The Mega Millions lottery has now seen 17 drawings with no jackpot winner — that’s a run of two full months since the last jackpot winner — and as a result, the jackpot now builds to a massive $224 million for Friday’s drawing.
That sum will be the second-highest Mega Millions jackpot of the year — and the fifth-highest lottery jackpot in the United States this year. The nationwide Powerball lottery, which typically builds higher jackpots quicker than Mega Millions, has seen just three jackpots upwards of $224 million, with barely over two months remaining in 2014.
So with such a massive amount of money at stake — enough, if managed wisely, to insure any family’s financial security for generations to come — it’s got to be worth plunking down a few bucks for some Mega Millions tickets. Right?
While some experts say that, objectively, the lottery is a low-risk, high-reward investment making it worth buying tickets in small quantities even given the microscopic chances of winning — just one in 258,890,000, in the case of Mega Millions — we found one expert who says that the only real way to win Mega Millions or Powerball is not to buy a ticket at all.
“With only a handful of winners versus millions and millions of losers, the lottery is a sucker’s game,” writes David Quilty on the financial site Money Crashers. “If you want to be rich and have plenty of money in the bank in order to live the good life, don’t look to the lottery to make it happen!”
While others have made the argument that the dollar or two, or five, that you drop on the lottery in any given week will make little if any difference to your financial position, Quilty says, no, you can turn those dollars blown on Mega Millions and Powerball tickets into real cash.
“Let’s say an average lottery player spends $5 per week on Powerball tickets. That’s $20 each month or $240 spent on lottery tickets every year,” writes Quilty. “What if that $20 had instead been socked away every month into an interest-bearing savings account, CD, or retirement investment, paying a conservative average of five percent per year? How much would that player have earned at the end of the 25-year period? $12,027.23. That’s how much.”
Of course, finding an investment that pays a five percent return consistently with minimal risk is a lot easier said than done these days. Bank CDs typically pay less than half of one percent, which is only marginally better than no interest at all.
U.S. treasury bonds, which are the safest investment there is, pay just over two percent.
But there are also, Quilty argues, intangible returns on “investments” in “retirement, debt, or furthering your career with an education.”
If you “invested” any money in Tuesday’s Mega Millions, you didn’t hit the jackpot, but you still may see some smaller “return.” To find out, check your Mega Millions ticket against these numbers, drawn at 10:59 pm in Atlanta, Georgia:
5 — 35 — 37 — 41 — 66 Mega Ball 11
The cash value of Friday’s jackpot, to a potential winner who wants to take the prize in one big check, is estimated at $137.2 million.