If you’ve ever seen a billboard proclaiming the mega-sized jackpots of Powerball or Mega Millions, then chances are you’ve dreamed of winning the lottery. Even the smallest jackpots can bring you a dream home, a luxury car, or a trip around the world. The lottery is one of the few things in life that truly is a game for anyone — it doesn’t discriminate on race, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status. That’s why so many people play.
But the odds of winning a lottery are long. Even so, lotteries sell the promise of instant wealth to people who don’t have much chance at a better life. And while that may seem like a twisted form of charity, it has a logical underbelly: if you’re poor, the lottery might be your last best hope of escaping from poverty.
Lotteries were a common feature of the European colonial world, and largely financed public and private ventures, such as schools, roads, canals, churches, universities, and even militias. The earliest recorded lotteries date back to the 15th century in the Low Countries. The name ‘lottery’ was probably derived from Middle Dutch looterie, or a calque on Middle French loterie “action of drawing lots.”
Despite their long odds, many people spend a considerable portion of their incomes buying tickets, primarily for the big prizes. I’ve interviewed a number of committed lottery players who make this clear, and they don’t treat it lightly. They buy the numbers they feel lucky with, the stores they think are good luck, the times of day when they feel most optimistic about their chances, and they have quote-unquote systems that aren’t based on statistical reasoning.
A big reason for this is that, if you’re lucky enough to win the jackpot, the money will likely change your life in significant ways. It can help you pay off your debts, build a college fund for your children, and invest in your retirement savings. But it’s also easy to get swept up in the euphoria of winning and begin spending recklessly, which can lead to financial disaster. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead, consult experts, and enlist a crack team of helpers if you’re serious about winning the lottery.
In addition to planning ahead and enlisting a crack team of helpers, it’s crucial to maintain anonymity in the early days after you win. It’s not always possible, of course, but you should do your utmost to keep the information under wraps as long as possible. The more people that know about your newfound wealth, the more likely they are to take advantage of you. In addition, flaunting your wealth can have dangerous psychological implications that could ultimately put you in danger from both the government and friends/family/co-workers. So, don’t be afraid to practice a little bit of personal finance 101 and remain discreet as you start living the life you’ve always dreamed of.