Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Skip to main content

Thursday, December 07, 2023

‘March Madness’ money: What to do with your winnings

'March Madness' money: What to do with your winnings

march madness bracket with basketball hoop

For many basketball fans, March Madness quickly turns into “March Sadness.” But if you're lucky enough to finish first in your office pool this year, there’s a good chance you may earn more than just bragging rights.

Over 36 million people participated in a bracket challenge in 2023, with cash likely up for grabs as the top prize.1

Deciding what to do with your newfound wealth isn’t always a slam dunk, though. Should you save it? Should you spend it? Should you squander it? While it may be tempting to relish your triumph by making a big purchase, you may be better off putting that money on the bench and focusing on taking care of your future.

After you’re done cutting down the nets at work, check out our ‘Final Four’ ways on how you can maximize your winnings:

1. Make it 'rain'

Your chances of getting every tournament pick right stand at 1 in 9.2 quintillion, so it’s safe to say the odds of something going wrong at home are a wee-bit higher.2 Eventually, your car may need new tires, your cellphone may break or your pet may get sick. Life happens! Creating a rainy-day fund can help you pay for those pesky unexpected expenses that aren’t necessarily part of your normal budget.

Amounts vary, but it’s often suggested to have about $500-$2,000 stashed away to cover minor emergency events like replacing a cracked window.3 If you didn’t score that much in your March Madness group, don’t sweat it. Starting small — and contributing consistently — can make a huge difference in the long run.

2. Shoot for a vacation

Travelling in basketball is a violation. But travelling in your free time? That’s called a vacation. Let’s face it, everyone deserves a break from their busy schedule. Getting in some R&R, though, can cost a pretty penny.

With inflation impacting everything from gas prices to airline fares to hotel stays, booking a trip isn’t cheap these days. A one-week getaway in the U.S. is now averaging nearly $1,600 per person depending on the destination; if you’re looking to head overseas to Europe, that figure more than doubles to $4,000.And tickets to this year’s national championship in Houston will set you back at least a whopping $500 per seat.5,6

Don’t throw in the towel on your dream escape, though. Using some of your tournament pool profits to build a travel fund can help you financially prepare for your next adventure so you don’t have to rely on a credit card. Whether you’re saving to see the world or attend a future Final Four, transportation, lodging and food can add up fast so you’ll want to have enough reserved to afford all the basics.

3. Box out your debt

You don’t need “Cinderella” magic to get back on track with your debt. According to Experian, the average credit card balance for most Americans has surpassed $5,500 and has eclipsed the $7,000 mark for Gen-Xers. Annual percentage rates are also on the rise, so the more you owe, the more it’s going to hurt.7,8

If you won a nice chunk of change in your bracket contest, consider putting some or all of it toward paying off your debt. The snowball method is a simple way to help you manage your different loans so you can keep your long-term goals within reach.9 It’s a one-by-one process that allows you to slowly put the full-court press on your debt until you’re out of the red and back in charge of your money.

Watch: How to pay off debt

4. Play the waiting game

Even hall of fame coaches call a timeout to think about their next move. You can, too, if you’re not sure what to do with your recent riches.

Putting your March Madness stash to work may help you grow your nest egg and keep you on a championship path. Investing that money in an IRA, or opening an Empower Premier Investment Account, are excellent ways to potentially improve your overall financial picture.

Think you didn’t win enough? Think again. You can open an Empower Premier Investment Account for as little as $0. (It’s a flexible solution with a low-account fee that’s geared toward every type of investor, especially if you don’t view yourself as an investment expert). Also, because it offers the potential for a higher rate of return compared to a traditional savings account, the Empower Premier Investment Account may also be a great option for your rainy day or vacation fund. 

Remember, the ball is in your court when it comes to your finances. Always try to make the best decision for you and your future.

1 Wallet Hub, “2023 March Madness Stats & Facts,” March 2023.

2 USA Today, “Unproductive workers cost employers $4 billion during March Madness NCAA Tournament,” March 2019.

3 Bankrate, “Rainy day fund: Definition, purpose, how much to save, where to keep it,” January 2022.

4 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2023.

5 Bankrate, “The average cost of a vacation: Transportation, food, entertainment and more,” November 2022.


7 Experian, “Here’s How Credit Card Debt Varies By State,” April 2022.

8 CNET, “What Is the Average Credit Card Debt in the US?,” February 2023.

9 Nerd Wallet, “How to Use Debt Snowball to Pay Off Debt,” February 2023.

Services available through the Empower Premier Investment Account are offered by Empower Advisory Group, LLC, a registered investment adviser.

The Empower Premier Investment Account is intended for knowledgeable investors who acknowledge and understand the risks associated with an investment account.

There is no guarantee provided by any party that participation in any of the advisory services will result in a profit.

March Madness bracket winnings may be subject to income tax and withholding.  Consult with your tax advisor before utilizing any winnings. 


The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. No part of this blog, nor the links contained therein is a solicitation or offer to sell securities. Compensation for freelance contributions not to exceed $1,250. Third-party data is obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, Empower cannot guarantee the accuracy, timeliness, completeness or fitness of this data for any particular purpose. Third-party links are provided solely as a convenience and do not imply an affiliation, endorsement or approval by Empower of the contents on such third-party websites. 

Certain sections of this blog may contain forward-looking statements that are based on our reasonable expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions. Past performance is not a guarantee of future return, nor is it indicative of future performance. Investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate and you may lose money. 

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design), and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements. 

Advisory services are provided for a fee by Empower Advisory Group, LLC (“EAG”). EAG is a registered investment adviser with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and subsidiary of Empower Annuity Insurance Company of America. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training.