Why the Lottery is a Double Edged Sword

I am not a big fan of playing the lottery – I feel like it is rolling down your car window and throwing money out of it – but I do have to admit that I did buy a few tickets for the recent Mega Millions drawing (since I am writing this from my modest house you can take it that I did not win).

I recently read a study which shows that lottery players in my state, Georgia, are the biggest “suckers” in our country since they buy more than $50 billion a year in tickets for state-run games.  They spent the second-highest chunk of their income on the lottery according to the Sucker Index created by Bloomberg Rankings.

Governors use lotteries to pay for education, environmental protection and other programs.  In Georgia, the lottery helps pay for pre-K programs along with the HOPE Scholarship which pays for Georgia students to attend state colleges – I did convince myself that I was helping pay for Ava and Ella’s college when I bought my tickets.

Despite these well- meaning intentions, lotteries definitely affect those with lower incomes more since they spend money they should not be spending on those magical (hopefully) $1 tickets.  Yes, I know that no one forces people to play the lottery and some need to use more self-control and become more responsible for their actions.  The odds of picking the lucky numbers are stacked against us and most of us will never win much money.  We would be better served investing this money or even putting it under our beds.

Even if you do strike it rich, this may not be a good thing in the long-term.  I know many have wild dreams about winning a large sum and what they would do with it.  The problem is that many of those that play the lottery have no clue on how to manage a smaller amount and become very overwhelmed when they win.  I read a report which shows that around 75% of multi-million lottery winners go broke within 5 years.

I actually know someone who won the lottery.  He went in with a group on tickets each week and their lucky numbers came up.  After the money was divided amongst them, each member walked away with over $1 million.  One of these members went through all of her winnings and, now, has nothing to show for her good luck.  In her case, picking the correct numbers was more of a curse rather than a blessing.

Yes, it would be nice to win that amount but I could not imagine the feeling of blowing all of this.  I know I would beat myself up on a daily basis and think about the “what-ifs.”  I would rather not win at all rather than blow all of this money and have nothing to show for it.

The lottery, in my opinion, is a double-edged sword.  Too many people spend money they should not be spending on tickets in hopes of becoming rich.  When they do get what they wished for, many find themselves broke again in five years and are often worse off than they were before winning.  It goes to show – be careful what you wish for.

What do you think about the lottery?  Should you spend your money on it?

About Danny Kofke

Danny Kofke is currently a special education teacher and author of “How To Survive (and perhaps thrive) On A Teacher’s Salary.” His frugality has enabled him to pursue a job he is passionate about and, at the same time, support a family of four on his salary alone.

Articles | Blog | Twitter | Book

  • http://yourlifeforless.com/ Ryan

    I think playing the lottery is a waste of time and money. There are much more efficient ways to make our dreams happen than to play a game in which your odds are overwhelmingly against you. When you combine this with the fact that many lottery winners end up broke within a few years, it’s really not a good use of money. 

  • JD

    I am not overly bright but it does not seem like a wise use of my dollars so I don’t buy lottery tickets nor do I gamble.  Several years ago my husband worked with a man that won the State Lottery and the winnings were around six million dollars net.  At the end of three years the money was gone and he came back to work with my husband.  I am not repeating this story because I think the man is stupid but it would appear that managing such a large sum is rather difficult.  He and his family traveled around the world, bought new vehicles, built a large expensive home and really blew through the winnings.  Temptation, greed or something else?  I don’t know but it was sad that he ended up exactly where he had been previously.  Tied down to a job he didn’t like and scratching to make ends meet.