Seems strange to report that results from lottery sales were higher in 2008 than in year’s past. You would think people would be buying fewer lottery tickets while struggling to fill their gas tanks over the summer, and dealing with a recession that really took hold this fall and winter. Then again, isn’t that the American way? Don’t we all dream of striking it rich? Not me.
The Colorado Lottery saw record sales in 2008 of $499.4 million. The Florida Lottery recently joined the multi-state Powerball game in an effort to suck in even more players. What’s behind the success of these lottery programs in our society’s obsession with the rich and famous (thank you Robin Leach).
The Lottery Is A Tax On People That Can’t Do Math
For purposes of this discussion I am excluding people who play the lottery as a hobby, and can afford to do so. I’m referring to the guy with a wife and three kids at home with no money for groceries who is spending $20 a week on scratch off tickets. If that same guy would simply put the $80 per month in a good growth stock mutual fund for 30 years he’d “win” $100,000! That’s a pretty good payout, wouldn’t you say?
But you could never convince him. When advised to save $80 a month, his response would probably be, “We can’t invest $80 a month! We’re living paycheck to paycheck.” Frustrating, I know. That’s because most people can’t see beyond the next paycheck when planning their financial futures. They squander every single penny they have now and just keep hoping they next paycheck will last them another two weeks.
But What If I Win?
It should come as no surprise that people who win the lottery often wind up broke. People with poor money-management habits don’t suddenly get smarter if a whole bunch of money is given to them. About the best thing you could hope for is that they have the sense to hire someone to manage it for them. Even then, they often know so little about money that they can’t adequately over-see their financial guy, who proceeds to rip them off behind the scenes.
Winning the lottery is not all roses. Imagine the people in your past that would be looking up your number if they saw you on the cover of People magazine as the country’s latest $100 million Powerball winner. No thanks. While I would love to have $100 million, I prefer to accumulate it the right way by building wealth. If by some miracle I won the lottery (and it would really take a miracle since I don’t play it), I would give away the majority of the money, minus enough to pay off my debts and those of close loved ones. As the saying goes, “more money, more problems.” And I sure don’t need 100 million new ones!