The Lottery Is A Tax On The Stupid

Lottery Balls

DO you play the lottery? Well, you shouldn’t. Stop right now. Seriously. It’s for stupid people.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say the lottery is a tax on the stupid.

Or rather it’s a tax on those who can’t do maths.

You are not going to win the lottery. Ever.

Stop dreaming of a Willie Wonka-style golden ticket unlocking vast riches and changing  your life forever. It ain’t gonna happen. Sorry.

It couldn’t be you

I don’t do the lottery because the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against the player. And I don’t like flushing money down the toilet on some millionaire fantasy.

It’s simple maths really.

The odds are 45 MILLION TO ONE that your ticket will scoop the jackpot. That means it’s almost impossible.

shark

To put it into perspective, the chances of anyone being attacked by a shark is 11.5m-1 — nearly four times as likely.

movie stars

The odds of you becoming a movie star are 1,505,000-1 — 30 times as likely.

lighning

The odds of being killed by lightning are 134,906-1 — 333 times as likely.

plane

The odds of dying in a plane crash are 7,178-1 — over 6,000 times as likely.

extra fingers

The odds of being born with extra fingers or toes are 500-1 — over 90,000 times as likely.

Don’t take the gamble

Playing the lottery is definitely gambling, rather than investing. If you do not win a prize, you lose your money.

That’s why I believe it’s a voluntary form of taxation. People willingly hand over their hard earned cash in the microscopic hope of a big win.

Whether they do this because they are stupid, can’t do maths, are dreamers, or just want a bit of fun, it all boils down to the simple fact that it’s a waste of money.

But hope of a big win makes people irrational. They think: “It’s only a couple of pounds/dollars/euros, let’s go for it.”

But if they read this article and thought about the actual probability of winning, maybe they would save that cash and invest it instead.

People tend to overestimate positive outcomes and underestimate negative ones.

nessie

If someone told you today you have a 1-in-45m chance of being eaten by the Loch Ness Monster, you wouldn’t worry about it because it’s so unlikely.

So why are the same odds for winning the lottery jackpot more likely?

A slightly better bet

If you’re in the UK, you could always buy Premium Bonds.

These are government backed and run by National Savings & Investments (NS&I). Each bond costs £1 and up to £50,000 can be invested.

Rather than being paid interest, you are entered into a monthly draw with two £1million tax-free jackpots and other prizes from £25 to £100,000.

The odds are still against you

The chances of winning a jackpot is 26.9 BILLION TO ONE. And the odds of winning any prize is 26,000-1.

NS&I claim that Premium Bonds pay an equivalent return of 1.35% a year. But, here’s the rub, this rate is the same no matter whether someone has £1 or £50,000 invested.

And, if you think about it statistically, the small number of very large winners distorts this figure, so many people will earn less than 1.35%. Some will earn nothing at all.

The main benefit of Premium Bonds over the lottery is punters cannot lose money. They can cash in their bonds at any time.

However, the longer you hold the bonds, the more inflation will reduce the value of the money invested in real terms.

You won’t be an overnight millionaire

But don’t worry. You can still hit seven figures and become wealthy. It just takes more time by saving and investing.

Gambling is for mugs. There are no get-rich-quick schemes. Only get-rich-slowly ones.

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Do you think the lottery is for stupid people? Or is it just a bit or harmless fun? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. If you found this article helpful, please share it using the Twitter icon. Thanks for reading.

Simon Saves

I'm a national newspaper journalist for hire who has a passion for personal finance. Currently saving and investing towards my first million. All comments welcome.Follow me on Twitter: @MyRichFuturecom

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4 Responses

  1. weenie says:

    A bit of gambling is harmless fun when it’s money you can afford to lose. I think I will always play the lottery. I could waste my money on Starbucks coffee but that would cost me more than £2 a week and would be less exciting.

    Do I think I’m ever going to win the jackpot? Unlikely but hey, despite the incredible odds against me, who knows – somebody’s got to win it! It’s fun to talk about it with friends and colleagues – we can all dream and that’s all it is.

    Winning the lottery isn’t part of my retirement plan – I’d be in trouble if I thought it was!

    Anyway, I have premium bonds too – my return this year has been around 3.4%, which sounds great but prior to this year’s wins, I hadn’t won in years. I don’t see my premium bonds as an investment – they’re akin to ‘money under the mattress’, only safer, with a chance of winning something!

  2. Great post and timely for those of us in the States. The Power Ball lottery is now @ $700M causing a gambling frenzy and lines of people waiting to throw money away. I do play a Dollar or 2 now and then on the better odds but lower pay-out lottery for entertainment and cheap dreams for a night. Living off of my portfolio means I have a budget and entertainment is part of that but nothing crazy. Lottery or any gambling shouldn’t be part of anyone’s financial plan. That would certainly be a bad bet on a better financial future.

    • Simon, Editor in Chief says:

      Just read about the US woman who claimed she spent her life savings on the $1.5bn Power Ball Lottery. Needless to say she won nothing…

  3. paul baker says:

    I have never played it never will the chances of winning it are beyond absurd and i don’t need millions of pounds to live on in fact i would not play it if it were free!!! ps always was a load of balls.

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