US Med Voice

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Vol. 4, No. 1 | January 2012

 

 

 

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Winning the Lottery!
Small Lottery Bets Have Entertainment Value and More

US MED Gives BackHistorians say the American Revolution was financed in part by lotteries, and so was Harvard, so lotteries have a peculiar place in American history.

Last year, we wagered $58.8 billion on them, according to the North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries (NASPL). The 43 states and District of Columbia that allow lotteries kept about $18 billion in profits.

When you buy a Powerball ticket, you know your chances of winning are 1 in 195 million, but where else do you have a chance to win a life-changing lump of money for a couple of dollars?

Writing in Time, Bill Saporito says he saves for a rainy day and sticks to a low-risk investment portfolio, but that approach won't give him the dream benefits that cashing his lotto check would.

Economists at the University of Maryland say that while state lotteries take a small percentage of household income, for the majority of players, lottery tickets represent an entertainment or consumption value. The fact that it isn't a positive return doesn't necessarily mean it's an irrational choice.

The standard advice is that putting the money into a mutual fund or savings account would be a better choice. That's wise, but if you redirected your lottery spending to stocks over the 10 years ending December 2010, your annualized return would have amounted to a 1.54 percent loss, according to Standard & Poor's.

Saporito says he will continue to buy his $4 worth of lottery tickets every week. He knows rationally that he will never win the big one. But he enjoys thinking about how he would spend the jackpot and says there are even more foolish ways to waste money.

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