I will openly admit I have played the lottery many times. Sometimes the lottery tickets yield a $2 win, but most of the time they aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. I don’t play the lottery regularly but there are occasions like billion dollar jackpots when I will opt to buy a ticket and skip my cup of coffee.
Let me get this out of the way. The chance of winning the lottery is significantly lower than drowning in water and getting hit by lightning at the same time. Odds of winning the Powerball is 1 in 292 million and with Mega Millions, it’s 1 in 252 million.
We all know this. We also know that someone will eventually win. And you have to be in it to win it.
A dollar and a dream!
Isn’t that the promise of the lottery? But why do we still choose to play?
It’s a game where a piece of paper carries your hopes and dreams and represent your thoughts and feelings.
I’ve never been against anyone playing the lottery. I do warn people the lottery isn’t your retirement fund. It’s not a good reason to skip out on any type of financial planning either.
There’s a lesson with the lottery I want to share with you. During workshops, I might hand out scratch-off tickets. In a group of 40 people, I once gave $1 scratch-off tickets. Surprise. Noone won. I did buy those tickets so I was out 40 bucks.
What was the lesson behind the exercise?
Basically, you can’t leave your financial future to chance.
If there is one thing you should never leave to chance is money in an emergency fund. The money spent on scratch-off tickets could help you start an emergency fund. Or you could invest that dollar using micro-investing apps.
The Emotions Behind Playing and Winning the Lottery
I want to focus this article on helping you understand your motivation and reasoning for playing and dreaming of winning the lottery.
What are your reasons? What are your “whys?”
I know why I play the lottery. I don’t expect to win but it reminds me of the importance of my dreams. Every time I’ve played the lottery my life’s vision gets into focus. These lottery tickets are little vision boards with numbers, words, and barcodes.
In one financial session I held, I asked a group of 12 if any had a lottery ticket in their wallets or purses. Five attendees raised their hands. I requested they hold the tickets and close their eyes. I wanted them to envision the life they would be living if that ticket had won.
One by one each ticket holder shared their hopes and dreams. Surely enough each dream was unique to the person. The exercise revealed a common thread, however, that people have dreams about living their best life.
“What was it about these pieces of paper that allowed people to step out of their current situation and begin to dream again?” I asked.
With each person holding their lottery ticket, I went through the process on how to achieve their dream without a lottery win.
Of course, many people had outlandish ideas.
They wanted to buy each family member or friends’ new cars and homes or pay off their debt. We have these ideas because fundamentally we know happiness is experienced by giving to others. Also, we feel happiest through the emotional connections we make that money cannot afford.
We know that enjoying life and living happily are found in the little things and in the moments we share with loved ones.
Envision your actual dreams not fantasies
The lottery enables you to think big bold ideas but without the right mindset, you’re more apt to make irrational money decisions. You need time to gather your thoughts and control your emotions. Most financial experts agree that you need a break for a few days or weeks if you win the lottery.
Have you wondered why many lottery winners lose their millions in a very short time?
The lottery win isn’t going to change your money mindset and won’t improve your financial behaviors.
Chances are you’re going to spend mindlessly because of your relationship with money. You’re going to experience lifestyle creep and you might even try to keep up with a new set of Joneses.
This will end with you being back in the financial situation you were in prior to the win.
Remember the days you made minimum wage (and barely getting by) and you hoped to one day make double that amount. You might have even said you’d save more, pay off debt, and live more.
What happened when you moved from $30,000 a year to $50,000?
If you are anything like me or most people, you probably didn’t save or pay off debt. The new salary was spent and you were left confused as to why you still weren’t able to save.
Be aware of your money beliefs impact on your dreams. They often are the root cause of why you don’t get to live them.
The first step in realizing your dreams is an awareness of your mindset.
Awareness is a crucial step in the process of shifting your limiting beliefs to that of abundance. I created the ACT process written in my book, You Only Live Once, to guide you.
Financial freedom is something you work towards
The problem with playing the lottery is that it supports the unhealthy money mindset. It reinforces a belief that financial freedom can be bought and based purely on luck. But self-made millionaires know best.
A few years ago, a financial expert shared that “80% of people believe the lottery was their path to retirement.” I tested this information with a survey. I chose 100 random community members and found 70% believe winning the lottery was the “surest” way to retire in comfort.
I was shocked. The lottery losses aren’t preventing you from living a comfortable life. It’s your mindset and financial behaviors that are keeping you from living your dreams.
Action (like driving to a store and waiting in line to buy a ticket) is a key to financial wellness.
Our lack of action with financial planning prevents us from achieving our goals. A federal report found a $400 emergency would set people back and cause financial distress.
Imagine if you saved $40 each week and put that into a savings account. In 10 weeks, you would have $400 to cover an emergency.
How could saving $400 be possible if you’re struggling to make ends meet?
You’ll need to take action and do some of the following: spend less and cut expenses, limit driving to save gas and walk instead, prepare your meals at home, negotiate with service providers, cut out subscription services.
There is always a way to get what you need, if and only if, you decide it’s really important to you.
Spending a dollar or two to win the lottery doesn’t seem like a budget buster
You may have heard the coffee example of how little expenses add up. That example is similar to lottery spending. If you spend $10 per week on lottery tickets, that is $520 a year and $5,200 in 10 years before earning interest.
The hard truth is the lottery is not your path to retirement.
It does not get you to financial freedom or independence. It won’t get you on the road to financial wellness either. Other money experts will wave their fingers and tell you absolutely no to lotteries. But I won’t chastise you though. In my view, playing the lottery is similar to spending money on any other discretionary item.
Do you have the money? Are you okay with spending money on a lottery ticket than a movie ticket? It’s a spending choice you make.
I’m also not going to fight our culture surrounding the lottery. I do, however, want to shift your mindset and spark a different type of conversation around your hopes and dreams.
When you do play the lottery and hold that losing ticket in your hand, I want you to close your eyes and envision that dream lifestyle you hope to live. I, then, want you to write them down. Ask yourself why are these things important to you. Cross off things that are fantasies. Circle the dreams that truly resonate with you.
You’ve now begun the work of creating your very first vision statement for your life. A very powerful step on the road to financial wellness.
And with wellness, I don’t want to leave out the importance of mental wellbeing. Gambling can be addictive to some and destructive in their lives. If you believe you may need help, I recommend you read how to play responsibly.
Have you played the lottery recently? What are your dreams? Comment below.