Why I (Occasionally) Play the Lottery

I admit it. I buy lottery tickets. But it’s not something that I do every week. And it’s not something that I spend a lot of money on. But I don’t think it is necessarily a terrible thing to do.

Last Friday, with a record jackpot of $640 million, the Mega Millions multi-state lottery saw the usual uptick in interest that lotteries get when the jackpots reach unfathomable heights. Now that I live in one of the handful of states that doesn’t participate, for reasons that I have yet to understand, it is a bit more difficult to participate in the lottery. Nevertheless, on Thursday afternoon, I gassed up Pamela the Passat and drove north with my brother in tow, hoping to strike it rich with the lottery.

Of course I didn’t win; if I had, I would probably be hard to get a hold of as I talked to various advisors and tried to figure out what one actually does with over $400 million after taxes. I mean, it is pretty fun to think about what you would do with the money if you do win. But I understand basic probability. With a 1-in-176 million chance or so of picking six numbers correctly, there are plenty of other things that have a better chance of happening, like being struck by lightning or being dealt six consecutive blackjacks from a multi-deck shoe. I get it. Trust me.

What people that hate on the lottery fail to state, however, is your odds of winning if you don’t play. I personally don’t think that folks should bypass basic necessities in order to buy lottery tickets, but to each their own. But what’s the harm in throwing some entertainment money at something that could ultimately reap huge rewards?

As an investment writer by trade, it makes more sense to plan and save for your future and not simply put all your hopes and dreams on the outcome of six random balls. With that in mind , I took $20 that would have probably been spent on a few milk shakes or some sushi and bought some tickets. All I’m ultimately out is the $20 and the half tank of gas it took me to get back and forth to Idaho. And should my numbers match up on tonight’s drawing, I’d be more than content with $8 million.

So here’s to hopes and dreams. The odds may be against me, but why not live a little on occasion. I won’t be driving to Idaho every week to get my lottery fix, but what’s the harm in doing so every once in a while? The $20 by itself won’t help me get out of debt or get me invested in some super great company, but I can hope that those $20 turn into $8 million. What’s wrong with hope?

Until next time…

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