Personal Finance 

How to Win the Lottery

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Lottery Money PiggybankThe only time I’ve ever played the lottery is when the Powerball pot gets to be astronomical and my co-workers pool together some money to buy a few tickets together (this was several years ago). Outside of a few scratch off tickets for grins and giggles, I avoid lotteries unless they’re for local charities.

That being said, a lot of people still play, knowing full well they’ll probably never win. The pots don’t get to be that big unless they’re being fed by the daily tickets of so many players. Some of the savvier players turn to the internet for advice on how to win the lottery and today I will offer up the best advice anyone can give:

Don’t play the lottery.

I bet you saw that one coming right? Well, I’m going to back up that bit of advice with proof, beyond the obvious, of why the lottery is bad and what you should be doing instead.

The Odds Are Horrible

Everyone knows the odds of winning the lottery as astronomical. You are more likely to get struck by a lightening bolt while sitting in your car parked in the back of a jumbo-jet than you are to win the lottery. If you were to go to a casino, the worst games you could play give the house an edge of around 25% (Keno, Big Wheel). It’s not unheard of for a state lottery to have an edge of more than 50%… and you don’t get free drinks!

What if you don’t care about the odds? Well, the reality is that winning the lottery is actually awful for you.

Lottery Winners End Up Losing

Check out these poor souls who won the lottery:

  • William “Bud” Post won $16.2M in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 and now lives on Social Security. His former girlfriend sued for a part of the prize, his brother hired a hit man to try to kill him, and he was duped into investing in several businesses that failed. Post was also jailed for shooting at a bill collector. Within a year of winning, he was a million dollars in debt.
  • Suzanne Mullins won $4.2M in the Virginia lottery in 1993, now she’s in debt to a company that lent her money on the winnings. She’s now insolvent.
  • Ken Proxmire won $1M in the Michigan lottery, immediately moved to California and into the car business with his brother and was bankrupt in five years.
  • Willie Hurt won $3.1M in 1989 and was broke two years later and charged with murder, having spent all the money on a divorce and crack cocaine.
  • Charles Riddle won $1M in 1975, he then got divorced, was sued, and indicted for selling cocaine.
  • Janite Lee won $18M in 1993 in the Missouri lottery, did a lot more good with her many than anyone else on this list, but was bankrupt eight years later.

Hopefully these stories have scared you away from the lottery… because even if you win, you lose.

Save Your Money Instead

Instead of spending your hard earned money on the lottery and your precious time figuring out how to “win,” devote your time to figuring out how to make the most of what you already have and how to earn more income.

Let’s say you spend $5 a day, or $1825 a year, on lottery tickets. If you were to put that in the stock market, earning a conservative 5% a year (let’s ignore this last year), you would have $60,345 after twenty years. $121,250 after thirty years. And a whopping $220,459 after forty years. Even if you were to stick it in an online savings account at only 2% (and if it were to stay at 2%), you would still have $110,233 after forty years. That’s $110,233 without risk, guaranteed, you don’t have to do anything different except not buy lottery tickets.

So skip the lottery, go to the bank. 🙂

(Photo: sphistechate)

{ 71 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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71 Responses to “How to Win the Lottery”

  1. zts says:

    Anecdotes about six lottery winners who lost all their money is not proof that the lottery is bad. That is *not* how statistics work.

    I find that the lottery is a much better use of my time and money than going to a casino. The time is negligible–the lottery counter is right next to the grocery store check-out. The cost is negligible–I spend one or two dollars a week, money that I won’t miss and much less that I will probably squander on coffee and eating out. The potential payout is life altering. I know the odds are bad. One dollar is basically a choice between possible or impossible, for a chance to completely alter your life. I’ll take those odds.

    Going to a casino usually costs an entire day of travel and involves sitting in a dark, loud, smokey room. If people enjoy this, fine. I do not. Sure, the odds of casino games are not as bad, but I think most people leave a casino having lost more than one dollar. Those who have won, probably have not won a life-altering amount, so nothing really changes. For my temperament, I’ll take the lottery over a casino any time.

    People who spend too much money on lottery tickets, just like people who squander all their winnings, have other problems, and while the lottery may facilitate these problems, it is not bad in and of itself.

  2. Bailey says:

    Winning the lottery is not a curse any more than getting your paycheck at the end of the week is a curse.

    Free money is free money.

    Stupidity, ignorance, frivolousness, and materialism are the self-imposed curses that the majority of lottery winners suffer.

  3. I’m with you Jim– when Powerball gets big, I spend one dollar.

    What most people do is spend many dollars thinking it increases their chances– it really doesn’t. Unless you are buying a few hundred thousand tickets, the odds are pretty much the same for one ticket as it is for two tickets . . . save your money and buy one if you want a shot at a really big jackpot.

    • Martin says:

      Statistically, buying a second lottery ticket doubles your chances. Doubles your chances that are incredibly small in the first place, but you are still twice as likely to win!

      • Mark says:

        If your first chance is zero, and you double your chance by playing a second time, then your second chance is zero as well. Every ticket has a 0.000000000136 chance of winning.

  4. daemondust says:

    Best gambling game I’ve ever played was the one you put in $1 and get four quarters out. I win every time, but then I have to do my laundry.

  5. Passerby says:

    Just read all of the comments and as a weekly lottery player- I found many of the comments here to be superficially jugdemental. Several assumptions were made about the character and intelligence of a person playing the lottery; most of which concluded with a person who plays = an ignorant, poor, check to check living individual who has no common sense to save the $1.00 he/she plays.
    Well, I am not rich, but I think I can afford to spend a few dollars on a dream. I find it more ridiculous to spend $8.00 for movie tickets and $100.00 on popcorn and drinks at a movie theatre- so you can view a movie on a big screen surrounded by strangers, with the inability to speak. Most people spend that money several times a month.
    Ultimately, everyone has a view on what they deem a waste of money- the lottery is no different.

  6. Angie says:

    If the chances of winning are so low or almost impossible , how did a guy in this article win large amounts 5 times in a few years??

  7. Yana says:

    There’s one main mistake in this article, and it is this: “(let’s ignore this last year)”. The stock market is gambling, and you don’t ignore anything if you are to be honest about it.

    That said, I don’t buy lottery tickets. However, the odds don’t matter to the winner. As far as the stories about people blowing their windfall (and I know a couple of those personally – one won a million dollar lottery and one inherited 1.5 million dollars), this is not because winning the lottery or coming into a windfall is bad. It’s because the majority of people do not understand or value money and have no clue about managing it and making the most of it. In trying to figure it out, I’ve kinda concluded that some people don’t understand that when you spend money, you don’t have it anymore. They want to be “rich” so that they can spend money with reckless abandon, without the burden of having to think about it.

    You know that there is great resentment toward the poor, particularly welfare recipients. But there is equal resentment and extreme ignorance shown toward the so-called rich. And that is a reflection of the extreme ignorance that the majority of people embody when it comes to the game of money.

  8. JT says:

    Okay, so I was telling this guy the odds one time and he looked at me like, what? I then realized, someone is going to win the lottery and the “odd” you can’t control is “if you win.” Do you get it? You might win. If you do, the odds were in your favor. When you are born you don’t know the odds of dying, so does that mean you don’t live. Look, I am just saying. Don’t knock people who want to gamble. Someone is going to win. If you don’t play, you won’t win. You can’t. The odds are zero in what ever number you can think of. But if you win, who cares what the odds were!

  9. Sonya says:

    Here is a stat; About 1500 people win over a million every year which averages to about 3-4 people a day. If someone was to offer you a large sum of money, would you really turn it down because “bad” things might happen? I will assume not. The AVERAGE WINNER SPENDS about $150 DOLLERS a YEAR on lotto tickets not $1825 like the article suggests. It’s a game…not a life investment.

  10. maddie says:

    great advice. I loved it.

  11. dirwin says:

    Sure, the chances of winning the lottery are pretty bad. Investing in the stockmarket is risky to. You could lose 1/2 or all of your money in the stock market, overnight. Life is a gamble. You may be dead tommorow. I don’t see why spending a few bucks every once in a while or even every paycheck is gonna hurt you. It’s luck, plain and simple. If you win, your extremely lucky, just look at it as providence was on your side, if you lose, just look at it as bad luck. A few dollars isn’t gonna hurt you even if you never win. Just remember that your probably gonna lose and don’t get your hopes up to much.

  12. gypsy says:

    Where I live you can claim lottery tickets. And we did lose more than half on the money market.
    Also i win a few 5-10 dollar winners so when i play i average those in. I don’t play much. Gypsy

  13. Anonymous says:

    thanks for nothing

  14. Jeff says:

    This is the dumbest story I’ve ever read. Just because you win the lottery doesn’t mean you’re going to go bankrupted or become a bad person. That is because those people were idiots. The first thing you do when you win the lottery is hire an attorney and don’t tell anyone. You even have your attorney make it to where your name is not published as a lottery winner. I’m always dumb founded when I see these idiots on national TV telling everyone in the world that they won $150 million dollars. How dumb is that.

  15. Zork says:

    What a negative post. Total crap.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Ridiculous… Yeah, don’t do anything in life or take any chance because you may fail… Way to go.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I think of it like this: I don’t have kids. All that money I would be spending on diapers, clothes, crib and whatnot, I’m using for my chance of winning and I still got left to save. Buying a ticket here and there is not a terrible thing, not knowing how to handle it when you actually win is a totally different thing.

  18. Adam says:

    So what your saying is I should play the lottery?

  19. Preston says:

    The money from the lottery goes towards funding education in most states. So it’s not all that bad…

    I think it’s a great way to let people have a dream and have some fun while at the same time donating to education.

    Just my two cents.

  20. Matt says:

    Hey if you never play, you will never win!

  21. Kitty Gurl says:

    Hey, I am kinda young but I get that the scratch off ones are actually better if you want to win something because all the ones for 1 dollar at Giant have multiple prizes and like a grand prize and stuff and I went over to my friends house for Odyssey of the Mind (look it up if you want) and I saw he had some lotto tickets (5) and they were the one dollar kind and I saw that he already won like 40 something dollars so if you want to enjoy winning and you are fine with not being filthy rich and do not want to take the risk of going bankrupt then try the 1 dollar scratch offs.

  22. Jlr says:

    Awesome now if only my parents would have followed your advice I wouldn’t have to play this no win game! Also, my creditors will not take to kindly of waiting 30 – 40 years for my investments to mature.

  23. Jlr says:

    One more thing…Hey you never know! Lol!

  24. Enrique Pineda says:

    If all six of your numbers exactly match the numbers drawn, you win the jackpot. All odd numbers or all even numbers are rarely drawn, occurring less than 3% of the time. Some people try to analyze previously drawn numbers in order to see the trend and predict the next numbers. Some people try to analyze previously drawn numbers in order to see the trend and predict the next numbers. Florida’s Lotto is 6/53, meaning that six numbers are drawn from a possible 53.

    Florida’s Lotto is 6/53, meaning that six numbers are drawn from a possible 53. Another option would be to choose hot and cold numbers, meaning probably the most and least winning numbers previously. Another option would be to choose hot and cold numbers, meaning probably the most and least winning numbers previously. The grand winner is the ticket which has all six numbers matching the winning numbers. The grand winner is the ticket which has all six numbers matching the winning numbers.

    Imagine turning on the local news to discover that the winning lottery numbers match those on your ticket. Prize amount vary depending on the combination of numbers and stars you match when you play EuroMillions Lottery. Prize amount vary depending on the combination of numbers and stars you match when you play EuroMillions Lottery. Whenever we play the lottery, we wish to have chosen the correct numbers to win the jackpot. Whenever we play the lottery, we wish to have chosen the correct numbers to win the jackpot.

    Picking the right numbers for lotteries will determine whether or not you win in a certain lottery. Basically, a lottery wheel, defined, puts numbers together randomly, at the lowest possible cost. The biggest question that most individuals have is how to pick the lottery numbers . Lottery Universe is now offering you the opportunity to pick your numbers for the El Gordo lottery.

  25. frank says:

    I love people who criticize people who play the lottery. Only people who lose say the lottery is a mistake, bad investment, etc. You will never hear a person who just won 250 million dollars say bad things about the lottery.

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