Why do people play lottery?
You are probably not hearing about the lottery for the first time. Every other day, you see advertisements on your TV for various lottery games and the massive amount of money at stake. Other times, you have read about lucky jackpot winners claiming thousands of dollars in winning. And out of curiosity, you may find yourself trying to understand the entire logic behind playing the lottery.
Interestingly, there is no universal logic behind playing the lottery. Lottery players engage in it for various reasons. These reasons are mostly subjective, and in most cases, a player can have more than a reason for playing the lottery. But one thing is clear – lottery players have a valid reason for playing this game of luck.
So, to answer this question of why people play the lottery, we have identified what drives people to join the game of chance to win the jackpot. These revelations promise to be exciting, so read on!
Reason #1 – People want to win the lottery jackpot!
This is first on the list for the obvious reason – it is the most important logic. Most people play the lottery because they want to win the jackpot. And how can you hit the jackpot without playing the lottery? It becomes more relatable when you learn the crazy cash prizes awarded as lotto jackpots.
For instance, an average lotto’s jackpot can range from hundreds of thousands to millions, depending on how big it is. And you can become the lucky winner with just a single lottery ticket.
Yes, it is that simple.
Reason #2 – Playing the lottery is fun
A good number of lottery players will tell you they do so because they enjoy it. The ‘enjoyment’ here simply refers to the adrenaline rush that comes with playing the game and potentially winning. Lotto, for such players, is an exciting social activity. Picking up a lottery ticket and choosing your lucky numbers and waiting for the draws – these activities are all enjoyable.
The peak, however, is during the draws. Watching the lotto draws live and check your ticket for a possible match is a rare and fun feeling.
Reason #3 – Lottery can be life-changing
Yes, winning the lottery jackpot is probably the best feeling ever. But have you ever imagined what you could do with the money? The truth is a lottery jackpot can change the winner’s life forever. Pocketing hundreds of thousands without literally investing anything can be a life-defining moment for anyone.
Money solves most problems. A lottery jackpot gives you so much money to solve almost all those problems. So, when people play the lottery, they are taking a life-changing chance on themselves.
Reason #4 – Playing the lotto can be a habit
People can consciously or unconsciously pick up lottery playing as a habit. For such players, they look forward to the next chance they will get to pick up their lucky numbers and try to win the jackpot. The quality of research and preparation that go into picking the right lottery and choosing the random numbers on your ticket is fantastic. Lottery players find themselves doing these effortlessly while enjoying every bit of their new habit.
It is the same way you unconsciously pick up habits like binge-watching movies, starting your day with a cup of coffee, or writing poetry in your free time. And come to think of it, a couple of lottery tickets per week is in no way a bad habit, is it? It is not considering what is at stake!
Reason #5 – Players want a solid retirement plan
With the dwindling economy and uncertain financial projections, no one can tell exactly what the future has in stock for them. So, rather than wait and leave everything to chance, lotto players build their future.
What better way to get your future secured than winning a lottery? The winnings can help anyone set up a failsafe and solid retirement plan or even do more than that.
Reason #6 – People want to fulfill dreams
We all have, at least, a life dream we want to fulfill so hard. For some, their dream is to win a jackpot. You may think it is weird, but the truth is, it is not. The feeling of accomplishment and the entire glam that comes with being the lucky winner of millions is enough to live for.
For others, the main dream is not to be a jackpot winner, but it is the all-important step towards fulfilling their dreams. Being a lotto winner will take you to places, make your life immensely better, boost your confidence, and, more importantly, make you rich.
Reason #7 – People are curious
Oh, you think we will never (re)mention curiosity? You were wrong! Interestingly, most lottery players are in it to satisfy their curiosity. It can be baffling to see people on TV presented with huge amounts of money won from ‘playing lotto.’
The only way out of such mystery is to experience how it works, first hand. For such people, they join the lotto playing club just to see how it works and be part of all the fun. However, such curiosity may develop into strong and genuine interests for such lotto players, and they become passionate about the game.
Asides from the fun and the life-changing potentials associated with lotteries, it is one of the most convenient games of luck out there. Your location or distance is never a problem – you can play from anywhere. In most cases, you can play the lottery from the comfort of your home.
Talking about convenience, click here to find out more about Lotto Nigeria – one of the newest lotteries with mouth-watering jackpots.
You are probably not hearing about the lottery for the first time. Every other day, you see advertisements on your TV for various lottery games and the massive amount of money at stake. Other times, you have read about lucky jackpot winners claiming thousands of dollars in winning. And out of curiosity, you may find […]
The Lottery: Is It Ever Worth Playing?
Feeling lucky? You’d better be if you play the lottery. Depending on which one you play, you have some pretty long odds.
For example, the odds of winning a recent Powerball drawing in Tennessee was 1 in 292.2 million. To put this in perspective, you have a:
- One in 2,320,000 chance of being killed by lightning
- One in 3,441,325 chance of dying after coming into contact with a venomous animal or plant
- One in 10 million chance of being struck by falling airplane parts
Most people would agree the risk of any of these events actually happening to them is pretty slim.
Let’s look at it another way. Assume you went to the largest stadium in the world—which happens to be in North Korea. The stadium was filled to capacity. As part of the price of your ticket, you were entered into a lottery where you could win a new car. In that case, your odds of winning are 1 in 150,000.
Would you be sitting on the edge of your seat in that stadium as they’re reading the ticket number or would you believe that, realistically, you’re not going to win? To equal the odds of winning the Powerball lottery, you would have to fill that same stadium to capacity 1,947 more times and put all of those people together and have the same drawing for the one car. Would anybody believe they could actually win in a crowd of people that large?
Still not convinced? If they were giving away a new home to just one person and everybody in the six most populated states in the United States entered, that would equal your chances of winning the lottery.
The largest lottery jackpot that was ever drawn in U.S. history—for Powerball in January 2016.
Of course, someone has to win the lottery, and the only way to win it is to be in it, as the ads say. But what’s the best way to be in it? The rules of probability dictate you do not increase your odds of winning the lottery by playing frequently. So each time you play the lottery, there is independent probability—much like a coin toss where each and every toss, regardless of the number of tosses, has a one in two probability of landing on heads. The odds stay the same—in the lottery and the coin toss—regardless of the frequency of playing.
You can, however, increase your odds by purchasing more tickets for the same lottery drawing. Keep in mind, though, that two tickets might increase your odds from one in 14 million to two in 14 million, which is not a significant improvement, statistically speaking. Someone would have to buy a lot of tickets to appreciably increase their odds of winning. Even if a person could afford to, however, he or she could not buy enough lottery tickets to guarantee a win unless he or she was the only person buying the tickets. As more tickets are collectively sold, the odds of winning inversely decrease.
- Your chances of winning the lottery are remote.
- The odds of winning the lottery do not increase by playing frequently, rather, you’d do better by purchasing more tickets for the same drawing.
- Although there is no guarantee in the stock market, the likelihood of getting a return on your investment is far better than your chances of winning the lottery.
- Lottery winners have the option to take their cash in one lump sum or by spreading it out over a number of years through annuities.
- There are tax implications for both, although, in the end, an annuity tends to have a greater tax advantage.
Who Plays the Lottery?
The chances of winning the lottery are exceedingly remote, but that doesn’t stop people from playing. Overall, approximately half of all U.S. adults collectively will spend upwards of $1,000 per month in the hopes of striking it rich. Time and again, when a lottery was introduced in a state, the local number of adults who engaged in gambling (which a lottery technically is) increased 40%. In certain states, the majority of lottery revenue comes from a small percentage of players. A Minnesota study, for instance, determined that 20% of its lottery players accounted for 71% of lottery income, and in Pennsylvania, 29% of players accounted for 79% of income, according to the most recent statistics from the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL).
So what? The lottery is just one of those fun things that we do as a way to strike it rich, right? For some folks, that’s true, but for others—often those with the least amount of money to spare—playing for these jackpots can be a serious income drainer. An overwhelming amount of lottery participants seem to reside in the lower economic classes, according to the stats. A Gallup study breaks down some statistics, noting that regular lottery players make approximately $36,000 to $89,999. Small wonder that consumer-finance gurus say the lottery is essentially an extra tax on the poor.
Lottery retailers collect commissions on the tickets they sell and also cash in when they sell a winning ticket, usually in the form of an award or bonus.
Gambling vs. Investing
A curious headline was placed on the homepage of the Mega Millions website on March 25, 2011, a day when the odds of winning flew up to 1 in 175 million. The headline read, “Save for Retirement.” Anti-gambling groups cried foul at this apparent attempt to spin the lottery as a means to fund a person’s post-work years and lottery officials quickly issued a statement saying they were running a campaign encouraging people to dream about how they would use their winnings—not offering a financial strategy.
Is there a better, more profitable, way to spend or invest the money you’d otherwise devote to the lottery? Let’s look at the numbers. If a person spends $5 per week on lottery tickets, it adds up to $260 per year. Over 20 years (a typical long-term investment horizon for stocks and bonds), the total spent on lottery tickets would be $5,200. Putting $260 per year into stocks earning approximately 7% annually (based on equities’ historical performance) yields $11,015 after 20 years. But if you just spent the money on lottery tickets and presumably won nothing, you would be out $5,200 after 20 years.
Of course, the stock market is never a sure thing. Stocks can depreciate as well as appreciate. So let’s try a more cautious estimate. Consider a person without a college degree who spent an average of $250 per year purchasing lottery tickets. If that same person were to start an individual retirement account (IRA) or another retirement account that earned a conservative average 4% annual return and contributed that same $250 to it per year for 30 years, he or she would have $15,392 once they reached retirement age. If they did the same thing for 40 years, that number would jump to more than $25,000.
Although some would argue that in today’s economy there is no way to guarantee that the money would earn 4%, there’s also no guarantee that it wouldn’t earn far more than 4%. But all of that aside, the odds of having $15,000 after 30 years are largely in the person’s favor; certainly more so than with the Powerball lottery’s 292-million-to-1 odds.
Lump Sum or Annuity?
Let’s say, despite the dismal odds, you do win the lottery, and you win big—six figures big. You’re going to face a lot of decisions, and the first one is how to receive the funds. With most lotteries, you get a choice: they can write you a check for the lump sum amount or you can receive it in the form of an annuity.
The lump sum is a single cash transfer, whereas the annuity is a series of annual payments (often spread out over 20 to 30 years). Unlike some annuities that end when you do, this is something called an annuity certain: the payouts will continue for the set term of years, so if you pass away, you can bequeath those payments to whomever you would like. Which should you take?
Only six states allow winners to remain anonymous, while three others allow them to collect winnings through an LLC.
The Case for Lump Sum Payment
Most lottery winners opt for a lump sum payment. They want all of the money immediately. That is the main advantage of a lump sum: full and complete access to the funds. Not only do individuals like that, but their newly acquired giant team of accountants, financial advisors, money managers, and estate lawyers do too—the more assets under management, the better, especially if their compensation is based on a percentage of those assets.
Taking a lump sum could also be the better course if, not to be morbid, the winner isn’t likely to live long enough to collect decades of payouts, and has no heirs to be provided for.
Tax Advantage: Annuity
You may be in a better income tax position if you receive the proceeds over several years via an annuity rather than up front. Why? Lottery wins are subject to income tax (both federal and state, except for the few states that don’t tax winnings) in the year you receive the money. Say you win a $10 million jackpot. If you take the lump sum option, the entire sum is subject to income tax that year. However, if you choose the annuity option, the payments would come to you over several decades, and so would their tax bill. For example, in a 30-year payout schedule, instead of $10 million all in one year, you’d get around $333,000 a year. Although that $333,000 would be subject to income tax, it could keep you out of the highest state and federal income tax brackets.
But even if you pay the taxes all at once, it’s roughly the same as paying them over time, isn’t it? Not according to the experts.
If you choose the annuity option, the government takes your winnings and invests them for you—most likely in boring, yet highly stable Treasury bonds. Usually, when you invest, you pay taxes, but when the government invests they do so free of all tax obligations. So, over 30 years, not only are you getting a monthly payment on your winnings, but you’re also earning investment income on them.
Let’s say you opted for annuity payments on a $327.8 million prize, and you’re invested in a 30-year government bond paying 4.5% interest. In your first year, you’ll earn an estimated $14,715,000 in interest. By the end of the 20 years, your winnings would be 20% higher than when you started. All you have to do is submit to having somewhere around $900,000 as a monthly payment after taxes—assuming you’re in the maximum federal tax bracket.
Here’s the other advantage: If you take the lump sum, you effectively have to pay taxes twice—once when you get the check and then again on the income you earn from investing it yourself (you will invest most of it, right?). If the government invests it, you only pay a tax bill once (on the annuity checks).
Other Advantages to Annuities
But perhaps the biggest argument for taking the annuity is more intangible—to protect you from yourself. A six-figure windfall is a life-changing event, and not necessarily a good one. Most people are inexperienced at managing such sums to begin with, but even the wisest and coolest of heads could lose perspective, especially given the avalanche of friends, family, and even strangers that descends once the news gets out, pleading or even demanding a share of the spoils. Academics cite research showing most lottery winners will save only 16 cents of every dollar they win and that one-third of lottery winners go bankrupt.
An annuity can help, by literally limiting the funds in your possession. After all, you can’t give away, squander, or otherwise mishandle what you don’t have. Plus, taking the money over time provides you with a “do-over” card. By receiving a check every year, even if things go badly the first year, you will have many more chances to learn from mistakes, recoup losses, and handle your affairs better.
Inheritance factors are generally free standing but there can be some considerations where lottery inheritance is involved. Taxes are generally withheld from lottery distributions at the time they are paid out. If payments are made in a lump sum, the inheritance can be passed along tax free since inheritance gifts are generally not taxed. If the payments are still coming in as an annuity, taxes will be withheld. As in all inheritance scenarios some estate taxes may be required if values exceed the exclusion limit. Since lottery winnings push many people into the high net worth category, estate taxes may be a factor. This can be a challenge if the heirs do not have the cash on hand to do so. In some states Powerball will convert annuities to lump sums upon death to help better manage any tax burdens.
The Bottom Line
If you ever do win the lottery, you will want to work with your financial advisor, tax attorney, and certified public accountant to determine which option is best for you—taking the winnings all at once or in annuitized payments over decades. As a rule of thumb, if you and your money-management team think they can invest to earn an annual return of more than 3% to 4%, the lump sum option makes more sense over the annuity, at the end of 30 years.
Many people see purchasing lottery tickets as a low-risk investment. Where else can you “invest” $1 or $2 for the opportunity to win hundreds of millions of dollars? The risk-to-reward ratio is certainly appealing, even if the odds of winning are remarkably small. Is it better then, to play the lottery or invest the funds? There is no universally correct answer. Much of it depends on what money is being spent. If it is needed for retirement or the kids’ college, it may make more sense to invest—a payoff is more certain down the road, even if it doesn’t amount to a sexy six-figure check. If, however, the money is tagged for entertainment, and you would have spent it seeing the latest movie anyway, it might be fun to take the chance. Keeping in mind, of course, that you are more likely to die from a snake bite than to ever collect.
Is it ever worth playing the lottery? Discover the probability of winning and the best way to collect the funds if you happen to win.