Business of Well-being

Winning the Powerball is not the Path to Financial Wellness

"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."

-George S. Patton, Jr., Army Commander, World War II

People are enamored today, January 13, 2016, with dreams of quitting their jobs, paying off their mortgages and putting away money for their children's education all from the seduction of winning the $1.5 billion U.S. Powerball lottery. The truth, however, is that participating in a herd mentality by choosing to make a small investment for a large payoff is nothing more than strangling one's personal hope with a cement noose around its neck called greed.

Greed has no place in the coffers of financial wellness-or corporate wellness, either. To be well in the wallet, mind and body, an individual must think differently. Yes, someone will win the lottery-or not and it will roll over again-but if you are making decisions based on the actions of others, where do your values of wellness lay? Where is your happiness? The Journal of Behavioral Decision-Making sums it up well in an empirical case study of July 2008 studying why poor people buy Powerball tickets.

The publication notes that people tend to focus on the cost-benefit ratio of a single ticket versus adding up the cost of playing over a year or more. Also, consider that the tendency of lottery winners is to end up bankrupt within five years' time of turning in their winning tickets. Consider this:

  • The money allocated to lottery ticket buying if added into an employee 401(k) program or Roth IRA, over time, would be a wiser investment toward financial health and wellness.
  • The money allocated to lottery ticket buying if added toward a current, large bill, would create a stronger snowball impact of paying down the debt sooner. It may not be as sexy or kill the mood at the company when you tell co-workers you aren't participating in a group lottery ticket purchase, but working toward having zero debt on your personal balance sheet will boost your mood in the long haul.
  • The money allocated to lottery ticket buying if saved over time to purchase the fitness tracker or running shoes you've always wanted so you can count your steps or better train for that 5k will pay off, and the only thing you will lose is pounds off your frame.
  • And, the money allocated to lottery ticket buying if given to a local orphanage or meals for shut-ins-or even collectively as a team at the office to fundraise for a company-wide event benefiting others will benefit others, not just you.

Money does not buy happiness or wellness. It buys groceries. Braces for the kids. Vacations for the family. Vaccinations for the pets. Shoes to run races in workplace wellness challenges. Smartwatches to make sure you're getting enough sleep. Shares in mutual funds in your employer's 401(k).

And co-pays for doctor visits to make sure you and your loved ones are as healthy as can be. Having more money could make life a little bit easier, but other difficulties arise, according to the American Psychological Association.

The APA published results from a research project on the aspirations, dilemmas and personal philosophies of people worth $25 million or more co-led by Robert Kenny, Ed.D., a developmental psychologist and senior advisor at the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College.

Three questions were asked of 165 households: What is the greatest aspiration for your life? What is your greatest aspiration for your children? What is your greatest aspiration for the world? The common denominator among all survey participants was to be a good parent.

None of the individuals said they aspired to become wealthy, financially independent or do whatever they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it, the survey found. Critics could attack their answers, stating life with no bills is easier for them. The survey from Kenny's research project shows participant responses were unanimous.  

The higher the wealth, the worse it gets. Feelings of isolation impact their families' senses of well-being because "we have what most of the world thinks they want." Their greatest loss? "When you have all this money, you tend to lose the friendships that support you through difficult times," the survey responses indicated.Most lottery ticket buyers do not consider the odds of winning the huge sum of money.

For today's Powerball, the odds are very small-1 in 292 million. The proverbial statistics ensue-there is a stronger chance you can be struck by lightning or bitten by a shark. Corporate Wellness Magazine interviewed New York Times Best-selling Author Dave Ramsey in a special Q&A about financial wellness.

Here is how he described financial wellness: "First, I can tell you what it's not. It's not 70 percent of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck. It's not 64 percent of Americans unable to cover a $1,000 emergency without borrowing. It's not half of Americans having less than $10,000 saved for retirement. These statistics are real and they are frightening.

This is not financial wellness. This is financial illness."Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, Inc., once told CNN Money/Fortune more than 20 years ago that being the richest man in the cemetery did not matter to him. "Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful-that's what matters to me."

The values of wellness-mind, body, financial-all lay in making good decisions, not in buying lottery tickets. Consider how the decisions you make impact your health and financial wellness. To learn more how to benefit from good decision-making, read 5 Steps to Good Decision-Making and let us know how you do.

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