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You just won the lottery! Congratulations, you are screwed! See, it’s a bit of a well-kept secret that winners of large jackpot lotteries have an alarmingly high rate of some very bad things happening to them. It could be the people that these lotteries appeal to are the exact wrong people to win such large sums or maybe it’s that money really IS the root of all evil. Need convincing?
Large jackpot winners face double-digit multiples of probability versus the general population to be victims of homicide, drug overdose, bankruptcy (ironic, huh?) and kidnapping. To make matters worse, they face triple-digit multiples of probability to be convicted of drunk driving, to be the victim of a homicide at the hands of a family member (120x more likely to be exact), to be a defendant in a civil lawsuit, and to be a defendant in felony criminal proceedings.
The problem with the lottery is obvious, perhaps too much so: Money changes everything. People you have known and loved your entire life start seeing you as less of a person, and more of a wallet. When people start asking for money, you have to either say no, or start giving cash to everyone. And, if you say no to some and yes to others? Expect a lot of hurt feelings and ruined relationships. You’ll have a target on your back for criminals because you suddenly came into a lot of money, and likely have no experience in handling it.
According to the article on “Why the Lottery Isn’t the Answer to All Your Problems” by Trent Hamm, the actual chance of winning the lottery is incredibly small. As an example, let’s use a Powerball style lottery where you have draw 5 white numbers and 1 red number to win. Let’s also assume that there are the standard 49 white numbers and 42 red numbers. Winning the grand prize – matching all the numbers – is a 1 in 80,089,128 chance, or roughly 1 in 80 million.
Winning common secondary prizes is also a long shot. Matching four of five normal numbers plus the “power ball” is a 1 in 1,668,523 chance. Matching all five white numbers is a 1 in 1,906,884 chance. The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are 1 in 1,000,000. That’s right, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to win the grand prize or the top secondary prize in the Powerball lottery.
Need more convincing? Consider the cases of Cailie Rogers, Billie Bob Harrell, Jr., William Post and Jack Whitaker. These people are some of the many who have won some form of the lottery. All of these people, a few years after winning, have been worse off than they did before their “lucky streak.” Callie Rogers won $3 million dollars in a lottery. Six years later, she was a single mother of two working as a maid just to make ends meet. Billie Bob Harrell, Jr. won $31 million and, after two years, he committed suicide in the wake of incessant requests for money from friends and family. He told a financial adviser shortly before his death that “Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.” William Post won $16.2 million in a lottery and within a decade, he declared bankruptcy, his brother ordered a contract killing on his life, and his girlfriend dumped and sued him. Now he lives on Social Security. Jack Whitaker won $315 million in a lottery. Within the next decade, he was divorced, had his property repeatedly broken into, his daughter and granddaughter both died of drug related issues, and he eventually ended up bouncing checks in casinos, because he didn’t have the cash to cover them.
The point is this: suddenly having a large sum of money changes everything. And most of the time, it isn’t for the better. Next time, instead of “investing” your money into the lottery, invest it into a savings account or the stock market.
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