Weather Forecast


It's Our Turn: The odds are against you any way you look at it

5, 16, 22, 23, 29, 6.

Those numbers just changed some lives in a very big way. According to Powerball officials, two tickets matched all six numbers in Wednesday's lottery drawing to win the nearly $580 million jackpot.

Imagine - $580 million.

Can you imagine it? I can't.

Did you buy a ticket? You know what they say: You can't win if you don't play! I actually thought about getting a ticket a couple times when hearing about the huge jackpot, but never got around to it. I guess I didn't think I had much of a chance - 1 in 175 million isn't very good odds.

The funny thing is that a person would have better odds when the jackpot is lower, and most of us would be thrilled with winning a mere $2 million. But I don't buy lottery tickets then either, except for the handful of times co-workers have gone together to do a group purchase (I certainly don't want to be the only one left at the office while all my co-workers are in Tahiti).

Maybe the reason I usually don't buy lottery tickets is because I don't like the odds of what would happen if I did win.

According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, about 70 percent of all people who land sudden windfalls of any kind lose that money within several years. Some might say at least they lived good for a few years, but many of the people who had that happen to them will tell you it wasn't worth it.

Past lottery winners have shared their stories and they aren't as glamorous as you'd think. Instead of heart-warming stories of good deeds done or of memorable travels, many tell stories of the terrible price they had to pay to be instantly rich. Many of these people lost a lot more than just the money in a few years. They lost jobs, friends, self-worth and ended up divorced or with other strained family relationships.

When asked what people would do if they won millions, common responses include travel, pay off mortgages, buy a new house or car, give to family and friends, and of course "change the world" or "help the needy." Sadly, in some ways, they are changing the world simply by winning. Money can bring out the worst in some people, and that greed and expectation does impact the world, but not for the better.

Have you ever really thought about what you'd do if you actually won $580 million? Don't just dream about all the fun it would be, but really spend some time thinking of what it would mean for your life and those around you.

Here's an example: You won $580 million. You paid the taxes, paid off all your bills, made some fun purchases and then decided to give some away to the important people in your life. How would you go about that?

Let's say you decide to give 25 of your closest friends each $25,000. What would happen? How many people would quit speaking to you because they weren't one of your chosen 25? How many of the chosen 25 would be upset because all you gave them was $25,000 when you won $580 million?

Imagine the expectations that money would bring. Every time you go out with friends, would you be expected to pay the bill? Why not? You're a multimillionaire! Would you be OK with that? Would the gifts you buy others be good enough? Would the expectations increase?

How long would it take before you started questioning if your friends liked you for you or for your money? How about the new people you meet?

I wouldn't want to wonder that, and I wouldn't want the pressure that goes with winning that much money.

While it would be thrilling to be able to help the people I love or give them lavish gifts, or to make a huge impact on a charity or organization that is doing good in the world, I am afraid of the odds - the odds that say winning $580 million will probably not make your life happier, and may even eventually make you wish you'd never bought that ticket.

It's been said that people always long for more money to buy or do the things they currently can't afford. But when they actually get it, they quickly become aware of all the things money can't buy, like true friends, health, love and peace of mind.

Will I ever buy a lottery ticket? Maybe. I try to never say never because that, too, can come back to haunt you. And who doesn't love to dream about what you could really do with that much money?

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

(320) 763-1211