Come on, admit it. Every so often, you buy a Mega Millions or Powerball ticket and wonder what it would be like to win hundreds of millions of dollars. You briefly dream of all the things you could do with that money: the things you would buy, the places you would go, the investments you would make, and the charities you would help. Then it's back to real life, and off to the old nine-to-five drudgery or the late shift.
However, there are a few people that get to experience that feeling in real life, with the vast majority of them being in the US. While the largest collective payout is in Spain's Christmas Lottery ($875 million for the 2013 "El Gordo" top prize), it is a straight five-number system and therefore spread across so many winners that no individual reaches the hundred-million-dollar level.
The identity of the lottery winners is not always revealed, so it's best to look at these through the largest payouts and how they were divided. Here are the top five jackpots with respect to total payout. The larger number is the amount of the annuity (how much winners would get over many years) while the cash payout represents a smaller lump-sum amount that a winner could choose to receive.
$656 million – Three winning tickets were cashed on the March 30, 2012 Mega Millions drawing, which, as of this writing, is the largest jackpot total as well as the largest cash payout ($471 million). The only winning ticket holders to be identified were Merle and Patricia Butler of the small Southern Illinois town of Red Bud. The other winners were a group of teachers in Milford Mill, Maryland, and a single anonymous winner in Ottawa, Kansas.
$648 million – The second largest jackpot was also a Mega Millions drawing. The December 17, 2013, drawing brought two winning ticket holders a total cash value of $347.6 million. Steve Tran, a delivery truck driver in northern California, claimed half of the prize while Ira Curry of Stone Mountain, Georgia claimed the other half.
$590.5 million – The highest Powerball payout in history went to a single winner: Gloria Mackenzie, who was 84 years old at the time of the drawing on May 18, 2013. The Florida woman received the highest single amount of cash collected by a single winner ($370.9 million). This particular draw also featured the unluckiest lottery player of all time: the gracious gentleman who let Mackenzie go ahead of him in line to purchase a ticket.
$587.5 million – The Powerball drawing on November 28, 2012, produced two winning tickets for an overall cash payout of $384.7 million, the all-time record in cash payouts on a single drawing for Powerball. The prize was split between Matthew Good of the Phoenix, Arizona, suburb of Fountain Hills, and Mark and Cindy Hill of Dearborn, Missouri. Good and his wife attempted to remain anonymous, but public records laws forced the disclosure of his name.
$564 million – The February 2015 Powerball drawing produced three winners and a cash value of $381 million. The first winner to claim was Marie Holmes, a 26-year old single mother of four from Shallotte, North Carolina. A second winner in Puerto Rico has decided to remain anonymous, and a third winning ticket was sold at the Appletree Food Mart in Princeton, Texas, near the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The proceeds from the Texas ticket have been placed in a trust under the name TL Management Trust.
Congratulations to these and all the other large-scale lottery winners. Save and spend your money wisely. In the meantime, we'll keep buying our own tickets in the hope of joining you someday.