With no winners from Saturday night’s drawing, the 44 state-wide Powerball Lottery jackpot has climbed to $1.3 billion dollars. Even after a chunking out a staggering cut of the winnings for federal and state income tax, that means a New York winner would still looking at a net payout of $533 million, or a 30-year sum of $860 million. Those are big numbers all right, certainly more than enough to support you financially for the rest of your life.
But do you really want to win? There are dark sides to suddenly getting all that money, too. We mean, really dark. Read on for a list of lottery-related risks and hard truths that’ll make you think twice about shelling out your hard-earned dollars on the biggest-ticket gamble of all time.
1. You could be murdered
Money doesn’t magically transfer hands in a homicide, but that doesn’t mean you won’t make a lot of mortal enemies by being a $1.3 billion jackpot winner. They could be total strangers, they could be villains disguised as adoring fans, they could even be people you know. Some folks don’t even make it through 24 hours of sweet victory before being off-ed. So rather than spending the rest of your life watching your back, why not do the whole money-earning thing the normal, job-having way?
2. It’s not going to make you happier
For a little while, sure, you’ll get a buzz off being suddenly rich. But it won’t last: in a study of positive psychology, this short-fuse happiness is called “The Hedonic Treadmill.” Despite major changes in fortune (in either direction), people tend to remain at a relatively stable level of happiness. So while having that extra cash may solve a few money-related problems for you, it’s scientifically proven that being flush is eventually going to feel just like being broke: i.e., kind of miserable and still trying to “figure it all out.”
3. You’ll probably regret winning
Hey, cool, you just won $1.3 billion dollars! What are you going to do with the money? Whatever your answer is, it’s not a good one.
Big bucks are obviously best spent improving the quality of life of those who don’t have our privilege, and winning the lottery is just a karmic double-edged sword that’ll leave you feeling damned if you do, damned if you don’t. This American Life had an interesting lottery episode in which they interviewed Ed Ugel, a man who helps structure lottery payouts, about the pitfalls of winning (apparently, opening failed sports bars is a hobby of lottery winners).
“More money often just intensifies your own worst tendencies,” reports Alex Blumberg in the episode, “and allows you to get in much worse trouble, be it through gambling, philandering, drinking, or just plain boneheadedness than you ever could have at $15 an hour.”
Ugel’s estimate is that “80 percent of [lottery winners] wished they’d never won.”
4. It might not be the lottery you thought it was
Play-to-win sweepstakes are generally thought of as having positive outcomes, where the only ‘gamble’ is the money you’re spending on a ticket. On the other hand, stories like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games proves that sometimes, being a lottery winner is the worst thing imaginable. Better to play it safe in a long, broke life. And if you need an example, look at us! We’re doing okay!
5. Honestly, it’d be a boring and sucky life
We’re not saying that there’s nothing to this whole “rich person” thing. Even us diehard Brokelynites occasionally get dollar signs in our eyes, imagining that money will solve all our problems and that our passions could persist despite the lesser need to profit from them. But that’s so obviously not the way to living a full life.
Attaching a monetary value to doing what we love gives us purpose. It offers us a reason to keep going every day, even in the darkest parts of the existential void. If you won the lottery, you might just find yourself doubly miserable, wondering what to do with your days, or why to bother with doing anything at all. Better to work hard and know that you deserve the life that you made for yourself.
Follow Sam for tweets worth $1 billion (after taxes): @ahoysamantha.