One thing I sometimes like to ask people is: what would you do if you won the lottery today? The answer is always more or less the same in my opinion. Most people would quit their job, buy a house and/or travel the world. I think those answers tell a lot about our society today. A big group of people feel trapped in their life. I would like to write more about that another time. Today I want to talk about that solution most people use to try to escape that trap: lotteries. I’ll tell you why I do not participate in lotteries.
The size of lotteries
I have never ever in my life bought a lottery ticket and I don’t think I ever will. It’s hard to find numbers on the subject, but I will list a few things I’ve found. 2,96 million people in the Netherlands attend the Postcode Lottery each month, and that’s just one of many company which arranges lotteries. And during New Year’s Eve, around 7 million people attend the State Lottery. We have about 17 million people altogether in the Netherlands, so my point is: the numbers are high. In 2016, Dutch people spend about 1,9 billion euros on lotteries. To put that in perspective: that’s about half of what the Dutch government spent on development aid that same year.
Lotteries increase inequality
I think lotteries increase inequality. Think about it: a lot of people pay a small amount of money to buy a ticket. This money is then collected and everything is given to either one person or a handful of people. This makes a small amount of people extremely rich compared to all the others. That is fundamentally something I am against. I think wealth should be allocated as evenly as possible. Especially when you have done nothing at all to receive all that wealth.
Extreme wealth makes people do stupid things
I believe nothing good comes from a small group of people having too much money. They usually spend that money on themselves. On luxurious items they do not need. Then buy an extra car, a bigger house, a yacht, expensive clothing, etc. It is commonly known that when people get this wealthy, they become a disaster for the world. They basically destroy the planet with their behaviour (private jets, cars, fancy stuff, etc). Sure, there might be some examples of people who spend the money well, but I think the negative stories outweigh the positive ones.
All the good we could do
If we collected all the money that is spend on lotteries, imagine of what good we could do with it. 1,9 billion euros (in 2016, and I bet the numbers are even higher now). We could feed the hungry, house the homeless, cure the sick and even more. But instead, we choose to make a handful of humans millionaires or billionaires. Wow.
And yes, I know that a part of the price money goes to charity. But lotteries just do that to make them seem decent. To make people feel good when they spend a lottery ticket on themselves. You just spend 20 euros on charity and you also have a chance at happiness, right? No. You just spend 10 euros on increasing inequality and 10 euros goes to charity. 50% of all money in lotteries goes to charity. I think that’s just foolish. We should just give all the money to charity instead.
Another reason why I do not participate in lotteries is because it’s just irrational. Yes, there is a tiny chance of winning a lot of money (which is, like I said, not that good for society as a whole). But even if you don’t care about society as a whole and compete for the money, it’s irrational. Here’s a quick example of a Dutch situation. Let’s pick the State Lottery. One ticket costs 17,50 euros and you pay that amount every month. Let’s say you start attending the lottery when it becomes legal, at age 18. You’re now 68 (around the retirement age in The Netherlands). Here’s what it costs you:
17,50 * 12 * 50 = 10.500
You spent about 11.000 euros at chance. If you had saved the money you would have that money for yourself. You could have paid college tuition for your kids, took a few months off work for a sabbatical or you could have saved about 2 lives (it is estimated that it costs about $4.500 to save a life, if you spend it at the right charity). That to me is already stunning. But what if you would have invested* your money?
Investing the money
Listen, if you would have invested that money, each month, from age 18 to 68, you would have had 91.347 euros! I calculated this with an interest rate of 7%, which is very realistic for the long term. That’s what compound interest does for you. Now, if you’d ask me. Would you rather pay 10.500 and have a very small chance of winning a lot of money and a very big chance of winning nothing at all, or would you rather be almost assured of 91.000 euros when you retire? I would definitely know the answer. What about you?
*I think I’m not against investing your money, as long as you do it a responsible way. Via crowdfunding for example. One way I invest is via ZonnepanelenDelen. It’s a sustainable investment because you help the world transit to clean energy.