In January last year, the pot for thePowerball jackpot at a whopping $1.5 billion, and millions of Americans were abuzz about the possibility of winning a life-changing fortune. Currently, lottery officials in California are looking for the unidentified holder of a $447 million winning ticket — the tenth largest in history. So much so, it might be time for both a reality check and a look at what you can learn from pondering such an enormous windfall.

1. You Aren’t Going to Win (or Probably Didn't)

Your chance of winning the Powerball jackpot is about 292 million to 1. You’re more likely to be:

a. Killed by a vending machine: 1 in 112 million
b. Having identical quadruplets: 1 in 15 million
c. Becoming a movie star: 1 in 1.5 million
d. Dying in a plane crash or being stuck by lightning: 1 in 1 million
e. Dying in a car accident: 1 in 6,700

2. You'd Be Better Off Investing Your Ticket Money

Sure, you've got to be in it to win it, but seeing those (mostly morbid) stats, you’d probably be better off saving and investing your lottery ticket money. If you only play when a jackpot is gargantuan, and that money is disposable, you can consider it part of your entertainment budget. But if you're like most Americans (some 57%) who play regularly, your lottery ticket expenditures could amount to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of lost investment income. Even a modest $5 a week lottery ticket budget adds up to $260 a year. After 20 years, even a conservative bond portfolio returning 3.8% would earn you over $7,500. Stocks should do even better, thought recent volatility is a good reminder that that's not a sure-thing. (To learn more, see: Compound Your Way to Retirement Now.)

3. It's Nice to Dream Big

Sure, who doesn't want to ponder a life where having enough money is hardly a concern? But even more valuable is incorporating those ideals with your current resources to live a better life. Many people who happen upon unexpected wealth choose to donate more resources and time to worthy causes, such as charities for the less fortunate or the arts. Some prioritize family or change career directions by starting a business. All of these things are possible whether or not you win the lottery. Winning the lottery can get you a garage full of Ferraris or jewelry galore, but what it won't do is make you happy. (For more, see: The Lottery: Is it Ever Worth Playing?)

4. If You Win, It Won't Be All Roses

Friends, family, strangers will come out of the woodwork asking for help. Even the biggest scrooge will be challenged to stay the course with sensible decisions. Ignore them until you've enlisted a trusted expert or experts (lawyer, tax specialist, financial advisor) for help with all kinds of financial, tax and estate choices you'll need to make. It's not the time to be cheap or rash when so much is at stake. In fact, any person can apply this lesson to any level of wealth.

5. Don't Rush

Resist the temptation to immediately quit your job or otherwise make rash decisions, financial or otherwise. Even rich people do a cost-benefit analysis, and among your first will be whether to take a lump sum or an annuity. If time really is money, you'll be able to be patient with your newfound financial resources. By all means, splurge ... a little. But ease your way into your wealth to avoid some common lottery winner mistakes. You don't need that private jet just yet; your first goal should be a long term plan.

The Bottom Line

No, you probably won't (or didn't) win the giant lottery jackpot whether you're a casual player or a frequent one, and no matter what home-brewed strategy you employ. But that doesn't mean you can't have a little fun dreaming and also learn valuable lessons about wealth management and what in life makes you happiest. Just be sure you're not sacrificing your retirement savings or otherwise squandering your hard-earned money on a such a long shot.

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