Q: I enjoy playing the lottery every week. My husband says it’s a waste of money.
I think it’s our only shot at becoming a millionaire. What do you think?
A: Well, you’re not alone.
According to a survey commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America and the Financial Planning Association, one in five Americans believes the only practical way to become wealthy is to win the lottery.
It’s the winner stories that make us think that we too might have a chance to win. Consider Alain Maboussou who recently won part of a record $365 million Powerball jackpot, the biggest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. He went from working in a Nebraska meatpacking plant to becoming one of America’s wealthy elite.
If he can do it, why can’t you?
The answer is you can win but you probably won’t win. The odds make it highly unlikely. If your chance of winning a big lottery is 1 in 150 million, you can spend a lot of money every week and never win.
A better way to become a millionaire is to save. Let’s say you spend $3 per week on the lottery or $150 per year. If you take that $150 a year and put it into a 401(k) or IRA at age 30, you’ll probably have $30,000 by the time you retire. It’s not $365 million, but it’s real money, not a mirage of money that is never achievable.
In summary, if you can afford to spend a little money on lottery tickets for entertainment purposes, go for it. But don’t do it if you don’t already have a good savings plan in place. Play only if you can afford it, and play only for fun.