Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Lottery Ticket

Americans spend over $80 Billion on lottery tickets every year. They do so in the hope that they will win the big prize, which can be as much as half of all winnings and change their lives forever. However, the odds of winning are very low and you should consider it as more of an entertainment than a financial activity. This money would be better put toward personal finance 101: paying off debts, saving for retirement, diversifying your investments and having a healthy emergency fund.

The practice of drawing lots to distribute property or other prizes has been around since ancient times. The Bible contains several instances of God distributing land to his people by lot, and the ancient Romans used a type of lottery called the apophoreta as a popular dinner entertainment. Modern state lotteries are run as businesses aiming to maximize revenues, and they promote their games by advertising the size of the jackpots and the likelihood that your ticket will match the numbers randomly spit out by machines.

States are required to pay out a significant percentage of revenue as prize money, which reduces the amount that is available for state taxes and earmarked for things like education, which is the ostensible reason for having lotteries in the first place. But despite this, the underlying message is that you should feel good about buying a ticket, even if you lose, because you are supporting your government and helping out your children or whatever. This is a confusing message to receive, especially when we know that the long-shot chance of winning is the only real chance we have of getting rich quick.