The lottery numbers are getting tempting again: Thanks to recent Mega Millions rule changes designed to build bigger jackpots faster, Tuesday night’s lottery drawing could win somebody $257 million or more.
If a single winner chose the cash prize option instead of the annuity (and the majority of winners do), he or she would cash a $139 million check, according to the Mega Millions website.
The odds of winning that life-changing jackpot are less than 1 in 175 million, but the statistics will never discourage those who dream of instant wealth.
But maybe they should. Let’s do a quick review of what we know about lotteries, and lottery winners.
It’s Not the Jackpot You Think It Is: If you win the Powerball, you won’t actually see the whole $257 million. Uncle Sam places heavy taxes on income that high, so a handsome chunk of your winnings will go to the government. Ironically, a majority of people — even among the ones who say that the rich should be taxed more — feel that those lucky souls who win the lottery shouldn’t have to pay as much in taxes as people who make their money in more conventional ways.
It’s a Bad Deal for the Biggest Players: The thought of winning millions is attractive to everyone, but especially attractive to lower classes, who spend up to 9 percent of their income on lottery tickets. With personal debt and unemployment rates at painful levels, who can blame people for being hopeful? But the statistics show that the lottery is a sucker bet. Saddest of all, though theodds are vastly better that you’ll get struck by lighting or die from flesh-eating bacteria than win a big lottery payout, 21 percent of American adults agreed with this entirely false statement: “Winning the lottery represents the most practical way [for me] to accumulate several hundred thousand dollars.”
Really Want to Win? Here’s an Almost Guaranteed Way to a $50,000 Prize: A Powerball ticket costs $2. Let’s say you’re a regular player, who buys five tickets a week. That’s $520 a year. Over the course of 30 years, that’s $15,600. Our friends over at InvestingAnswers.com did the math on what you’d end up with if you invested that money simply. Result: In retirement, when you need it most, not buying those lottery tickets will likely “win” you more than $50,000! Congratulations!
A Useful Analogy: Speaking of retirement, winning the lottery is a lot like retiring: Suddenly, you have all this money and you don’t have to work anymore. It’s easy to make some impulsive splurges, but remember, the longer your wealth lasts, the longer you benefit from it. And be warned: Major windfalls can attract a large number of new “best friends.”