Stop Playing the Lotto

by Justin Weinger on August 22, 2006

I’ll be the first to admit, when I hear that lottery jackpot is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, I daydream about what I would do with the money.  I’d probably invest a bunch, buy a mansion, get a bunch of nice cars, all that stuff.

Then, reality smacks me in the face!  Winning the lotto is never going to happen to me, and is probably never going to happen to you.  I hate to rain on your parade, but it’s the truth.

Let’s take the Powerball for example.  The chances of you hitting the jackpot and becoming an instant multi-millionaire are 1 in 146,107,962.  Going by pure statistics, if you played $20 per week, it would take you about 7,305,398 weeks – or 140,488 years – to hit the big one.

I don’t like those odds.

Sticking with this same scenario, if you play $20 per week on the lotto, you’re wasting $1,040 per year.  Even if you win a couple of bucks here and there, I would imagine you’re still going to be in the hole over $1,000 each year.

Think of what you could do if you kept extra $1,000 each year.  You could take a big chunk out of your debt, start and/or grow a retirement account, start a college fund, take a nice vacation… I think you get the point.

But, just to illustrate the point – what would happen if you took that extra $1,000 per year and invested it in a money market account that earned 4% interest annually?  Here’s a chart that shows how much money you’d have after 25 years:

Year
Balance
5 $  5,634
10 $ 12,487
15 $ 20,825
20 $ 30,970
25 $  43,313

Thanks to your will power (and the power of compounding interest), after 25 years of saving as opposed to playing the lotto, you’re going to be sitting on over $40,000.  If you had played $20 per week over those same 25 year, more than likely you would be out over $25,000.

That’s a swing of over $65,000 in your favor.

If for some reason, you’ve decided that today is your lucky day and you absolutely feel like you have to play the lotto because the jackpot is $350 million, do yourself a favor and throw down just $1.  It’s not like you’re going to greatly increase your chances by throwing down $20, $50 or even $100.

The odds of winning the lotto are nearly 150 million to 1 – take the sure thing and keep your hard earned money in your pocket.

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{ 4 comments }

Tina Anderson March 6, 2008 at 12:38 pm

I would tend to agree with you, but I think it’s ok to play every once in a while. It’s the people who play consistently and spend thousands of dollars a year on the lottery that worry me.

Brian Carr March 7, 2008 at 7:37 am

Mark,

Yes, you’re absolutely right. By throwing $20 as opposed to $1 at the Mega Millions, I’ve increased my chances of winning from 1 in 175 million to 20 in 175 million.

What great odds!

Xenon August 14, 2010 at 11:26 am

Exactly!!! 1 out of 8,750,000 are not great odds either (even worse when one considers that some of those combinations are bound to include duplicate numbers that are bound to be wrong.)

Jane September 12, 2010 at 4:10 am

Finally! I was begining to wonder whether there was actually anyone else in the world who had even the slightest bit of sense but me! I hate the lottery – you want to change your life? Make your own luck! 🙂

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