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Getting out of Debt

Are Your Odds of Winning the Lottery Good? Don’t Bet On It!

couple with a lottery ticket

5 Minute Read

If you’re one of those people who think winning the lottery will solve all your problems, you’d better think again.

Winning the lottery is probably one of the quickest, most surefire ways to ruin your life—we’re serious. Not to mention your odds of winning the lottery are slim to none.

Still, lots of people think that instantly coming into a few million dollars means life on easy street. They assume the money will be around forever and they’ll never have to work another day in their life.

Nope! The truth is, even if you did win the lottery (and that’s a real long shot), it’s not going to fix everything. Winning the lottery just means you’d have a whole new set of problems to deal with.

Your Odds of Winning the Lottery Aren’t Good

Let’s just be real here: Your odds of winning the lottery are pretty bleak at best. The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot? 1 in 302,575,350.(1) 

So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Umm, no.

There are plenty of other off-the-wall things that are much more likely to happen to you . . . 

You have a 1 in 6 chance of getting food poisoning.(2)

You have a 1 in 12,000 chance of making a hole-in-one playing golf.(3)

More than 5 million have beaten debt this way. You can too!

You have a 1 in 3,748,067 chance of being killed from a shark attack.(4)

You have a 1 in 60 million chance of having quintuplets.(5)

Does all this sound ridiculous? Good! That’s because it is! Banking on winning the lottery is about as ridiculous as it gets. Do you really want to waste your time and money on a long shot like that?

The crazy thing is, most people know their odds of winning the lottery are really, really bad . . . but they keep buying tickets! Why? Because they’re looking for a rescue plan, a light at the end of the tunnel, a life raft to come along and save them.

They think they need a big windfall to pay off debts, buy a house, or save for retirement. In their mind, the lottery represents a fresh start and a promise of a lifetime of luxury. But sadly, it’s all just a well-marketed pipe dream. The truth is much less glamorous.

How the Lottery Can Ruin Your Life

Coming into a quick pile of cash usually means that people will come out of the woodwork looking to get a piece of your newfound fortune.

Third cousins you never even knew existed will call and hit you up for money. You'll get letters in the mail from complete strangers armed with every sob story in the book—they’re unemployed, their children are sick with a rare disease, they’re being held hostage in Timbuktu, and you’re their only hope. It’s all just an attempt to get sympathy points and money from you.

If (and that’s a big if) you win the lottery, be prepared to have a big target on your back and a slew of new troubles to figure out.

In 2007, Donna Mikkin hit it big and won $34.5 million from the New York State Lottery. She thought her life was set, but she soon realized that achieving this dream life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

“Most people look at winning the lottery as some magic pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the rainbow,” she wrote in a blog post. “If you ask me, my life was hijacked by the lottery.” 

For Donna, winning the lottery led her down a path of “emotional bankruptcy” and even impacted her overall happiness. “When we won the lottery, my inner dialogue was manic. I became more concerned about how I was being judged and perceived,” she wrote.

The moral of the story? If you’re looking for financial peace, you’re not going to find it in winning the lottery.

The Lottery Steals Your Greatest Wealth-Building Tool—Your Income

Playing the lottery is a guaranteed way to lose money—fast. And most of the time, it’s a hefty tax on people who really can’t afford it.

Have you ever noticed millionaires don’t play the lottery? Research shows folks who earn the least gamble the most. According to a study by the University of Buffalo, gambling is twice as likely in neighborhoods with the highest levels of poverty.(6)

28% of Americans in the lowest income bracket play the lotto once a week. If they keep that up all year long, that means they’re spending $412 each year on lottery tickets.(7)

Is that a fortune? Nope. But you know what? Instead of playing the lottery for 10 years, you could be investing that money! And the chances of getting a return on your investment is much better. After 10 years of investing $412 annually with an interest rate of 12%, that $412 will have grown to $7,159. Take that, lotto! You basically doubled your money thanks to the magic of compound interest.

When you are feeling strapped for cash, the last thing you want to do is spend what little money you do have to your name on a gimmick like the lottery. And the less money you have, the more wisely you need to manage it, because you really don't have as much room for error.

Ditch the Lotto, Make a Plan for Your Money

If you’re sick of this cycle, we have a better idea: Forget the lottery. Instead, focus on working hard, living on a budget, and saving your money. It works every time, unlike the lotto.

When you make a budget and get out of debt, you have some breathing room in your life. And that’s going to feel pretty good! You might even feel like you got a raise when you see how much money you have left over after doing your budget.

Ready to come into some money without ever having to gamble on the lotto again? Get our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, and get started making your first budget!

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