Who hasn't thought about the bills they would pay off, the cruises they would take, or the investments they would make if they hit the jackpot for the Mega Millions or Powerball lotteries, let alone both. Heck, you might even make it rain for friends and family.
But there's also a dark side to suddenly receiving a windfall of cash like that, and despite all the good you think you could do by winning the lottery, maybe you're better off that you didn't hit the jackpot.
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The odds are against you
Since you just tossed your losing lottery ticket into the trash, you realize how difficult it is to actually win the lottery. Your chance of winning the recent $450 million Mega Millions jackpot was 1-in-259 million; the odds were worse for the $559 million Powerball lottery: 1-in-292 million.
Oh, and if you were wondering about the possibility of winning both jackpots -- fuggedaboutdit! The odds were 1-in-75.6 quadrillion! Sorry, it ain't gonna happen.
Certainly there's nothing wrong with taking a chance on a lotto ticket once in a while, but too many people seem to be relying upon winning the lottery as their Plan B for financial security.
CNN reports that Americans spent over $80 billion on lottery tickets in 2016, or more than they spent on books, movies, music, sports tickets, and video games combined. That's the equivalent of almost $250 being played by every man, woman, and child in the U.S., and since kids can't buy lottery tickets (and more than a few people don't play the lottery), some individuals are spending way more on a hope and a dream -- more like on a wing and a prayer -- than is good for them.
In fact, if they took that same $250 a year and invested it in the stock market, they would have almost $12,000 at the end of 20 years if they earned no more than historical rates of return. Playing the lottery will likely leave them with nothing. Actually, they'll be out $5,000, since gambling is a loser's game.
Yet despite the fact you're pretty much throwing your money away playing the lottery, even if you won, there are a number of reasons why you might be better off had you instead lost. It is indeed a life-changing event for most winners, but not in ways they had foreseen.
Winning all the way to the poorhouse
According to Forbes, 70% of all people who quickly come into large sums of money go broke within seven years. It doesn't even take winning $450 million to cause you to wind up destitute. Simply winning between $50,000 and $150,000 makes a person 50% more likely to go bankrupt within three to five years than if they had won less than $10,000.
That at least makes a case for taking the lottery's annuity option over the lump sum payout. At least you will have a steady stream of income each year for the next 30 years.
Surprisingly, the increased probability of bankruptcy comes because you will probably take on too much debt. When you win big, doors to new lines of credit are suddenly opened to you, and bankruptcy attorneys have found lottery winners tend to use the credit rather than their cash to buy things. And by having so much money, you're also more likely to begin living without a budget and to not put anything away for savings. Both actions would be poor choices.
You'll also undoubtedly find out you have more friends and relatives than you ever knew existed. Even those closest to you will likely have expectations that their financial problems are now also yours, and because of your windfall it's incumbent upon you to solve them. Or they'll want you to finance all their crazy dreams.
There's nothing wrong with being a little bit magnanimous with your winnings, but it probably won't be enough to satisfy the cravings and greed of those who want what you have. The history of big jackpot winners is replete with stories of those who've seen personal relationships destroyed and their own lives ruined as a result of being "lucky."
In short, all the good habits you've worked on by working hard, saving regularly, and investing in the future tend to go out the window when you're suddenly flush with a lot of cash. By becoming a high roller living a lavish lifestyle, you undermine your previous smart decisions.
Rather than hoping to hit it big on the lottery, practice instead the time-tested strategies of living within your means and putting money away for a rainy day. Along with investing a little money in the stock market regularly, you're more likely to end up financially secure without relying upon a roll of the dice to solve your -- or someone else's -- problems.
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