A true story of my friend Bill who wasted thousands of dollars on the lottery.
The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the ignorant.
For a few years when my children were first born I worked part time at a department store. It was pretty mindless work…scanning inventory, working out stock, loading furniture into cars for customers. I can’t say I really loved working there. Working two jobs is tough, and my part time work wasn’t exactly making me rich. But it helped get us through some lean times, plus I met some pretty cool people in my time there.
One of the most memorable people I worked with was Bill. When you first met Bill all you saw was a cantankerous old man with very little to say. But once you got to know him a little bit you realized what a great guy he was. Bill didn’t have much of a formal education (I don’t think he even finished high school) but he had street smarts and he was the kind of guy who’d give you the shirt off his back. I felt bad that he had to work not one but two jobs at age 65 just to make ends meet for him and his wife.
One day a few of us were munching on a bag of chips in the break room when Bill mentioned that he had to stop at the 7-Eleven on his way home to pick up some lottery tickets. I never play the lottery (I admit I have gone in on a group lottery ticket purchase a few times) and I hate seeing people throwing their money down the drain. I tried explaining how ridiculous the odds of winning the lottery actually are but he just kept saying “You gotta be in it to win it.”
Me – But Bill, you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than win the lottery.
Bill – That’s not true. I win all the time.
Me – You win what? A buck?
Bill – Sometimes. But a few times I won a couple hundred bucks.
Me – That’s all part of the scam. They let you win just enough to keep you coming back. Just like a casino.
Bill – Well one day I’ll hit it big. Sooner or later my day will come.
It really troubled me that Bill’s retirement strategy consisted of buying $20 worth of lottery tickets each week and hoping he would somehow strike it rich. But no matter how many times we talked about it I could never change his mind. Eventually I realized that I would never win the argument. Bill didn’t buy lottery tickets because it was a logical thing to do, he bought them because they gave him a sense of hope. And even though there was never much hope of winning to begin with, he wasn’t prepared to give it up.
Unfortunately, Bill’s lottery addiction cost him dearly. Since he admitted to spending $20 per week on the lottery his addiction was costing him $1,040 per year. Over the estimated 40 years since he had started this habit, he contributed over $41,000 to the lottery. He estimated his total winnings in all those years of gambling amounted to about $2,000 to $3,000.
What if Bill had invested that $1,040 each year and earned an average rate of 5%? He’d have about $140,000 right now! Heck even if he just threw it into a high yield online savings account and earned 1% he’d be sitting on an account worth over $50,000.
The sad thing is that if not for Bill’s forty year devotion to the lottery, he might already be retired by now.
Readers…do you play the lottery? How much do you spend on the lottery each week? What’s the most you’ve ever won?