The End of the Lottery “Debate”

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Over the years, I've written about the lottery many times. Usually when it reaches a new record, the media clings on to it and the hype just snowballs.

I've pointed out how you aren't likely to get as much as you think and we wrongly believe we change the odds of winning.

And let's not forget winning the Powerball won't solve your problems and it won't even make you happy.

Despite all that I wrote the follow article the last time the lottery reached new highs: We Bought Lottery Tickets… Here’s Why.

So why am I writing about the lottery today? To the best of my knowledge it isn't near some kind of high. I don't follow them, but I haven't heard any particular hype.

This tells me it might be the best time to rationally discuss the lottery.

There's one other reason why I wanted to write about it today. Last night, I happened across this excellent Powerball Simulator on the LA Times.

I started out simulating the results of $1000, then putting another $5000, then $10,000, then $20,000, then $20,000, and finally $100,000. If you are going to test this prepare to go make lunch while it simulates the last $100,000.

So what happens when you put $156,000 in the lottery? I knew the odds of winning where incredible, but it was easy to think, "Hey, I'll just throw more virtual money at it until the simulator gets me the big win."

It seems reasonable enough, right? I can't change the odds of each individual play, so that's the only thing I can do.

So I spent $156,000 to win $15,083. I lost 140,917. So it appears to be set-up mathematically so that people will lose 90% of the money they put in.

Now, the money generally is "intended" to go to good use. I say "intended", because this ABC News article I dug up, appeared to called it into question.

As a final thought, you may have noticed that I put "debate" in quotes in the title. There's little mathematical debate about the lottery.

However, perhaps if people play with the simulator as I did, they'll feel differently about what they do with their real money. It's worth a shot, right?

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Posted on April 25, 2016.

Surprise Honey, I Just Added $60,000 to Our Debt

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It was really difficult to decide on a title for this article. My other thoughts were "Surprise Honey, I Decided to Postpone Our Retirement" or the much more boring, "I Still Don't Like Lexus' Holiday Commercials."

Last year I wrote about how I will boycott Lexus for likely the rest of my life. I thought that they'd get bad public relations from their commercial campaign suggesting that giving a Lexus for Christmas is a good surprise. I guess they either didn't market test the commercial or that I'm in the vocal minority.

If you have a minute, view the commercial yourself. It starts off with a husband calling his wife and lying to her about being stuck at work. This is a little white lie and I'm not going to punish Lexus too much for it, but you'd think they could come up with something better. The wife leaves the house to pick up their kid at sports practice and there's a new Lexus with a bow waiting in the driveway.

I'd like to imagine the reaction my wife would give if I did something like that. I would surely be in the dog house. There are Christmas gifts and there's giving one that's 50% more than what the average household earns in a year. The only way I could get away with that is if I also announced that I made a million dollars earlier in the day. Since that million dollars would be around $600,000 after taxes, I might be able to get away with using 10% of it for an extravagant toy. However, even that is stretching it.

Is there a circumstance where you would consider a $60,000 purchase without discussing it with your significant other? Let me know in the comments below.

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Last updated on December 27, 2007.

Match.com’s Promotion – A Raw Deal?

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Match.com has been running a promotion for a little while now. If you sign up for 6 months and don't find a match, they'll give you six additional months free. What they are really saying here is that if their product doesn't work they'll give you more of it. Imagine how this would work in any other industry...

  • The doctor prescribes you some medicine. It doesn't work, so the company gives you more of it.
  • You go to a restaurant and the service is terrible and they get your order wrong. They offer to get it wrong for you for free the next time you come back.
  • A landscaping crew comes by and tears up your lawn. They offer to do again next for free.

I'm being sarcastic in all these examples. After all, Match.com doesn't really do anything for you on it's own. Your success or failure with Match.com is largely what you make of it. A better promotion that would give me some confidence behind their product is a money back guarantee. Even late night infomercials selling bogus weight-loss pills offer a money back guarantee.

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Posted on September 21, 2007.

TheMoneyBlogs.com Invite? Thanks, but I’ll pass,

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Today, I got an e-mail asking if I'd like to join The Money Blog (URL intentionally not linked). It seems liked a very good deal at first. They promise lots of blog exposure and traffic. However, looking at the site, they use the RSS feed of all the content and never link back to the original site. I did a little research and it seems like there are more than one or two personal finance bloggers who think this is a sham.

Perhaps I should give them credit. They don't need to produce any product (or content) and collect all the ad revenue. Not a bad little business, but a little too sneaky for my liking.

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Last updated on December 14, 2006.

 
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