I bought my first lottery ticket recently.
It was a $20 scratch-off that paid me a $40 prize.
Winning produced a nice little thrill, so I bought another $20 ticket right away. And lost.
I put out $40 to win $40 that day.
I’ve bought three $20 scratch-offs since then and won nothing.
To date, I’ve paid out $100 to win $40.
The house always wins in the end.
Still, some people enjoy big paydays playing the state-sponsored lotteries.
I know a fellow who hit twice for over $100,000 or so. That would be a nice little bump, to be sure.
Of course, winning $100,000 offers a teachable moment for many who have no idea how high our taxes really are.
According to one lottery-tax-calculation website, I’d have to pay about $33,000 in state and federal taxes right off the bat.
However, the feds take only 24% out of the initial lottery payment. I’d still owe more taxes, as that $100,000 would put me into much higher tax bracket.
I’d probably get to keep about $60,000 of that $100,000 and the government would get $40,000.
The house always wins in the end!
Then there is the dark side of government-sponsored gambling that isn’t talked about enough. A fair bit of the revenue generated by the lotto is generated by people with addiction issues, according to Florida Council of Compulsive Gambling.
When big payoffs hit the news, as has been the case in recent weeks, there is a surge of people spending money they don’t have to buy lotto tickets.
And the lotto has announced some big winners in recent weeks.
One poor human being holds the winning ticket in Illinois for a $1.28 billion payout.
I say “poor human being” because if that person has neighbors or relatives he’s been trying to avoid, he’d better plan on spending lots of time with them, as they’ll be pounding on his front door at all hours begging for a handout.
One had better be prepared to manage the massive burden all that money will soon visit on him — and better hire a skilled accountant and attorney for starters.
If he manages that massive payoff well, he can do a lot of good for the world — support a lot of legitimate charities — and maintain a comfortable lifestyle for the rest of his days.
Or that money will be the root of all evil in his life, as no small number of past lottery winners have experienced.
Yahoo Finance tells the stories of 23 lottery winners whose lives spiraled out of control after winning big payouts, some of whom ended up broke or worse.
In any event, one thing that fascinates me about money is that we don’t need so much of it as we think.
As I’ve written before, once a person has enough money to pay the bills and enjoy going out to dinner now and then, massive increases in wealth do not necessarily correspond with greater increases in happiness or life satisfaction.
The key to human happiness is spending time with people we love, who love us back — people who value our presence even though we’re not million-dollar-lotto winners.
In my case, I suppose a few scratch-off tickets does no great harm every now and then — and funds some good programs for those in need.
Just so long as I remember that the house always wins in the end!
Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com