What the Financial Experts and Almost Everybody Gets Wrong about the Lottery

With Mega Millions reaching over $1 billion and people of every income level buying tickets in quantity, financial experts everywhere are decrying the lack of financial education of the common man. They talk about the near-zero chance of winning the lottery, and how that money could be better invested in the stock market. Some even go so far as suggesting that taking the lump sum over the annuity is the better option.

The Stupid Person Tax

Back in the day, someone close to me described the lottery as a tax on stupid people. There were (and are) a lot of poor people playing the lottery with the hope of striking it rich. According to a Washington Post demographic study, “Those with middle-class and lower-middle-class incomes are more likely to play the lottery than those with higher incomes. Those with low incomes are just as likely to play as the wealthy – although they presumably have less to spend.” In 2005, a Texas Lottery report found the same proportions of players amongst income levels.

The presumption of my friend, who wrongfully believed that poor people were poor because they were stupid, was ill-conceived in its origins. However, less educated people are more likely to play the lottery than those who have graduated from college. More significantly, those who are employed are more likely to play than those who are unemployed.

Rather than a tax on stupid people, because there have to be few people that actually believe they’re going to win the lottery, especially when report after report tells them that how low that possibility is, it appears that the lottery is the American Dream tax. Admittedly, there may be some who, like Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber, are thinking, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

The American Dream

As much as every American would like to believe the American still exists, that the average person can still get ahead, and that working hard will allow you to retire in comfort, it’s just not the case anymore. The gig economy, freelancing, and hobby-cum-business will not be able to support a majority of workers throughout their lives and into retirement. While the jobs within these areas have grown, they just don’t provide enough income for people to afford retirement, health care, or sick days. No matter how hard a person works at doing these things, in and of themselves, they will not lead to financial security. It’s a terrible business model for the working person when their income relies on the strength of someone ordering something and them receiving a tip large enough to cover expenses.

Even if you have a steady job paying a “living” wage of $15 an hour ($600 a week, $2,400 a month, $28,800 a year before taxes) unless that job includes retirement and other benefits, most people are stuck spinning their wheels. There’s no way to get ahead at that wage level, and those wages are what the U.S. economy is built on while being supported by freelance and gig workers. The structure is precarious and untenable. It is also unlikely to change. (Check out “the Hard Truth of the Gig Economy and Freelancing” on Medium.)

The Myth of Compound Interest

Some are still preaching tuppence prudently, thriftily, frugally invested in the bank will have compounded interest that will make a difference in your later years. Hogwash. A 401K, with interest rates of three one hundredths of one percent (.0003) doesn’t work for those who have low amounts invested. With $9,500 in my retirement account, I am making about 8 pennies (.08) a month; by the end of the year, I have 96 cents – not quite a dollar. The money in a retirement account is trapped unless the person has the financial savvy and time to find out how to reinvest it elsewhere without the financial penalties of early withdraw.

Even in a bank manage Money Market savings account, where interest rates are five times higher than those of the retirement account (.0015), the compound interest on any kind of account is easily wiped out by one bank fee, a candy bar, or a single lottery ticket. Still, most people wouldn’t count $1 as a positive gain, even when inflation is lower than its current percentages.

Play the Stock Market

Most professional financial people will tell you that its better to put the money in the stock market, where returns have been between seven (7) and 15 percent. Averaged out over whatever the number of years the analyst wants to look back on. “There are three types of lies in this world: lies, damn lies and statistics.” (The quote is variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Mark Twain (who may have taken it from Disraeli), and Arthur James Balfour.) The problem with this statistic is that it doesn’t represent individual performance. It might be true of the group for the time period taken into account, but it has no bearing on an individual stock or an individual year.

In 2008, I lost $1000 of invested, real money and $4000 in gains because I chose the wrong stock. At the end, I had to pay extra to the robot account manager because the stocks I had were forced to be sold at a negative number after brokerage fees. That year, not only did I not make seven to 15 percent, I also lost all of what I had invested in the stock market with no way to recuperate it. For the brokerage firm, it was still a win because they got my fees for selling worthless stock. That same year, my mom lost half of her retirement account, which meant she had to retire later than she had planned because the stock market did not recover fast enough to refund her retirement account.

The stock market takes skill, knowledge, and resources to invest in. Those who are spending $2 a week on tickets have spent $104 over the course of a year. They would have to find a place to store that money and then find a firm or program (like Robin Hood or Acorns, which didn’t exist until recently) to use for investing. Then they would have to decide what to invest in, and with all the choices and possibilities for fraud, it’s too much overload for most people.

The Lump Sum Fallacy

While the accepted statistic is a fallacy, there are several tragic stories about lottery winners who had to declare bankruptcy within a decade after they won the lottery. Presumably, they took the lump sum payout. It’s a lot of money to ignore, especially for smaller prizes. But even at a billion dollars, there are some people who would still take the lump sum, reducing their prize to less than $700 million dollars.

If you happen to be the winner of the big prize, take the annuity. This is a sum of money that pays out every year for 30 years, and each check is worth more (percentage-wise) than the last. For someone younger than 70, that’s 30 years of guaranteed income. If you mess up one year, you still have next year to bail you out.

Someone Has to Win

Some people will say, “Someone has to win, it might as well be me.” The thing is, no one has to win. In fact, the reason why the jackpot is so large is because no one has won it, yet. They didn’t win for several weeks in a row. No one has to win this time or the next. One guy spent $100,000 on the Tuesday drawing (July 26, 2022); he didn’t win. If you’re playing because you think someone has to win, you need to rethink your strategy.

The Dream

What the lottery does do, for those who have realized that their hard work is forever going to keep them where they and for those who see no way of struggling out of their own financial issues, is gives them a ray of hope to cling to. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to have the financial means to live life on their terms, rather than having to constantly be at the beck and call of customers, bosses, and bills. They can hold onto this glimmer and for a few days dream about what the windfall would mean to them, what they could do with the money, how they could change their circumstances.

If you happen to fall into this category, don’t go out and act like you’ve won, but feel free to indulge in the fantasies of winning. May those uplifting thoughts release you from your burdens, even if only for a little while, and allow you to practice using your imagination. Play only what you can afford to lose, and make sure this indulgence has more meaning than just a piece of paper that will likely be only paper come Friday night.

If you don’t fall in this category, stop telling people what they can do better with their money. Most people are working hard to change their destiny, let them have this moment of lightness and dreams, especially since so many others have been crushed.

‘Aim Small, Miss Small’: Archery Philosophy Leads to a Better Day

In archery and other shooting practices, there is the concept of “Aim small, miss small.” The idea is that focusing on the smallest spot you can see within the area you want to hit will get you closer to hitting that area. For example, if you look at a 22-inch square target, and you miss just to the outside, you’ll be 11 inches or more from the center of that target. Look at a three-inch bull’s eye, and you’re likely to end up within the 22-inch square target. Look at the nail holding the bull’s eye in place, and you’ll come close to hitting the bull’s eye if not dead on.

Focusing on the small spot allows you to shoot better.

Recently, I’ve had a string of bad days. Even days that should’ve been good end up being bad. Part of the problem is that I am aware of everything else beyond the day. I know how much money we owe and have to pay back. I know what our monthly income needs to be (and we haven’t been close). I lost someone close to me. I am under so much financial pressure and am working so many hours a day that I have no time to deal with the stress or to decompress. I have to hold in emotions that would be better expressed. I have to deal with worries of another day because I know that another day will arrive before I am prepared. Unfortunately, I am not the type of person to let it go.

When no day is a good day, you need to find those moments within that are good. You need to focus on the moments in the day that are good.

In the service industry, you meet a lot of people, and a small percentage of those people are a-holes. Most people are neutral; some are great. As a society, we tend to focus on the problem people. Karens and Kens take up a majority of our energy and our time. They’ve become particularly unpleasant cultural phenomena. It’s hard to remember the good people you’ve dealt with throughout the day when a rude, obnoxious, entitled, adult brat decides they are due something they have no right to. As the employee or owner of a business, you have to figure out how to be civil and placate the person while protecting your business and staff.

However, what you really need to do is remember that these people are not your focus. You are here to serve your other guests. Focus on the good interactions that you have every day. The people that enjoy your shop, have fun coming, and want you to succeed are your focus. Cultivate them and make a point to remember the enjoyment you got from interacting with them.

Remember three good things that happened during the day.

At the end of the day, Jenya and I have gotten into the habit of telling each other three good things about the day. Sometimes, it’s been the corn on the cob that we got from the Salvation Army (It was so sweet). These three good things don’t have to be earth-shattering. They can be the normal things you see every day; you just have to notice them. A bee going from flower to flower, the smell of the ocean air, the feel of the sun on the walk home from work, an achievement in a favorite video game… There are millions of good things out there, you have several good moments in the day. Aim small for the good things, and you likely miss small, making the bad days seem a little better.

My friend Darren Lamb is working on something called “The Happiness Program.” Check out his website or get his book from Amazon (affiliate link).

Why ‘Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil’ Is Bad

A spoiler tainted review of the Disney Film

(This article was originally published on Medium. It was my most read article on that website.) If you haven’t seen “Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil” and you want to, do not read any further. There’s no reason to spoil the film for yourself, and you might love it more than I did. Otherwise, the discussion starts after the trailer.

‘Maleficent 2’ Forgets Its Origins — Twice

In 1959, Maleficent made her screen debut in Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.” She was the elegant, ideal version of evil. Her motives were petty — she wasn’t invited to the party. Her punishment was excessive — Aurora’s death by pricking her finger on a spinning wheel. The spell was changed so that Aurora would only awake after Prince Phillip kissed her; Maleficent would hold Prince Phillip hostage for 100 years before he’d be able to rescue the princess. She was, in her own words, “The Mistress of All Evil,” which is the phrase used in the title of the second film. The Maleficent of the second film, is clearly not the mistress of evil, not even a little bit. Disney wanted to do a different take on the character, fine, but why then harken back to Maleficent’s role in every other film and video appearance since then.

In 2014, Disney struck gold with “Maleficent,” which scored over $750 million at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie rode the coattails of the “Frozen” phenomenon by exploring the relationship and love that women can have for each other. “Frozen” addressed the love between sisters. “Maleficent” addressed the love of a mother-figure for a daughter without becoming the evil stepmother. The success of this movie was based on the idea that women can create a loving relationship and bond that supports one another. “Maleficent 2” takes that idea and stomps on it with all of the force and bravado of a long-drawn out and unnecessarily dumb battle sequence. In essence, the movie becomes Michelle Pfeiffer, the Mistress of Evil, versus Angelina Jolie, the dark fairy phoenix.

It’s Grey and Dark

All 3D movies still have an issue with dark scenes, and “Maleficent 2” suffers from it. Even the scenes at the beginning that are supposed to be colorful and show the beauty of the fairy world and the scenes in the middle that show the beauty of the dark fairies are muted. The scenes that take place in the rain, water, and dark are much harder to see and enjoy.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

It seems that Disney didn’t learn anything from “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” the ill-fated sequel to “Alice In Wonderland.” “Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil” has some of the same issues. It’s not a sequel anyone asked for. There are pacing problems and scenes that are completely unnecessary to the plot and film. However, the worst part about this film, featuring Angelina Jolie in a role she was born to play, is that it wasn’t true to itself, it’s not true to the spirit of family, and it isn’t true to the audience that made the first one so popular. You can rent this same film under the title “Snow White and the Huntsman;” the only difference is that film is Kristen Stewart versus Charlize Theron. Or just return to “Maleficent” for a much better film experience.

Want more Disney discussion? Try my book “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” It combines Disney articles with suggestions based on researched principles to help you become more creative. You may also enjoy “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

How to Make Money Online with InboxDollars

July 1, 2022 – I did a web search to find out how to make money online, and InboxDollars came up. I decided that the worst thing that could happen was I would get spammed or not get paid, so I joined on May 31. In about one month’s time, I’ve made almost $25. It’s not going to pay the bills, but an extra $25 comes in handy. I’m still exploring the sight, but here are some suggestions that could help you earn more if you decide to join. (Use my referral link above. It doesn’t cost you anything. When you earn rewards, I also earn rewards. More on the referral system below.)

Playing Games

The first thing that caught my eye about making money online with InboxDollars was that I could do so by playing solitaire! I figured I play enough point and click games that give me nothing beyond the satisfaction of doing well and seeing Disney characters interact with the park I built (in Disney Magic Kingdoms). A couple of games of solitaire a day for a little cash would be a little more productive.

Can you really make money playing solitaire? Yes, you can, but only indirectly and don’t expect it to buy you coffee. Basically, as you play Solitaire, Mahjongg Dimensions or one of the other games, your progress bar fills up. When the bar gets to the first dollar sign symbol, you get a scratch card for up to $10. Don’t play it. The second dollar symbol on the progress bar gets you a scratch-it for up to $25. However, the real winner is the third dollar symbol, which gives you a scratch-it for up to $100. It’s the last one that I wait for, and I generally win between a nickel and nine cents. If playing these games is all you do, you’re still pulling in a nickel when you fill up the bar (depending on what scratch-it you go for.)

Games are probably the hardest way to make any money, but if you’re playing solitaire, three match, or word games anyway, you may as well hook yourself up with the opportunity for $100. If you have a smartphone, there are other game opportunities with better rewards.

The Daily List

As long as you have decided to make money online with Inbox Dollars by playing games, you should really maximize your efforts. Start everyday by checking out the Daily List and doing the simple tasks they have there. Answer and Learn is the daily poll that requires you to answer one question. Add a Magic Receipts Offer requires nothing more than for you to choose something to add to your grocery list; you can remove it later. Visit the Deal of the Day and any other pages they may have in the list. These are easy pickings, and if you do five of them, you get a bonus. Do all of them and you get a second bonus.

Make Your Daily Goal

Your Daily Goal will vary from day to day. In order to achieve the Daily Goal, you must earn a certain amount of money each day. Sometimes, it can be 30 cents; sometimes, it’ll be more. Whatever it is, you get a bonus every day, and if you keep a streak going, you’ll get larger bonuses as the month goes on – as much as $3. The Daily Goal is relatively easy to attain if you do the right surveys, but a foray into the Offers area can also get you to the goal on some days.

Take a Survey

The surveys are where you can rack up your money total. The surveys section lists a number of surveys with the amount they are worth and the approximate time the survey will take. It’s important to note that you will not qualify for every survey. In fact, some estimates say you will qualify for about one in five or 20% of the surveys that you click on. Also, some of the surveys will cycle you through three or four qualifying survey pages before you actually take the survey. You may also run into surveys that you seem to have completed, but they never bring you back to InboxDollars. It’s frustrating, but it’ll be better if you don’t get too angry about it.

Find an Offer

InboxDollars has 100 percent free offers. Many of these offers are related to games that you can download to your smartphone and play to a certain level in a certain timespan. Some of them are point and click quizzes that take you multiple web pages while asking questions about which picture matches which.

Perhaps, the most important of these 100 percent free offers are the Click and Earn and Explore and Earn. With these offers, you get between one and four cents for your click or clicks. These links will take you to another page that will send you to the actual place where you can get credit for your effort. While the amount of pennies you can pick up this way varies, it has helped me to make my daily goal on numerous occasions. I have found that I need to go through these pages all at once rather than try to get them in separate sessions. If you see a penny, click it up!

Do a Search

Searches are a great way to earn progress points. This is the information they are looking for, and they are willing to boost your winning potential to get it. Of course, they want a natural search, so it helps if you know what you are looking for. Start with InboxDollars instead of one of the other search engines, and you’ll be able to fill your progress bar. (This is an especially good idea for authors or people who need to search for info because of their job.)

Upload Receipts

Magic Receipts allow you to upload your grocery receipts and make money online with InboxDollars. You need to pick out the Magic Receipts offers related to your grocery receipt and add them to your list. When you get to the list, you need to click on them again. Every receipt is worth a couple of cents. But the price can go up depending on what you buy. Deals can and do change, so it’s important to know what you are looking for.

Because you have a 14-day window to upload receipts, I generally wait until the last possible moment to do so. My Magic Receipts are a last-ditch effort to meet my daily goal.

Paid Emails

Paid emails are another way to drastically increase your progress bar. The email comes to your personal email, click on it and you get progress toward a Scratch and Win. The emails are also in the messages section of InboxDollars.

Refer a Friend

If you have the kind of friends who like to play games online or do surveys, the Refer Friend link will help you increase your earnings. As of this writing, you can make 30% of whatever your friends make when they do activities. For every dollar they earn, you get 30 cents. It doesn’t cost them anything other than their time.

With all of the activities available to make money online with InboxDollars, there is certainly a way to help you supplement your income. Join today with my referral link, and we’ll both be enriched!