Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Powerball

So, how crazy is it that the Powerball jackpot is $1.3 billion? Sometimes it seems like all anyone is talking about, though David Bowie's unfortunate death has managed to change the subject this week, at least among most of my friends on social media...
Anyway, for all that I try to be a creature of logic when it comes to finances, I had my little moment of madness last weekend when I decided to drop $10 on Powerball, when the jackpot was "only" $900 million. I of course knew I wouldn't win, but it's hard not to fantasize about these things, and while the odds of winning are incredibly tiny, even incredibly tiny odds are better than the absolute certainty of not winning if you don't enter. And since my lottery spending pattern is to spend about $10 every few years when the whim strikes me, I don't feel like I'm throwing away too much money.
It's funny to read some of these articles that try to tell you the best times to play the lottery-- actually, I should say "try to read," as I feel my brain getting numb pretty quickly. I guess the ideas fall into various categories-- since the winning numbers themselves are totally random, the best you can hope for is to strategize about not having to share the prize, or doing some sort of analysis of the cost/benefit of buying a ticket at different jackpot levels. No matter what, you are working with odds of winning that comparable to odds of being hit by lightning while standing on your head while serving as the first democratically elected president of the United Kingdom.
What struck me after I read the back of my Powerball ticket more closely is how relatively worthless the secondary prizes are for getting a few of the numbers right. After the jackpot, it drops to $1,000,000 (5 numbers right), and then $50,000 (4 numbers plus the powerball number), and then $100 (if you get 4 numbers, or 3 numbers plus the powerball number right). $1 million would be amazing and pretty life changing for most people, even if it's only about half that by the time you take out taxes, and even less if you take it all in cash up front. But I'm not sure it would be enough to make me feel comfortable quitting my job and changing careers. $50,000 definitely wouldn't be enough.

The other thing that interests me about lottery fever is how people talk about what they'd do with the money. at this huge a jackpot level, most people can't even get their heads around it. But they usually seem to start with thoughts of giving a lot of money to friends and family, which is nice. It makes you wonder about people who are billionaires already-- there are plenty of extremely expensive luxuries they can spend their riches on, and lots of charitable ventures, but even they must struggle to put a dent in it sometimes. I can only hope I someday have the problem of figuring that out myself!

If you've bought a ticket, good luck!

1 comment:

Riley Cusack said...

It's interesting to see this jackpots. Not the world biggest, but huge enough.
In infographics way it looks like https://casinority.com/the-biggest-jackpots-in-the-history-of-gambling/ just terrific. Really interesting to see.