Mega Millions $312M Winner in Albany, New York

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"Given the odds of winning the lottery that's a terrible strategy," says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

"I think it's a disappointing ad because the lottery is not a good way to save for retirement," says Whyte. "We believe lottery advertisements should encourage people to play recreationally and responsibly. We're concerned about ads that imply lottery playing or gambling in general is a good way to make money -- especially over a long period of time," says Whyte.

In fact, with the very low chances of winning a substantial prize -- and the lottery's payback of just 50 percent of proceeds in winnings -- lotteries are a sure-fire way to lose money.

Since its inception in May 2002, Mega Millions has sold more than 21.88 billion tickets and 110 people have won the jackpot.

Let's do the math: The cost of playing the Mega Millions is $1. Imagine you have a $25 a week lottery habit and the cost each year is $1,300. If you take that same $25 a week from the age of 21 to 65 years old and invest in a Roth IRA with a 7 percent return rate, you'll accumulate $346,000.

If the odds of winning aren't daunting enough, some who did snag the big prize have found it's not all a bed of roses.

Take the 2002 Powerball winner who won $315 million. Jack Whittaker shared his story with "Good Morning America" five years after the big win.

"I wanted to build churches," Whittaker said. "I wanted to get people food that didn't have food. I wanted to provide clothing for children that needed clothing."

Instead, Whittaker said, he wished away the luck that won him $315 million and started a chain of events that led to the loss of his beloved granddaughter from a drug overdose and the breakup of his marriage.

Of course, plenty of winners do change their lives for the better with lottery wins. But it's no strategy for financial security. What's the best path?

"Focus on the things you can control," says Judith Ward, a certified financial planner at T. Rowe Price. "You can control how much you save for retirement. You can't control what the stock market is going to do or if the numbers are going to come up [in the lottery] but you can control your retirement nest egg."

To get started saving or to improve your strategy, click here for advice from our money expert Mellody Hobson.

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