A Financial Planner’s Advice for Playing the Lottery

  • Financial planner Jovan Johnson doesn’t always advise against playing the lottery.
  • If you play often, he recommends working it into your regular budget.
  • But remember: If you don’t win, you’re still responsible for your financial security.

We all have dreams that one day we will hit it big and win the lottery.

Whenever we see a huge lottery drawing on the television screen, it can be very enticing to drop everything and go purchase a ticket. We start planning on how we are going to quit our jobs and purchase the mansion we always wanted.

While all these things are nice to dream about, statistics prove that our chances of winning a huge drawing is extremely low. There is nothing wrong with playing the lottery if it is for pure fun and within your budget. But I give my clients four pieces of advice before they play the lottery.

1. Your savings come first

Before you consider playing the lottery, ensure that you are on track with saving towards your financial goals and paying all your living expenses.

For example, if you do not have a reasonable emergency fund set in place, it may make more sense to build this up before investing excessive cash into playing the lottery. If you consider yourself a person that plays the lottery often, it is a good idea to add this as a budget item. Consider the money that you use to play the lottery as a part of your entertainment or fun bucket.

If you are married, I recommend that you discuss playing the lottery with your spouse. Many states now offer easy access to lottery play online, making it easier to spend more money in one sitting, and the ability to play the lottery from your mobile phone also contributes to the possibility of overspending. Know your limit and stick to your plan.

2. The odds are against you

Your chance of winning the lottery are extremely low. For example, if you played the Mega Millions in late July, your odds of winning the $1.28 billion jackpot drawing would have been around one in 302,575,350. You probably have a better chance of being bit by a shark than winning the jackpot.

If you believe that you can pattern up some magic formula or numbers, think again: There is no pattern or exact solution. The fact that this past Mega Millions drawing was played multiple times before someone won the big jackpot shows just how low your chances are of winning.

3. Don’t make it a habit

You may think that a $2 lottery ticket purchased every day is insignificant. However, this accumulates to $730 annually, and $730 placed into an online savings account can make a difference in saving for your financial goals. Set parameters around how often you play the lottery. Do not let the big jackpots make you forget your financial goals.

When there are major jackpots, sometimes the media can influence our decisions by making us have the fear of missing out. However, it is a good idea to reel yourself back in and remember the big picture. If you have a habit of gambling, consider having an accountability partner such as a financial advisor, spouse, or friend who can ensure you are staying within your means.

PFI SmartAdvisor4. Don’t use your life savings

I know that the a high jackpot, like the $1.2 billion drawing, is very enticing. However, I strongly warn against using your life savings to play the lottery. Not only is your chance to win extremely low, but also you may be jeopardizing some of your financial goals.

A strategy to limit the amount that you use to purchase lottery tickets is to pool together an amount with a group of trusted friends or family. In this scenario, everyone would put into the pool an equal amount that creates a lump sum payment for more tickets. This is a more cost-effective way to purchase more tickets.

Playing the lottery can be a fun activity and hobby when done the right way. However, make sure that you have your financial life in order before you throw significant amounts of cash at the lottery, because if you are not the lucky winner, you need to make sure you’re still on track to reach your financial goals.

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