Whenever the lottery gets past a hundred million dollars, I always start buying tickets. Everybody starts buying tickets. People at work start hitting you up for a dollar to pool your chances. You’ll be on line at the grocery store and you overhear the guy behind you and the lady in front of you talking about the jackpot, the big win, what you would do with the money, how much the take home amount is after taxes.
The really big jackpots, they never get hit right away. They keep growing and growing. And these multistate prizes, sometimes they get really up there, like almost a billion dollars. The chances are infinitesimal of actually winning, but still, somebody eventually wins. Somebody’s going to beat the one in a trillion odds. Why not me?
And that’s the mindset that I have right after I buy a ticket. I try to temper my expectations, but it’s really no use. My mind’s already planning out how I’m going to divide up the money, who I’m going to give to and how much. I always think about this, the dividing, and I never really figure out a good solution. Just give me the money first and then I’ll figure it out.
But seriously. I have a big family. Tons of extended family members. So does my wife. Do you have to make a list, like everybody that you know? And then how do you decide who gets how much? Immediate family would obviously get more, and then as you go outward less. But even that doesn’t sound right. It sounds almost feudal, something twisted about it. And wouldn’t that change everything, make every family get-together really weird?
Another solution would be to just divide it equally amongst just immediate family members, thus splitting up the responsibility of sharing with the extended family. But that sounds even more complicated. Depending on whose relationship with who, some people might get more, some might get forgotten. Can you imagine being part of a big family and somebody wins the jackpot, and while everybody else is getting cash bonuses, you get left out? Do you say something? Even if you do, even if you eventually get some money, that’s definitely going to do some lasting damage, straining family ties. Or what if everybody in the family starts sharing the wealth except for one person, he or she keeps it all to themselves. That wouldn’t really be fair but what are you going to do, make them share it? That defeats the whole purpose of sharing the responsibility.
And then on the other end of the spectrum you could just give the majority of it away and keep a small sum for yourself. Again, this doesn’t seem like a solution. Everybody that you know might get bitter, like gee thanks, you’d rather give your accidental fortune to a faceless group of strangers than to your own friends and family. And who are you going to trust to dole out the money, charities? How do you know your money is going to be doing any real good?
One time I saw a documentary about the lottery, and basically everybody that won a jackpot experienced a bunch of negative consequences, like losing all of their friends, or wasting all of their money on nonsense. There was only one winner, some guy from Vietnam, who really knew what to do with the money. He bought a bunch of gas stations, he started generating more money. He’d send tons of it back to Vietnam, building up his old community. He set his kids up with their own businesses, making sure everybody had the means necessary to keep making their own wealth.
But that’s really tough. Not everybody can manage a business. And that’s what you need, a good manager, somebody great with long-term goals, a leader. I’m not sure that I’d be a great leader of that wealth. But even if I won a jackpot and handed it over to a wealth manager, I feel like I’d still make enemies, people close to me who think they’d do a better job with the money. Maybe there’s no solution, for me, maybe it would ruin my life as I know it.
But I still want it. I still really want to win the jackpot. I wouldn’t have to wait tables. I could pursue any type of creative project, finance a movie, record an album, anything, everything. And so yeah, when the numbers get that high, I always throw money in. Maybe all of those problems would sort themselves out.
Today I bought a ticket and while I was feeling that feeling, like it might actually happen this time, like it’s totally going to happen this time, the logical part of my brain chimed in: you know you’re not going to win it. It’s almost guaranteed that you won’t. And that’s how it always happens. The momentary delusion slowly chips away, until it’s right before the drawing, and the majority of my consciousness is a lot more realistic to what’s going to and what’s not going to happen.
I was thinking, what about that Schrodinger’s cat experiment, the idea of the cat in the box that may or may not be killed. The gist of it says something like, until we as observers open up the box, the cat is equally alive and dead at the same time. I’m not pretending to understand at all what’s going on scientifically, but could it be the same with the lotto? Until we figure out who wins and who loses, aren’t we all in the same state of quantum flux? What if they do the drawing in a box, so nobody can observe the numbers being drawn? Would I get the same dead cat/alive cat magic? Because somebody’s going to win. Why can’t it be all of us and none of us at the same time?