March 30, 2012, - 6:09 pm
When my late father was alive, he’d occasionally buy Lotto, Powerball, or Mega Millions lottery tickets when the pot was very big. He’d always note that the odds of winning are worse than your odds of getting struck by lightning multiple times. But it was fun to play and dream. He and his secretary, Lillian, would occasionally buy each other tickets as gifts. So, my question to you is: are you buying tickets in today’s Mega Million lottery?
Tonight, when the numbers are picked, your odds of winning are something like 176 million to one. The chances you’ll win are beyond infinitesmally small. If my dad had invested lottery ticket money in Apple stock, he wouldn’t have the fun of dreaming and wishing. But he’d have made a small fortune. The mostly lower-class, working-class, and blue collar Americans who make up the vast majority of lottery ticket buyers would have made an even bigger fortune because many of them buy lottery tickets twice a week and more frequently. They are the ones who can least afford to waste even a few dollars every week on this. It adds up. And they throw it away. That’s why I call the lottery–especially these giant lotteries–the poor man’s voluntary tax. That’s exactly what it is. Don’t believe the hype that it is anything otherwise.
And, as I frequently point out on this site, even the few “lucky” people who do win that money are almost always visited upon by tragedy, disaster, and ruin in the aftermath. Think the lottery win made this scary couple into better people?
It’s great to win the money and be able to pay off bills. We know that money is the source of most marital break-ups and discord. And it takes a lot of stress off to be able to provide for yourself and your family. But it won’t cure you of cancer.
And there is no peace.
Everyone you know–or don’t know–will pressure you for money. Even your closest friends, unless they are already wealthy and even if they are, will pressure you to invest in their businesses and pipe dreams. And it will never be enough. There will be a million new hangers-on. You won’t know if any of your friends or romantic partners are there because they really, respectively, like and love you. You are a prime target for gold diggers of all varieties, male and female. And you’ll probably lose most of your friends from the past, whether out of jealousy or something else. The money changes people–those who win it, and those around them who don’t. And it severs solid relationships forever.
You are at risk for becoming a big spender and living beyond your means until there is nothing left. And you’re at risk for not surviving. There have already been at least three lottery winners who’ve been murdered, either by people seeking their lottery winnings . . . or in troubled circumstances you know in your heart would never happen to them if they had never won the lottery. Relatives of other winners have died in tragic circumstances that wouldn’t have happened but for the money. Is it worth it? Nope.
Earlier this year, I saw, “Lucky,” a fantastic documentary about lottery winners. Every big lottery winner in the movie (except the Vietnamese immigrant family) was either now in dire straits And even those who didn’t spend and lose everything felt that had to move and leave all of their friends because they felt the relationships had permanently changed for the worse. The parents in a Michigan family that won big had to move the family to the country to give their kids–and themselves–a normal life away from constant beggaring. After I praised the parents on my site, the father e-mailed to thank me and let me know that everyone in his family is still working very hard on the farm. That’s the way to do it. They clearly had the right values before they won.
To put the numbers of the lottery in perspective, USA Today reported that it would take the average American household 10,800 years to earn $540 million dollars (the earlier expected total of tonight’s lottery before it jumped to $640 million). And it takes the federal government only one hour and fifteen minutes to spend that much. But the best large fortunes are those that are earned, not instantly gained through a lottery or trust fund. We appreciate the fruits of the sweat of our brow far more and are less likely to squander that.
But, despite all this, do you think I bought a ticket? Of course, I did.
I tell myself it’s in tribute to and remembrance of my dad, Blessed Be His Memory, and that he would have bought one today.
But, deep down, it’s really because I’ve fallen for the group frenzy being broadcast all around me. I don’t want to feel left out and like I missed out on that nearly impossible chance.
I like to dream, too . . . like everybody else. Even if I know better.
Did you buy a ticket? Why or why not? What would you do if you won?
Tags: $640 million, lottery, lottery winners, Mega Millions, poor man's voluntary tax