Kadner: Buying a lottery ticket and a dream
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org December 17, 2013 9:44PM
Scott Hoormann buys two Mega Millions lottery tickets at Energy Express Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, in St. Louis. The Mega Millions jackpot now stands at an estimated $586 million with the next drawing set for Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Updated: January 19, 2014 11:47AM
As the drawing for the Mega Millions jackpot drew near Tuesday night, broadcasters kept talking about the long odds of winning the lottery
You’re more likely to be killed by an asteroid: odds of 1 in 250,000.
Much more likely to be hit by lighting in your lifetime: 1 in 10,000.
Even more likely to hit a hole-in-one on two consecutive par-3 holes: 1 in 156 million.
But those facts miss the point — for $1, people can buy a dream.
The odds of winning, 1 in 259 million, really don’t factor into the decision-making process.
It’s all about imagining what you would do with all that cash, before the winning numbers are announced.
Maybe you would buy that dream house for Mom and Dad. Go to Vegas and live like a high roller. Or just sit back and breathe a huge sigh of relief because you don’t have to worry about the next paycheck ever again.
I don’t know if anyone has actually conducted a study of what lottery players dream about when they purchase a ticket, but I’m guessing that No. 1 on the list is telling the boss to take his job and shove it.
It’s not that all bosses are bad or every job a grind. But the job, for most folks, seems like a form of slavery.
They go to work because they have to make money to put food on the table, pay the mortgage and (talk about your longshot hopes) maybe retire while they’re still young enough to enjoy it.
The idea of winning enough money to cut the ties that bind them to the workplace, well, that’s the dream of freedom. You can do whatever you want.
Maybe that’s just staying home and playing with the kids. Maybe it means starting your own business. Maybe it means traveling the world while staying at the best hotels and dining in the most expensive restaurants.
You know what? With a few hundred million dollars after taxes, you could do all of that.
Speaking of taxes, doesn’t it seem just a wee bit greedy of the federal government to grab 39.6 percent of the lump sum payout?
I mean, this is a multistate, government-approved lottery that generates tons of cash for government programs with odds against winning that would make a casino operator salivate.
Even the mob doesn’t take 40 percent off the top if a sucker happens to buy the winning ticket in a numbers game.
I mention that only because smack dab in the middle of dreaming about what I’m going to do with my winnings, I often find myself thinking about how rigged the lottery games are and wondering why no one seems to mind.
Fear not, those thoughts disappear a few seconds later as I ponder how I’m going to invest the money I have left after distributions to relatives, friends and charities.
Real estate is always a good buy. Farmland seems like a nice hedge, just in case some of these doomsday wackos are right. A place where you could have cows, chickens, pigs, corn and maybe some wheat.
A vineyard in California. Nothing big. Just a small winery.
Do you realize that if you took $100 million and put it in a CD at 0.5 percent interest you would earn $500,000 a year?
A frugal person, say someone who only purchased a couple of new Mercedes each year and limited himself to one lobster dinner a day, could live on that return for the rest of his life.
And that means you would still have about $200 million from the lump sum Mega Millions payout to spend frivolously or help the needy.
It’s a mind-boggling amount of money. Not Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Walton family money, to be sure, but a mighty tidy sum nonetheless.
Without the lottery, without that $1 ticket in his hand, the average guy never gets to think about stuff like this. Not seriously.
And it almost makes you giddy.
There’s almost no chance of winning. You know it. I know it. But what if ...
I heard someone on the radio say that the Mega Millions jackpot seemed too big for one person to win. He suggested that it would be better if a group of 30 folks working at the same company shared in the winning ticket.
That’s a nice thought. But who’s to say what’s best?
Suppose one person won it all and decided to hand out $10,000 to every beggar he saw on the street.
Or, better yet, maybe the winner will be a fan of the movie “Mr. Deeds Comes to Town.” That’s the film starring Gary Cooper as a small-town guy who inherits a fortune and decides to give it all away to needy people so they can keep their farms, start small businesses and feed their families.
I imagine reading newspapers each day, looking for stories about people who did something nice for strangers expecting nothing in return. The sort of thing where a guy jumps into a lake to rescue a drowning child or pulls some old lady out of a burning building.
I like to think that if I had several hundred million dollars, I might start handing out $100,000 to every person who behaved in such an unselfish way.
It might actually inspire some selfish people to start doing good deeds in the hope of getting a financial reward. Would that be such a bad thing?
I know, it’s just a silly dream. But for a minute, actually about two minutes, the thought of such a grand scheme made me smile. Win or lose, that lottery ticket was worth the price of admission to that daydream.
The sad fact is there are people who desperately need a few bucks to pay some medical bills or to buy their kids a winter jacket.
I realize that lottery ticket means more to them than it does to me. And I sure wish I could help them all out.
I guess that’s why I’ll never understand how super-wealthy folks can buy yachts, expensive vacation homes and spend millions of dollars financing election campaigns without thinking about those other people.
And then the rich have the nerve to complain about their taxes.
You know what, the government can take its 40 percent. I would find a way to survive on $300 million.