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I'm a dreamer. I think big; usually bigger than things will ever be. So when there was big talk about winning the lottery you'd think I would have been the first person out there buying a ticket – or three or four – because well, who doesn't dream about winning the lottery? But instead I just dreamt...about what I'd do if I had that many Benjamins.

 

With jackpots in 2012 topping out at millions of dollars I bet I wasn't the only one dreaming. In fact, I know I wasn't. Business News Daily reported a study from CouponCabin.com that said nearly 40% of Americans played the lottery sometimes, and 13% say they try regularly to hit it big.

 

In this report the potential winners listed what they would do with their windfall and it wasn't surprising to see some of their answers.

 

  • Start my own business.
  • Get rid of my student debt.
  • Find a job that I really want to do.
  • Donate 10 percent to my church.
  • Makeover my home and hire a maid.
  • Purchase a large RV and travel the country visiting family and friends.
  • Take my family to Disney World.
  • Work for free for a nonprofit.
  • Establish a charitable foundation.

 

Lottery winners or not, I'm pretty sure most of us can relate to at least one of those answers. Coming into "sudden money" can happen for a variety of reasons and they can be planned or unplanned. Some planned reasons include retirement, inheritance, or sale of a business. Some unplanned might be death of a spouse or family member, divorce, or winning the lottery. In our military world a lump sum of money might be a reality due to sign-on bonuses. (Ok it's not millions but lump sum money is lump sum money.)

 

Reports show that families are just not prepared for these "sudden money" life changes. There are behavioral and cognitive challenges that lead to poor decision making. It's overwhelming. Money has a way of distorting our thoughts. If you're used to living on a budget getting a lump sum of money might completely change your perspective and your view of life and lifestyle.

 

I told you I was a dreamer, but hey a little planning can't hurt, right?

 

If you should ever find yourself in a "sudden money" situation here's a great tip — but it does require some forethought. Before you collect the money, write down or record everything you would like to do or accomplish. You could do that now even if you didn't buy the ticket. Dream a little, will ya? Capture what you want to avoid down the road, and how you feel at the moment about the present situation and the future.

 

Doing so will allow you to eventually go back and see how you felt and what you wanted to do when you didn't know what it was like to live like a millionaire. Because I'm pretty sure that once the check comes with all those zeros, the paparazzi is banging down your door, you have to hire a lawyer, and then give your financial advisor a call you'll be too overwhelmed to really remember what you wanted when you bought that ticket in the first place.