’s absolutely important to prioritize financial stability, it’s also healthy to allocate a portion of windfall gains for enjoyment.”

Of all the age groups, Generation Xers were the most likely to say they’d pay off existing debt if they won the lottery. 

Many of them are concerned they haven’t saved enough, which plays into their desire to be debt-free, said Nicole Strbich, the managing director of financial planning for Buckingham Advisors based in Dayton, Ohio. 

Gen X is part of the “sandwich generation,” a group of adults who are devoting resources to their parents and their kids, while simultaneously paying their own bills and saving for their own future. Being pulled in so many directions can lead to burnout and financial stress. 

Most would keep their winnings a secret 

The vast majority of respondents said they’d keep news of their good fortune close to the vest. 

More than four-in-five (83%) said they wouldn’t “go public” with their lottery winnings, while nearly a quarter (24%) would keep their lottery winnings a secret from everyone. Six percent wouldn’t tell their partner.

Quick tip. Transparency is the key to a healthy financial marriage, which is why you should consider opting for one of the joint checking accounts

If you hit the jackpot one day, keeping your winnings relatively private could be a good idea. Lotto winners can be an attractive target for scammers and other criminals. So as a first step, consider talking with an attorney and financial advisor. 

“They can help you avoid going public, if possible, and develop a plan for how you want to allocate your winnings,” Strbich said. 

About half would quit their jobs

More than half (53%) of Americans would quit their jobs if the lottery win granted them financial freedom, while 16% are unsure what they’d do.

Only 3% of Americans would quit and live off the winnings, which means other respondents may decide to continue working in some capacity.

Life-changing winnings

Four-in-five Americans said winning the lottery would positively impact their lives, while 20% were either neutral, unsure or were convinced the effect would be negative. But Americans are split on what they’d consider a “life-changing” amount of money.

The younger a person is, the more money is required to have a major impact. Gen Z respondents needed almost four times the "life-changing" amount Baby Boomers reported. Overall, about half (51%) of Americans believe they’d need to win at least $1 million, while 46% gave responses under that amount and 3% weren’t sure.

Stingy winners

Few Americans would gift to family and friends

Only 8% of Americans would prioritize giving their lottery winnings to friends and family members, and just 6% would donate a portion of the money to charity.

People are usually more willing to donate when they’re comfortable with their own financial situations, Strbich said.

The survey results support this sentiment, showing that baby boomers were the age group most likely to use their winnings for donations.

Boomers are closer to (or in) retirement and therefore more likely to have hit their savings goals, Strbich said. Younger generations may focus on charitable planning later in life rather than making it an initial priority, she added.

Chances to win the lottery

Americans know the odds of winning the lottery are incredibly low, but in the survey, only 5% knew exactly how rare it is.

Take the Powerball jackpot, which was worth $95 million in June 2024. Your odds of winning are 1 in 292 million. The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot ($97 million) are even worse at 1 in 302.6 million.

Just how much of a longshot is that?

It’s like flipping a coin heads 28 times in a row, explained Tim Chartier, a math professor at Davidson College, in a .

“This is akin to my looking back at the past nine years, picking one second, and then asking you to guess which second I chose,” he wrote. “The odds that you’ll get it right are incredibly long.”

Fortunately, the lottery is a minor indulgence for most.

Nearly a quarter (24%) don’t buy lottery tickets at all, while more than half (54%) play the lottery just once every three months.

Tips on what to do if you have a windfall

Should Lady Luck grant you a lottery windfall, or you receive one the old-fashioned way, i.e. inheritance, you should consider:

  • Meeting with a financial adviser. A fee-only advisor can help you understand the tax implications of your new windfall and come up with a list of priorities for your funds. 
  • Addressing immediate areas of concern. For instance, you could pay off credit card debt or pad your emergency savings account
  • Working on longer-term goals. Make sure your retirement savings and other investments are on track.

Addressing your short- and long-term goals now “can help you avoid spending on items that are more of a ‘want’ than a ‘need,’” Strbich said.

And once your needs are taken care of, then you could see about throwing that party.

Methodology

This online survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by 鶹ý Blueprint and conducted by market research company Talker Research, in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct. Data was collected from May 13 to May 20, 2024. The margin of error is ± 2.2 points with 95% confidence. This survey was overseen by Talker Research, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society (MRS) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy. The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Kim Porter

BLUEPRINT

Kim Porter is a writer and editor who's been creating personal finance content since 2010. Before transitioning to full-time freelance writing in 2018, Kim was the chief copy editor at Bankrate, a managing editor at Macmillan, and co-author of the personal finance book "Future Millionaires' Guidebook." Her work has appeared in AARP's print magazine and on sites such as U.S. News & World Report, Fortune, NextAdvisor, Credit Karma, and more. Kim loves to bake and exercise in her free time, and she plans to run a half marathon on each continent.

Taylor Tepper

BLUEPRINT

Taylor Tepper is the lead banking editor for 鶹ý Blueprint. Prior to that he was a senior writer at Forbes Advisor, Wirecutter, Bankrate and Money Magazine. He has also been published in the New York Times, NPR, Bloomberg and the Tampa Bay Times. His work has been recognized by his peers, winning a Loeb, Deadline Club and SABEW award. He has completed the education requirement from the University of Texas to qualify for a Certified Financial Planner certification, and earned a M.A. from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York where he focused on business reporting and was awarded the Frederic Wiegold Prize for Business Journalism. He earned his undergraduate degree from New York University, and married his college sweetheart with whom he raises three kids in Dripping Springs, TX.