The Lottery

What would you do with $500,000,000?

The correct answer: Anything I damn well please. Surrounded by security guards.

I get a kick out of seeing the news coverage of tonight’s Mega Millions lottery. It’s particularly funny when they bring out financial advisors to explain what someone who’s just won a half billion dollars should do with that kind of money.

The advice is simple: Spend it. As fast as you can, spend it. Even spread out over 25 years of annuity payments, you’d be hard-pressed to spend $1.6 million every month. And you can’t take it with you.

Here’s my best serious advice: Give everyone in your family a contract asking them not to ask you for any money, ever, in exchange for a million dollars, paid out over the first five years.

Then hire security, go into hiding, and move somewhere where nobody knows who you are. Claim to the locals that you sold your dot com in 2000 and invested wisely. Take up a hobby. Eat out every night. You’re worth a half billion dollars; dishes are beneath you.

42 states are in this lottery now. With modern technology, I don’t see why we should ever have a lottery go up this high. I propose a new lottery, a la the Mega Millions. It would produce more winners and more millionaires while spreading the wealth. I should make this my platform for a presidential campaign. “Creating More Millionaires In America, Every Week.”

The longer nobody wins my proposed lottery, the better the odds get that somebody wins it. After the top prize hits ten million dollars, swap out the balls for ones with fewer numbers on them. Limit the possible numbers to, say, 1-40 or even 1-35. After $30, eliminate the last ball. After $40, eliminate another ball. I can’t imagine nobody hitting it after that, though it is technically possible, I know.

That’s it. That’s my simple idea. I know there are problems with it. People will grumble that they play the same numbers every time and changing the rules as the prize goes up would mean that they’d have to pick new “unlucky” numbers. (Nevermind that if the numbers were truly lucky, they’d already have won once and wouldn’t be using them anymore.) Those cards you can fill in the boxes for would need to change. It’s more complicated and people hate to think.

So, OK, here’s option #2:

Someone wins every week. The top prize gets split amongst those who guessed 5 of 6 correctly. If that’s too many people, then make it only the people who picked the first 5 of 6 correctly. Divide the money out evenly.

I know there’s a reason for these big prizes. They draw more people. Nobody wants to be a lottery winner of a small prize that they can’t retire on. But there ought to be some kind of system to be worked out which would prevent these ridiculous prize pools and create even more winners, while still being a game of chance.

This just in: As I typed this, it was announced the lottery is up to $640,000,000. Yikes. That’s $2.1 million per month for 25 years. Now I hope ten tickets win it tonight AND that they’re all office pools.

And one of them is mine… (Disclosure: I’m in no office pool. I do have 10 tickets of my own, though.)