Undoubtedly you have heard about how the Mega Millions jackpot (as of October 17th) is now up to $868M, the 3rd largest grand prize in US history.
Or maybe you haven’t heard. Perhaps playing the lottery isn’t your cup of tea.
I honestly hadn’t heard about it until my lottery playing friend sent out a text in our friend group chat reminding us all to buy our tickets.
Nonetheless, people are currently flocking to gas stations, convenience stores and the like hoping to get lucky and cash in on that elusive winning ticket.
Likely fueled by the visions of what they would spend that money on, these people have no problem throwing their money, oftentimes boatloads of it, into the ring for their chance.
Never mind just how unlikely the odds are of actually winning, all they need is to get lucky and their problems will magically vanish as they become rich with all that money.
One thing people don’t consider though. There’s a way to get rich without playing the lottery at all.
It may be tough to believe, but the numbers don’t lie. Before we get into how it’s possible, let’s take a look at the lottery in general and who the typical lottery players are.
An Overview Of The Lottery
Lotteries in the United States began innocently enough. They essentially were used to help fund some of the early colonies and to help fund public works projects once the US was formed.
Lotteries quickly got a shady reputation as there were several scandals and they were denounced by religious groups. In fact, by 1890, lotteries were banned in nearly every state.
Eventually, state governments brought them back and now heavily regulate them in the modern age.
Surprisingly enough, the current lottery system is a solid generator of revenue for the states that participate in them (44 currently do). Like in the old days, these lotteries can help to fund certain programs like education, environmental activities, or just go into the state’s general fund.
While games such as the Mega Millions and Powerball generate most of the press, people often forget about the revenue generated by scratch off tickets and other instant game forms of the lottery.
Despite the infinitesimally small odds of winning the lottery (302,575,350 to 1 for this Mega Millions, you’re way more likely to be struck by lightning!), people still turn out in droves, especially when the jackpot prizes of the main games get large.
For the most part, these big jackpot events draw many one time participants. Throwing a few bucks towards a lottery once or twice a year isn’t going to kill your finances.
The real issue is with the people who play and gamble on the lottery much more consistently. Who are these people?
Who Actually Plays the Lottery?
Unfortunately, the people who play the lottery tend to be among the poorest in the nation.
Among the people who make less than $10,000 annually, they spend an average of $597 annually on lottery tickets.
That’s 6% of their income right there.
These people believe that because of their situation, the only way to get out of it and accumulate a significant amount of money is by winning the lottery.
They see it as hope, that maybe they will get lucky, despite knowing the extremely long odds. When you are desperate, this hope can be a dangerous thing, and further cause your financial situation to spiral.
People often will get addicted to the lottery and the instant games such as scratch off tickets. The instant gratification of knowing you have won is powerful.
The problem is, when you do win these instant games, it never seems like enough. Often times whatever amount people win from the scratch off, they will use to buy more tickets, always chasing after the elusive grand prize.
When I worked in a liquor store for a few months before starting my full time job, I saw many people fall prey to the lottery.
The store was located right outside the poorer part of town. Like clockwork, everyday there were several people who would come in and buy lottery tickets and scratch off tickets, along with a pack of cigarettes and sometimes booze.
Among these regulars, I never saw any of them ever walk out with any winnings in hand. $10-$20 was typically the minimum spent everyday.
The lottery can be a destructive habit and ruin many people’s lives.
If only these people only knew that by saving that money they could build a large stash, one capable of potentially getting them out of whatever financial situation they hope the lottery can save them from.
Get Rich by NOT Playing the Lottery
There is a much easier way that someone can get rich, by NOT playing the lottery.
Give up throwing your money towards the infinitesimally small chance of winning a large jackpot, and put it towards something that can growth your wealth and get you out of your tough situation.
Don’t believe it? The numbers don’t lie. Let’s take a look.
Take my friend for example, who told me he spends about $10/week on lottery tickets/scratch offs. He has an average income and can afford this, but he doesn’t realize the opportunity cost he is giving up by putting this towards the lottery.
What does $10/week turn into if you invest that over a 40 year period?
Assuming a 7% return that $10/ week or $520 a year will eventually turn into $114,500.
Will that make him rich? Well, rich is all relative. My friend is not a saver. In fact, I doubt he is saving much of anything for retirement at this point. If he does not turn this around, he may not have much saved up at all when he hits retirement.
In that case, this $115K would comparatively make him rich, as it would be a significant sum of money for retirement he otherwise would not have.
How about for those people from my liquor store days that played the lottery every day? Say they spent $10 every weekday, so $50/week (which could be low balling it if we’re honest) and had been doing so the past 40 years.
If they had been saving and investing that $50/week instead, at 7% return they’d have $572,509. Over half a million dollars! Talk about a jackpot!
$100K, or even $500K may not seem like “rich” to some people, but this kind of money is something that most of the poorest in America will never come close to seeing in their lives.
Will You Buy A Lottery Ticket?
Sometimes it’s the little things that people don’t think of that can make a big impact on your finances down the road.
While it’s much more beneficial to focus on the bigger expenses (like housing, transportation and food) and cutting those down, when you already have an extremely low income and expenses (like the poorest), every dollar needs to be accounted for and optimized.
While there may seem to be little hope, and the lottery provides an outlet for that, there are ways to take control of your situation without virtually throwing away that money.
For those in a better off situation financially, you may be able to afford those lottery tickets, but are they really providing you value? Is it really worth it for that far out chance?
Easy to say if you win, but can’t say I know anyone that has. Do you?
As I mentioned before, if you throw a buck or two each year at the lottery when the jackpot is at a high amount, it’s not going to affect your finances. Maybe it is worth it to you if you think you can get lucky, and hey you never know you just might!
If you do happen to go buy a ticket and win, just remember that YFK was the one to bring it to your attention 🙂
What are your thoughts on the lottery? Have you ever played? Do you think lotteries prey on the poorest people? Let me know your thoughts!
16 thoughts to “Get Rich By NOT Playing The Lottery”
I honestly hadn’t heard about the big number until I read it right here. It’s all your fault I’m going to rush out and buy a ticket now 😉 Oh wait. I’ve never bought myself a lottery ticket in my entire life. I guess I won’t start today.
Haha just remember who brought it to your attention if you win! 😉
The only lottery ticket I’ve ever bought was when the Powerball was at the highest ever jackpot of $1.5B when I was in college. Totally got suckered in by my friends who got tickets too and convinced me I should. Oh well, $2 is all they’ll ever get from me!
It’s a vicious cycle. As you said, the most common players seem to be the poorest citizens. They keep playing because they keep hoping for one big shot to get out financial trouble and as they end up losing, they get poorer and poorer causing more despair.
As long as the market is there, lotteries will keep going on. Can’t do anything about that. I do think the relentless marketing is predatory in a way, as it builds this false hope and a sense of excitement in people and convinces them to play.
That said, lotteries are not entirely bad, as the revenue generated often goes to education or state revenue (or so they claim 🙂 ). In the end it’s up to the individual to decide to play or not. Some people have the knowledge and discipline not to play at all or play very rarely. Others can’t help it and play every day. In the end, people have to have personal responsibility and accept the consequences of playing.
Yep agreed, it is nice that the revenues go towards programs that need it (if that’s actually the case) but I do think the marketing of it does a disservice and adds unnecessary costs that take money out of what could be going towards the programs.
I have witnessed this too on numerous occasions. Watching lower income families come into the store I used to work at, barely able to pay for food and necessities. Yet their biggest purchase would always be lottery tickets and cigarettes. Always sporting the “HOPE” they would win something. Yet without fail, day after day, they ended up in losses larger than they could afford to spend. While I am not opposed to the lottery. I believe educating them on how to prepare and save for a more fruitful future is vital to not only their success, but the success of their children.
Yea I have seen that exact same thing when I worked at a liquor store for a few months. Totally agree though, the unfortunate thing is the people that need this education the most are the ones less likely to be reading these blogs and other publications to help them become more financially literate
Ah but when one of your friends wins, they’ll be able to say “I told you so” for the rest of your life! 😂 I bought a ticket a few years ago when the Powerball was at a ridiculous number, but so far that’s the first and only lottery ticket I’ve ever bought. I suspect sheer laziness will keep me from buying one tonight haha.
I’ll take those odds 😉 but same! That was the only lotto ticket I ever bought too
Gambling is illegal, except for when the government sponsors it… We know how things work
Right?? Something doesn’t add up there. What’s really frustrating is how they spent a bunch of money to market it to people…
Admittedly, we still play the lottery from time to time for kicks and giggles. You make a good point though, the people that spend the MOST on the lottery really do have the LEAST to actually spend. We’re actively saving towards retirement and reaching FIRE but we have soooo many family members and friends that are wasting money on the lottery. They’re relying on the hope that they’ll hit it big and be able to retire from their winnings instead of just saving their money and making better decisions. It’s hard to watch but even harder to get them to change. Great post!
Thank you! Yea if you only play a couple times a year it really won’t affect you too much. It may really all about getting those people who don’t have the means to play to become more informed and save that money instead
I spend about $5 every 2 weeks, when I fill up with gas, for 3 tickets Mega, State, and PowerBall. I look at the cost like entertainment fees. I get about $5 worth of fun by daydreaming about how I will spend that jackpot. Is this silly, yes, but hey this is my fun. I have done this for a long time more than 10 years. I’d bet all told, all of my 24 years of being legally allowed to buy said tickets, I’ve spent close to $2000. Most of those years, the money would have rented me some beer, so no loss there. Always, though, I get the fun.
What scares me is the amount of regular gambling. The number of casinos is going up in the NY are. The horse racing places have gained more and more casino games. Yonkers Raceway is now Empire Casino. (http://www.empirecitycasino.com) In NJ, sports gambling on the internet is legal, as long as you bet from inside the state. Just walk across the George Washington Bridge, and bet away.
For those of us who can control it, I walk into casinos with a set amount of money to lose. I do say lose, and call it entertainment akin to a day at a amusement park. Of course, with that attitude, as you can expect, it’s been nearly 10 years since I have been in one. That was not the case. As a college student, I was more of a gambler. In those days, well, as we said then, I made more than my fair share of contributions to the local tribe. (The casino was on a reservation.) Even then, the expectation was that we were losing, just hopefully slowly.
I do love the memories though. One time, a friend sat down and lost every hand of blackjack until he lost all his money. It was both funny and sad. Fortunately it was only like $100, but that was a lot those days.
I do think of gambling as a form of entertainment. As long as you can fully accept that you have no problem or issues with losing all your money, that is. When I’ve gambled in the past at casinos that’s exactly how I’ve seen it too, just a form of entertainment (instead of going to the bars and spending money I just do it at the casino). Of course, you have to be disciplined and not put down more money when you inevitably lose it though!
I worked at a gas station for a while and witnessed the statistics you stated first hand. People woukd frequently come in and blow $100 on scratch offs. Wish I had this blog post printed out and could hand it to those people. Guess they’re funding the government at least!
Right?? It was super sad to see when I worked at a liquor store as well. If only these people knew.. I guess the better question is, even if they knew, would they change their habits?