The Truth About Buying Lottery Tickets

lottery-form-bigfoto.jpg One of my brothers played the lottery every single day.  He spent at least $5 every day, plus a couple of extra dollars for goodies and treats from the store since he was there anyway. 

He was also a poor man due to a lifelong illness, so this ate up a good deal of his limited monthly budget.  He would win a lottery or scratch-off card for a large amount once or twice a year.  When I say a large amount, I mean a thousand dollars or so.  In my estimation, he was breaking even at best.
 
My brother would often call me with a tip.  “Play the lottery today,” he would tell me, and he would give me numbers to play.  I would tell him “No” and we would argue a bit about why lotteries did or did not make sense.  We would always end the conversation with him telling me that he would buy me a house when he won, and then I’d believe in the lottery system.  Sadly, he passed away before that happened.  He never struck it rich, and I never got my house. 

 

Want To Buy Lottery Tickets?

Lotteries are legalized forms of gambling. 

Most U.S. states use lottery to help fund educational systems.  Thirty-eight states plus Washington DC have state-run lotteries.  And there are several multi-state lotteries (like Mega Millions and Powerball).

Check the "official" winning lottery ticket numbers through the U.S. Government’s lottery site.

Lotteries come in the form of scratch-off games, and Lotto which involves contestants picking 6 numbers from a set of balls, and those numbers are drawn from the set of balls, then they win the jackpot.  If no one picks those 6 numbers, the lottery amount grows.  The amount can and has grown to hundreds of millions of dollars before someone wins. 
 

Lottery Prediction
How Stuff Works has a great explanation of how to calculate the odds of winning a lottery

In order to win our example game, you have to pick the correct 6 numbers from 50 possible balls. The order in which the numbers are picked is not important; you just have to pick the correct 6 numbers.  The odds of picking a single correct number depend on how many balls have been chosen already. For instance, let’s say none of the 6 numbers had been picked yet and you had to guess just one number correctly. Since there are 50 numbers to choose from, and since 6 balls are going to be picked, you have 6 tries at picking the number correctly. The odds of picking one number correctly are 50/6 = 8.33:1.   (Remember, you have to pick 6 numbers) 

 

Who Buys Lottery Tickets?
Many people believe that lotteries take advantage of the poorest people who are looking for instant riches.  New Mexico Lottery says otherwise. 

They cite a 1997 Washington Post survey that discovered “middle income Americans were the most likely group to play the lottery. Two out of three Americans with household incomes between $25,000 to $45,000 a year play the lottery at least once a year. One out of 4 play monthly. Americans earning $45,000 to $65,000 play even more often, with 3 of 4 playing occasionally while one-third wager at least once a month.”  

I don’t feel that this “fact” exactly poo-poos the “myth” however, as my brother’s household income did fall within the lower range, but the fact that he lived in New York means the money did not go very far. 

See why poor people win the lottery, plus other facts and myths about winning the lottery.
 

About Lottery Winners
When someone wins a lottery jackpot, it’s a big deal.  They are immediately catapulted from a median or low-income range into millionaire status.  For some strange reason however, the riches always seem to be fleeting. 

There are several reasons that lottery winners don’t stay rich for long. 

Check out this article: 8 Lottery Winners Who Lost Their Millions. In it, the author questions whether or not these lottery winners were ever really millionaires.  

These people believe they are millionaires. They buy into the hype, but most of these people will go to their graves without ever becoming a millionaire," says Wallace, who has been in the business for almost a decade.” 

The article goes on to say that winning plays games with your head, because the lottery winner never addresses "the emotional connection with the windfall.” 

And, if that’s not enough, friends and family seem to demand their share of the winnings and lottery winners often have a hard time saying No.  Pair that with the fact that either you get your winnings split up into payments over many years, or you get a much smaller amount in a lump sum, and it’s no wonder that lottery winnings disappear so quickly!  
 

If You Buy Lottery Tickets…
I realize that none of these facts will stop many from buying lottery tickets, especially during those times when the jackpot amounts climb into the high millions. If you still want to play the lottery, I would encourage you to read these helpful articles about winning the lottery first:

Is it better to play $50 one week, or $1 for 50 weeks?  Read these tips on maximizing your odds.

If you win (or have won) the lottery, then you will want to know how to decide between taking the lump sum vs payments.  (Remember to change your phone number!)

Would you believe that millions of lottery dollars go unclaimed each ye
ar due to expired lottery tickets?  How?  People die.  Lottery tickets get washed up in the laundry.  Vacationers buy tickets in other states then forget about them.  TIP: Some lottery tickets expire after only 6 months!

Warning: About half of all states are knowingly selling lottery tickets where you can’t win!  That’s right.  These are called zero-chance lottery tickets, and you’d never know you were wasting your money unless you checked the website for that particular scratch-off ticket first.

Does your state have a digital lottery system?  There could be more problems than you realize… and winning numbers might not always be correct or fair.

And finally, just for fun… You’ve seen those lottery pranks where someone thinks they’ve won big bucks with a scratch-off lottery ticket, right?  Now you can get your own fake lottery tickets.

 

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Andrea Hermitt

I have been a certified tightwad since I became pregnant with my first child and decided to find a way to stay home with him. I enjoy sharing my experiences in my journey back to financial health and planning for a future -- which will include sending 2 kids to college and early retirement.

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