Good Question: Where Does the Rest of the Lottery Money Go?

Author: Melissa Luck, KXLY4 Executive Producer , melissal@kxly.com
Published On: Sep 12 2011 10:56:38 AM PDT   Updated On: Jan 10 2011 09:54:47 AM PST
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Right now, an Ephrata, Washington couple is planning the rest of their lives. It should be easy, considering they just won half of the Mega Millions dollar jackpot. Jim and Carolyn McCullar will share the $388 million dollar pot with an Idaho winner, who has yet to come forward. But, don't be fooled by the numbers; the McCullars will actually take home just $90 million. So, where does the rest of the money go?

When the McCullars stood before the TV cameras last week, you couldn't help but be happy for them. The unassuming couple from tiny Ephrata was holding a check that could be the answer to all their financial prayers. And, they were so down to earth, you couldn't help but smile.

"I guess they're gonna give me a million dollars today," Jim said. It's money they plan to share with their children and grandchildren.

That $1 million should last the 15 days until the lottery hands over the rest of the cash. But, we hope Jim doesn't spend it all at once. When he finally gets the real check, the one that fits in his wallet, it's going to be $100 million less than the gigantic one he held in his hands last week. So, what happens to all that money?

If the McCullars would have chosen the annual payment option, it would have been paid to them over 25 years. The lottery deposits the jackpot into a security, but it's not the full $190 million. Instead, the lottery would deposit $120 million, which the present day value of that jackpot. Assuming it would earn 3.9% interest, that would equal $190 million in 25 years.

Stay with me here...

But, the McCullars chose the lump sum option. That means the lottery hands over that $120 million it would have invested. But, not so fast; the feds immediately take 25% in taxes. That leaves the McCullars with a measly $90 mil.

What's that worth? $90 million is what Lebron James earns - solely from his seven-year Nike contract. It's about how much Beyonce Knowles earned - last year alone. And, my personal favorite: it's how much Michael Jackson's estate earned - in the first two months after his death.

Still, for most of us, $90 million can buy a pretty incredible life. Especially when you're as down to earth as Jim and Carolyn.

"Tuesday the 3rd I was Jim McCullar," he explained. "Wednesday the 4th, I was Jim McCullar. I'm the same guy."