Monday, July 16, 2012

Rule #2 "Lotteries are taxes on the stupid"

Rule #2 is pretty straight forward.  We don't play the lottery or do any other gambling where the odds are not stacked in our favour (and none are).

I played the lottery once about 14 years ago. It was one of those deals where someone from the office went around and convinced everyone to chip in a buck and then he went and bought a bunch of tickets for the department and if we won the Lotto 6/49 we would split the pot.  I quickly forgot about it, and then next week this person came around and asked me for another dollar.  "Is this going to be a regular thing?" I asked. "Yes! Now that we have our numbers picked, we have to keep playing them or someone else might take our winnings."  I decided there and then that I would cut my losses and not participate in the weekly Lotto pooling.  Being a numbers guy, I was keenly aware of the odds of winning the big pot of the Lottos 6/49 are low - 1 in 14 millions or so - so low that its like pissing money away... and if I am going to piss money away, I might as well do it drinking beer with buddies instead.  I at least see value in the socialising that goes along with the beer drinking.

Some polling shows that in some demographic groups of Canadians, 30+% expect a lottery win to fund their retirement.  This is shocking.  And the government is an accomplice to this ridiculousness.... it puts out all these advertisements that prey on people's fantasies of getting rich without having to work or save for it.  Sure, "Dream of all the stuff you could buy with $50 million dollars.... Every week somebody gets a big cheque and all they had to do was buy a ticket... This week it could be you!"   Approximately half of 6/49 revenue is returned to winners and the other half goes to the government... and its not unreasonable to think that some of that money goes to support people who haven't looked after themselves, because they were too busy buying lottery tickets instead of saving their money!

I view lottery tickets, and gambling in general, as "Taxes on the Stupid", or perhaps "ill-informed" would be a more PC way of describing it.  It sounds harsh but I believe it to be true...  If you remind yourself what the odds really are its baffling that people play it at all.  I did a quick calculation and here is an interesting way to look at it:  If a person played once a week from age 20 to age 80, that person would have to play 4500 lifetimes before the odds would go in your favour... and then when you did win, you would only get half of your money back.  Thats right, 4500 lifetimes... Amazing!

I don't want to tell people how to spend their money, and if they are truly doing it because they get a rush out of the beyond-longshot chance they might win, good for them.  But if people think the lottery is going to fund their retirement, they need a good shake.

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