Saturday, March 31, 2012

Musings on Mega Lotteries

Each time one of the big US lotteries reach stupidly-high prize levels, it causes me to ruminate on a number of things. I've never had illusions that I might win a meaningfully, life-changing prize, but it's still nice to think of the possibilities. This time, as the prize number became more and more stratospheric, it caused me - prompted or of my own accord, a number of things.

I'm kind of a statistics geek - not so much from the standpoint of being massively into specific statistics but more from the standpoint of being amused by people's habits and interests. I've got to think that things like mega lotteries cause all sorts of interesting queries to end up in Google's data banks. It would be sort of interesting to see what lottery-related questions are asked, how they're asked, how frequently they're asked and how the relative frequencies change as new numbers about the size of the prize come out. For instance, did people ask questions like (because, obviously, these are questions that occurred to me):

  • What are the community-property rules of my state and how do they relate to lottery winnings?
  • How often do married lottery winners end up divorced after winning?
  • Is the post-winning divorce rate any higher than the average divorce rate or the divorce rates of couples who've experienced severe economic stress?
  • Of those divorces:
    • how many are prompted by the lottery winnings (i.e., bickering over what to do with it, etc.)
    • how many are simply enabled by the lottery winnings. That is, are they couples who would have otherwise divorced, sooner, but didn't have the financial wherwithal to do so (say because they couldn't afford to live on their respective individual incomes or whatever) or were they simply not quite in love any more, but stayed together because they couldn't think of a compelling enough reason to break up.

You're probably noticing a theme, here. Yeah: I'm married. So, I think like a married guy. I can't honestly say that, after winning a huge jackpot, I'd still be long-married afterwards. Not that I'm actively seeking dissolution of my marriage, but money does weird things....

The other thing(s) that come up are peoples' reactions to lottery moneys they never receive.

More than a few people, after the lottery has ended with a winner (that isn't them), express things akin to sour grapes. There's a tendency to look at whether the winner(s) were deserving of the prize awarded. Often times, it's simple matter of being able to identify with the winners (e.g., "that's why I never win: I don't live in a mobile home"). Other times it's along the lines of "he already had money - he didn't need to win that prize" (because, hey, there's anyone out there that needs $640Mn - especially more than the person complaining does)

Whatevs. Not like someone esle's winning the jackpot diminishes me for having not won. Got other things to worry about (some might say, "clearly, given the bulleted list of questions, above").

The most baffling thing, however are the people who seem to think that certain prizes aren't worth winning. It's compounded by who some of these people are. Case in point was a couple years ago, just after one of the big lotteries had paid out a $300Mn+ prize. At any rate,  I'd had an extra dollar in my pocket, that day, so I opted to buy a lottery ticket. The prize in that day's drawing was "only" 15Mn. The woman behind the counter asked me why I was wasting my money on such a small payout. All I could think was, "fucker, 15Mn is more than you're gonna see in a lifetime (as a 7Eleven clerk, she couldn't have been clearing much more than minimum-wage): who are you to turn up your nose at 'only' $15Mn?" I mean, seriously, while even a $1Mn lottery winning wouldn't necessarily be life-altering to the point of allowing me to retire early, etc, it would still allow me to pay off my mortgage. Given that my mortgage sets me back $30K/year, even if I changed nothing else about my life, I could either just piss away $30K/yr on things like vacations and "toys", or, I could take a job I really liked rather than one that ones dictated by financial needs, etc.. So, yeah, it's "only" $1Mn - I just don't how you could ever possibly question why anyone would "waste" $1 on such a "small" prize.

Oh well, there's no accounting for what goes through other peoples heads.

No comments:

Post a Comment