RALEIGH — The Mega Millions will hold a drawing tonight for a jackpot of $810 million. If won at that amount, it’d be the fourth-largest lottery prize in history.

Fidelity Investments says you won’t win the jackpot. You just…won’t. The odds of winning are about 1-in-302 million, which means you’re far more likely to die from a meteorite strike or go to the ER because of a pogo stick injury than win the Mega Millions.

But let’s say you do win (because someone has to). Once you regain consciousness after fainting, you’ll be faced with a decision: Take the lump sum all at once, or spread the payout over decades in what’s called an “annuity.” Here’s how each would work.

  • Lump sum: You’ll receive a payment of $470.1 million, after the 24% federal tax withholding takes a ~$113 million bite out of your total winnings. Plus, the 37% top marginal tax rate means you’ll fork over more of your prize to Uncle Sam come tax season.
  • Annuity: You’ll receive an immediate payment followed by 29 annual installments over the next 30 years, with each cash infusion increasing by 5% to account for inflation.

So which should you take?

Most people who win the lottery choose the lump sum, and it’s not hard to see why: You can make more money. Thanks to the magic of compound interest, you can invest your lottery winnings right away, and even with a conservative rate of return, make far more over 30 years than you can with the smaller droplets of cash provided by the annuity. Neither you nor your family would ever have to think twice about paying extra for guac again.

That said, the lump sum may not be for everyone. Are you the type of person who invested in dogecoin right before Elon Musk hosted SNL? If so, the annuity could offer some self-imposed fiscal discipline to prevent you from blowing all your winnings—which definitely happens. The internet is littered with stories of lottery winners who squandered their fortune, or otherwise watched their lives fall apart after thinking they had made it. One small study in Florida found that lottery winners were more likely to declare bankruptcy in three to five years than the average American.

Bottom line: You’re not going to win the Mega Millions (because we are), so consider this a lighthearted economics thought experiment and nothing more.